Is Lean, Six Sigma, or Malcom Baldridge for You?

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imageEarlier today I was made aware of a very interesting article: "Firms should measure return-on-investment of lean manufacturing."  The article’s core message is that most companies see little or no return on investment (ROI) from Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma type programs.  And, those that do, it is often in the low single-digits and not sustainable.

The topic reminded me of the Malcom Baldridge award.

Regionally, winning the Malcom Baldridge Award has been a big deal in the Detroit area.  Unfortunately, almost as a side note, a number of past winners would be in the news again.  Under financial distress or filing for bankruptcy.

A recurring theme seemed to be that the organizations focused too much on winning the award, only to lose track of what their business was. Perhaps the ultimate in negative ROI.

In the past few years I have not heard much of the Malcom Baldridge. Perhaps others made similar observations and it fell out of favor as a result. Or, perhaps the economy has simply made such focal points of less importance when pure survival is tantamount.

Lean, Six Sigma, Malcom Baldridge, and others, remind me of different certifications my own organizations were ‘advised’ to get. In the recent past, my own business unit was heavily pushed to rearchitect our infrastructure because it didn’t meet industry ‘security best practices.’ My argument at the time, we successfully passed major security audits on a regular basis and had yet to lose a—single—customer because of our existing model. There was no ROI behind blindly adopting an industry ‘best practice.’

‘Best practices’ are all-too-often best for ‘someone else.’

What about you?  Are there industry awards, certification programs, or other best practices your organizations have pursued that provided little or no ROI to justify their continuing existance?

(note, this isn’t to dismiss the need to continually improve, innovation, and develop.)