and Quality BY ELIZABETH KEIM
ILLUSTRATIONS BY MICHAEL WIRTZ
DESPITE RECENT NEWS REPORTS
to the contrary, quality processes
are not stifling creativity at major
U.S. corporations. In fact, a number
of highly profitable companies are
using unique approaches to strike
a balance between efficiency and
innovation, according to a report
released by American Society for
The report profiles two major companies, DuPont and Procter & Gamble
(P&G). These well-known industry
innovators have taken steps to fully
integrate the creativity-generating
functions of R&D and product development with regular process management structures and practices.
DuPont uses a variety of Six Sigma
methods, as well as Stage-Gate, a
carefully designed business development process that encourages both
consistency and speed. The company’s
goal is to reduce waste in the design,
development and commercialization
of new products.
There’s no reason why Six Sigma
should hamper innovation—if it’s
used properly. Management needs to
understand that quality process tools
aren’t appropriate for all parts of a job
and should analyze where these tools
can best benefit the bottom line.
P&G maintains that a major driver
of its innovation efforts includes a mix
of quality processes that provide structure. Two examples are Future Works,
an organization of multidisciplinary
teams that look for innovation opportunities outside the existing business
units, and Corporate Innovation Fund,
which focuses its efforts on high-risk,
“More than any other factor, sys-
tems are the way we avoid depen-
dence on ‘Eureka!’ approaches to
innovation,” says Robert McDonald,
P&G CEO. “We select innovation
projects, allocate resources and ulti-
mately bring the best innovations to
market with highly disciplined pro-
cesses and systems.”
Here are some tips for enterprises
striving to balance quality processes
•;Keep everything in perspective.
Quality is broader than Six Sigma,
and innovation is broader than
•Innovation occurs in social
systems. Treat it like a team sport
involving real-life interactions of
multitudes of people.
• Go outside the boundaries of
your organization. Collaborate
with customers, suppliers, business partners and academia for
•;Think of innovation as a process.
Don’t think of it as a series of unrelated eureka moments. Instead,
consider innovation as a change
process that can be managed with
familiar change management and
quality management methods.
•;Establish a widespread culture of
innovation in your organization.
Also, build innovation-enhancing
capabilities throughout a customer-centered value stream.
•;Challenge the common assumption that innovation is inversely
related to structure. Common
knowledge will give you only common results that are no different
from what everyone else is doing.
• Encourage different ways of
thinking. Promote divergent thinking during ideation and convergent
thinking during development.
One of the tools useful for innovation by Six Sigma teams is TILMAG,
which is an acronym for German
words that loosely translate to “the
transformation of ideal solution elements in an association matrix.”
Another tool for innovation is the
morphological box, which is used to
solve multidimensional, nonquanti-fiable problems. Both tools enable
users to look at other systems or
environments to find new ideas that
might apply to them.
A number of tools and techniques
allow teams to look at problems in
fresh ways to enable them to find new
solutions to problems. These techniques often allow teams to leverage
solutions found in very different systems. While some people are more creative than others, anyone can learn to
use these tools to be more innovative.
To view the complete report
“Fresh Thinking on Innovation and
Quality,” visit tinyurl.com/ybaatlf. J
BASELINE JULY/AUGUST 2010
Elizabeth (Liz) Keim is a managing partner at Integrated Quality Resources in
Boulder, Colo. She works with clients on
business results improvement through the
integration of methodologies such as Lean,
Six Sigma, the Baldrige Award criteria
and the ISO 9000 quality systems standards. Keim is a past president and past
chair of the board of the American Society
for Quality. 11