CEO expects good things as Textron does Six Sigma right

Q: So you're saying that every employee at Textron is happily drinking the Six Sigma Kool-Aid. No grumbling, no resistance?

A: Initially, some wondered if this was the fad of the day. Are we going to stick with this or not? Everyone was busy, and this is an added piece of work. I flunked the test early on when I got a call from the head of a business unit who said he didn't want to put six people into the Six Sigma class because they were too busy. The corporation depended on the unit, so I agreed. A day later, my vice president of Six Sigma came and said, "Are you nuts? You can't tell people they don't have to attend class. If they've got big problems, they need trained people to solve those problems." I made a mistake.

Q: You touched on a common complaint about Six Sigma. Doesn't the tremendous outlay of time and money siphon away manpower?

A: It's added work until you get traction. But that's true of anything. Detractors at Textron use that as an excuse rather than facing up to major change. Even when our earnings per share went down, we continued to invest in Six Sigma at the strongest level. We knew we were investing for our future.

Q: Any other disruptions?

A: Workers can be content the way things are. They may work side by side for years. They take their lunch together. Now, one is moved four bays down. You have to take these things into consideration, but we are seeing hourly employees who want to be trained in Six Sigma. I believe everybody wants to do a better job tomorrow than they did yesterday.

Q: Until recently, your stock had a nice five-year run. General Electric ge stock also rallied for five years after Jack Welch launched Six Sigma in 1995. Today, GE stock is lower than it was seven years ago. Does that make you pause?

A: Hmmm. Nope, it does not. I'm bullish on our long-term success for a variety of reasons. The transformation of our company is very broad. It entails a variety of things all supported by Six Sigma. If earnings per share needs to improve year over year, eventually you run out of gas if you don't have a strategy of transformation.

Q: QualPro did a study and found that of 58 publicly traded companies who announced a Six Sigma initiative, 52 underperformed the S&P 500.

A: I bet if you did a Six Sigma project on that study, you would find that Six Sigma was often used as a "Hail Mary" pass. Six Sigma is not enough. Implementing it at Textron was absolutely necessary, but there are other things that must be done to drive continuous improvement. It's bodacious, but we said we're going to become known and recognized as the premier multi-industry company. Not a premier company, but the premier company, which means establishing a track record of years and years of performance. Somebody out there has to be the premier company. Why can't we? Once you make that statement, you have the license to walk in and ask what are we doing to create a premier legal department, or finance department or production line. If you get enough premiers, pretty soon you'll be known as the premier company.

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