The Double Clerihew of Continuous Improvement

Admit it.

You have no idea what a double clerihew actually is....or even what just a plain old clerihew is.


OK, now that you've Googled it, feel free to continue...

I have the pleasure of working on some groundbreaking ideas that really push both myself and my teams into thinking not just outside the box, but outside the boundaries of the solar system (and no, no one has to lick any toads to get there). Of course, many ideas we come up with are just not viable (other than as evidence for psychiatric commitment), but many also provide for those "Eureka!" moments that make it a joy for all.

Getting that moment is not easy, and with teams that change regularly, you need to get everyone focused very quickly and into the right mindset. Bearing in mind that a team working on a major Lean Six Sigma initiative could comprise a mix of senior executives, master blackbelts, individuals just out of college, experienced MBAs and some people who just don't want to be there, you have to be ready to deal with a diverse cross section of interests (and dis-interests), so it's vital to put everyone on the same page and pulling in one direction ASAP.

Poetry helps.

One of my favourite tools during initial briefings is a bastardized clerihew that I have been using for over 10 years. It sums up what Lean Six Sigma should be about.

Smooth the flow
and make quality grow
then increase the speed
while reducing the feed
shorten the distance
and destroy the resistance
then cut the slack
to ensure the black

Yeah...I don't think that I'll be cashing in the Wallace Stevens Award cheque any time soon either...but the above does get the point across.

We're trying to make the information / decision / materials process flow smoothly, without unnecessary bumps. We're trying to make quality measurably increase. We want things to be done faster and we want less resources fed into the system for the same or better outputs. We want to see the length of time or physical distance from one point to another become smaller and we want to make sure nothing gets in our way. And we want to get rid of laziness to help drive a black color on the bottom line.

That's what Lean Six Sigma is all alternative skillset for failed poets. :-)