Innovation doesn’t fit with process improvement programs?

Consider this counter-intuitive point made in Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton, Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths & Total Nonsense: Profiting from Evidence-Based Management (Harvard Bus. School Press 2006) at 47: “Process improvement programs like Six Sigma and TQM [have] been shown to drive out errors and improve efficiency, but also to stifle innovation.” The quote cites a 2003 article, but does not explain the comment on stifled innovation. Perhaps this has to do with process improvement techniques ossifying a process; or that when you start quantifying and dissecting a process you draw back from thinking about change?

Perhaps when a methodology is applied by a law department the rules squeeze out and deter original thinking (See my posts of Jan. 10, 2006 and Sept. 4, 2006 on methods to prime the creativity pump.). The scrutiny looks backward rather than peers forward. Follow the “LeanTQMSigma” recipe, don’t freelance and vary the meal.

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