At the ASQ World Conference held in Anaheim last week, I ran into my old friend Jack Revelle, author of many SPC books and videos. He said clients were constantly asking him to take Six Sigma and “dumb it down.” Surprisingly, despite everything the Six Sigma community knows about the voice of the customer, this simple request goes largely unheard.
Instead, we insist that these Six Sigma newbies learn our language. Consider terms like “nonparametric” and “null hypothesis.” One might as well be speaking Swahili or Klingon. Like an American in Paris, we don’t even consider learning how to speak their language.
Many years ago, Tom DeMarco, author of Structured Analysis and System Specification (Prentice Hall, 1979), said something that has stuck with me: “Making complex topics simple is a huge intellectual feat.” I’d like you to consider that people are saying “dumb it down” when what they’re really mean is “simple it up.”
Having worked in a phone company for years, I figured out that most large corporations are largely devoid of statisticians, and any attempt to convert the rank and file into statisticians would take too long and cost too much to deliver any real value. So, I decided to seek ways to “simple up Six Sigma” so that everyone could “get it” without all of the pain and suffering and mental withdrawal. Through my YouTube Money Belt training, writing Lean Six Sigma Demystified (McGraw-Hill, 2010), and software, I keep working on unlocking the mysteries of lean Six Sigma for the layperson.
The only way I can see to achieve the level of lean Six Sigma adoption and worldwide quality that we all hope for is to “dumb it down” and “simple it up” to the point that anyone can get it. On YouTube, the Khan Academy, funded by the Gates Foundation, is attempting to create a “world-class education” that anyone can take for free. Watch some of Khan’s statistics videos. He knows how to “simple it up.”
So, stop hanging on to tired old Six Sigma jargon. Stop speaking statistician. Start learning how to speak layperson. Start thinking about how to dumb it down and simple it up. For lean Six Sigma to thrive, it must first take root in a culture. The soil has to be prepared and tended with care.
Complexity of language, methods, and software are barriers to success. One attendee lamented that his company owns 500 copies of the most widespread (and most complex) SPC software but no one uses it. Complexity prevents adoption and usage.
Isn’t it time we started listening to the voice of our customers, who continue to demand that we “dumb it down” and “simple it up” to meet their needs, not ours?