3 m’s Conundrum in Efficiency and Creativity
The success of any company depends on its efficiency
And what can we consider as efficiency? From the point of view of business policy the main goal of any business activity is the income which appears when the sufficient number of people fulfill particular objectives, for instance, buy products, use services, conclude contracts, etc. On the other hand, efficiency of the business is connected with creativity which is applied within the company.
Effective innovation requires a delicate balancing act between play and discipline, practice and process, creativity and efficiency, where firms need to “learn how to walk the fine line between rigidity – which smothers creativity – and chaos – where creativity runs amok and nothing ever gets to market”(p. 363)
It is not a secret that when in 2000 James McNerney became the CEO of 3M, his plan was to transform radically the corporate culture of the company. The applied new system of corporate management known as Six Sigma bore fruits. 3M stocks boomed up to 20 % and McNerney met with general approval.
However, Six Sigma was worked out in order to reveal problem cycles in operational process and strictly control them in future. Other variants of resolving any problem were excluded. With such corporate culture creativity would have become a victim of iron routine. Any innovations and especially revolutionary ones always represent a conflict with those which are long-present.
The present Chief Executive of 3M George Buckley outlined that invention of something is a process that cannot be controlled a priori. And Six Sigma is not an appropriate system for this very sphere. 3M’s employees can not think in a way that if they invented nothing on Monday, they must integrate two new ideas on Wednesday and three on Friday. Creative process can not be limited by any system and rules.
Officially nobody studied the level of contradiction between Six Sigma and innovations. But some experts notice that with Six Sigma innovation process flows slowly, without bright rise.
Serious debates based on the rational use of time with regard to choosing one essential idea to be implemented in production continue. Adherents of Six Sigma in 3M convince that stage process of new product implementation would allow to introduce innovations to the market more quickly. According to developers’ opinion innovations are the result of long-time searching and testing. In order to find one brilliant idea they have to sort out several thousands. Six Sigma does not allow doing this, but proposes to reject trash and present something worthwhile. The present Chief Executive of 3M George Buckley tries to resolve the conundrum in efficiency and creativity.
In conclusion I would like to point out that Sometimes Six Sigma is very useful
For instance in the end of the year line manager can count how much money has company saved because of “green belt” projects. However, there were cases when developers in order to complete the deadline created ideas out of nothing.
On the other hand nobody has a doubt that the former CEO has brought positive changes to 3M. At the mean time many employees say that now they work with enthusiasm because company is focused not on profitability and production discipline but on rise and innovations.
Thus, the director of Department of Strategical Business Development emphasised that George Buckley returned the so-called creative sparkle. And the overwhelming majority of 3M’s personnel now can say with a proud that they feel they are able to dream again! And this means the great success not only for the 3M’s leaders but for all people involved in this dream as well.