Robert Tripp | A Master Black Belt Explains Organizational Change and Operational Excellence
Robert Tripp got involved in Six Sigma early in its adoption within American businesses. Since then he has integrated the Lean philosophies and worked with organizations large and small on focused projects as well as company-wide deployments. In our conversation, he steps back to look at the value of improvement efforts as something people do rather than just what the organization does.
Clearly, adopting an improvement methodology is meant to improve customer satisfaction, internal process quality and financial results. Training and high visibility projects are the starting point, not the end result. When middle managers and work groups want to apply the tools and the thought processes to their problem solving, process improvement becomes part of the culture in Robert’s experience.
You’ll hear about …
- What does it mean for Six Sigma or Lean “deployments” to be successful (Hint – project ROI it is NOT).
- Key factors driving outcomes and measurements (Hint – these apply to the “Usual Fixes” as well).
- Reasons the growth of lean and Six Sigma has slowed (and what changes are making it better).
- How senior leaders can keep themselves from inadvertently getting in their best people’s way.
Listen now to these and more of Robert’s observations on how process improvement evolves within organizations.
Michael Webb: B2B sales and marketing works to find the highest quality prospects, reach decision makers, and sell value. Operational excellence uses data and systems thinking to make changes that cause improvement and eliminate waste. My name is Michael Webb and this is the Sales Process Excellence podcast. In the next 30 to 40 minutes, we’re going to destroy the myth that these two groups conflict, and show you how to bring both strategies together to create more wealth for your company and your customers.
Michael Webb: I’m pleased today to have a fantastic person on our show. His name is Robert Tripp. He has a very long career as a consultant and a trainer and a master black belt. Robert, welcome here.
Robert Tripp: Yes, thank you Michael. It’s good to be here on the call with you.
Michael Webb: Robert is with a firm, Argo LLC. Robert, for our audience, please provide a little, you know, where did you come from and how did you get where you are and what does Argo LLC do?
Robert Tripp: When I began my career a few decades ago, I never would have thought that I would, I guess, evolve into a space that allowed me to concentrate in process improvement, and process excellence, and quality management systems, but it all really began back in 1995. I had been working in the finance community in a manufacturing organization back in 1995, and I got tapped on to engage in a Six Sigma training effort to become a black belt. I thought it seemed new and unique and different, and I thought yes, let’s give it a try.
I started down the path in 1995, which eventually certified as a master black belt. Soon after that, and by 1998, I was consulting, and that was just at the time when the industry was really starting to become active. There were a couple of small deployments early on, starting with Motorola and then it moved into a little bit with Texas Instruments and ABB and then Allied Signal. I was working at Allied Signal at the time.
But then beginning in 1998, I was able to begin working with a lot of different clients and that’s when my consulting career started, and I started down the path of designing deployments, creating content, delivering training coaching projects, developing people and leaders in the organization to drive Six Sigma within their own communities.
Somewhere along the line there was a merger between the whole concept of Six Sigma and Lean and the ideas around both and how they really compliment each other and so. I’d say around the mid-2000s it became more of an effort around marketing and involving myself in Lean Six Sigma, and really that’s what I’ve been doing since then. For the last few years I’ve been working with a number of different clients, but really in a small cluster of course partners, and in the last six months I’ve been independent, so it’s been an interesting path.
The company that I have created is Argo LLC, and we basically work with organizations, large, small, and medium size to deploy continuous improvement tools. It ranges from grand corporate-wide deployments, which I’m working on right now, to smaller deployments, which just involves training and coaching a few project., You know, the landscape has changed, so the versatility and being able to apply the tools in different environments is important, and based on the, you know, the history I think we’re able to argue that.
Michael Webb: You’ve been at a perch where you could watch the industry sort of unfold and watch the changes that have taken place, so what have you observed?
Robert Tripp: Well, I think one of the most interesting things that I’ve observed, it’s really in the late nineties, early two-thousands, Six Sigma was a foreign concept. Winning was an important concept and well, maybe, you know, maybe organizations coming out of the manufacturing arenas had great familiarity with similar tools, if not tools of the same name. The broader scope of the industries, including financial services, health care, a lot of different government offices, things like this, they did not have exposure to Six Sigma. But as we sort of evolved and developed through the two thousands and in the last, you know, five to 10 years, it’s really becoming ubiquitous.
Almost everybody you run into certainly has heard of Lean and Six Sigma. In addition to that, they’ve had some exposure either in terms of participating in Lean Six Sigma deployments, or former employer or being part of the projects or even maybe taking classes through collegiate courses and things like that. It’s been interesting to watch the general level of awareness increase, but with that also comes a level of lack of awareness in the same way, so in other words, that people are getting exposed to it at a very superficial level. They know conceptually what it is, but they are not familiar still with how to deploy it and how to execute to really drive results for the organization.
Michael Webb: What is the percentage of Six Sigma deployments that actually achieve the goals that their companies start out with?
Robert Tripp: You know whether it’s the stated goals as they are put down on paper and published to the rest of your organization to justify the resources being the time and effort being spent to deploy it. That may be a little bit different than the vision and the hopes than the people who deploy it who want to achieve, so just starting with the stated goals, you know, it’s 90 to 100%. I don’t think that, you know, the payback on Lean and Six Sigma is never, or I don’t think it’s ever a negative payback. The challenges, you know, are you really reaching the cultural, you know, DNA of the organization and that’s where things fail, and it takes time to do that.
It takes patience and persistence to make that happen, but in addition, that sort of cultural transformation is difficult to measure so to say that there was a specific goal in that arena I think is a little bit difficult, but I would also say that there are a lot of people that are not satisfied with the way that their deployments are, I guess sustained within the organization’s management system over time.
Michael Webb: I have heard statements not just about Six Sigma deployments, but about also other kinds of deployments, Lean deployments and so forth that, you know, it’s typical in the industry that more than 80% of these initiatives they end up being disappointing, they end up not actually achieving the goals and objectives. Have you heard that?
Robert Tripp: Yeah, I have heard that sort of thing, and we agreed to the extent that they have not achieved the sustainability and the cultural transformation that the proponents are looking for. However, what they do achieve is certainly bringing some level of improvement in customer satisfaction and the level of improvement of internal, the process quality performance, and with that financial results that pay for the resources invested in the deployment. That being said, yes, no question there are a lot of deployments that do not exceed, or might exceed, but achieve the overall goal, but I would not say that they were a waste of time.
Michael Webb: Let’s examine that dark side there for a minute about not achieving the cultural, I mean, I have heard the term even Six Sigma Nazis inside of a big company. The Six Sigma department ends up attempting to enforce some standards on how projects are done and to the people doing the work, it ends up feeling like process for process sake. In fact, when I was writing sales and marketing the Six Sigma way, there was a fellow who had a great project and I included it in my book and he was frustrated with his company. He had to confess that the company did not accept that project even though it had business results because he didn’t follow the rules that they had set out. He didn’t use particular statistical methods and they were Six Sigma Nazis. What do you tribute that to?
Robert Tripp: The actual causes of that sort of behavior is probably very different from one corporate culture to the next. However, I would say that there’s general thing where people seem to like the convenience of checklists and that being said, they like to be able to have a standard format, a standard set of tools, even a standardized way of thinking that makes them feel good about what they’re doing, because if they can check anything off the list, they feel like they are doing things the right way.
The problem with that is that checklists such as this, in trying to force people into a specific way of thinking, does not make you many friends, okay. I mean the human condition is we all want to have our own way of solving problems, and we want to be able to make our own contribution in a way, and I think the problem here is that a lot of times Lean and Six Sigma continuous improvement approaches to force everybody into a very constrained way of thinking about solving problems.
In the end if you’re trying to sustain a deployment or a cultural change the people in the organization have to buy into it, and we’re not going to buy into it unless they see value, unless they see benefits both to them and to the working environment coming from the changes you’re trying to initiate, and so when Six Sigma is deployed in a very structured and rigid and, … I’m not going to use the word discipline because there has to be discipline behind it. It is that when its deployed in a structured and rigid way, and I think you turn people away from it, and that certainly creates difficulties in capturing that sustainable initiative that a lot of people are looking for.
Michael Webb: Yeah. It’s kind of a baby in the bathwater kind of a problem here, and it goes both ways. If you’re trying to help your organization get the most out of this methodology, you know that the rules of thought, the rules of evidence have to be followed, but then you can end up with the backlash of some sales guy somewhere or some general manager somewhere saying, you know, we’re doing these training projects, but they’re just training projects. We’re not getting any benefit from it. And then, likewise, I have heard many times of companies … I had one just last fall, where a company had started down the path toward a process excellence, operational excellence initiative, take a very skilled person, put him at the head of that initiative, running it for six months and then financial pressures start hitting them, so they end up putting them in charge of a couple of plants down in Texas.
It’s not a corporate commitment, and it isn’t… It didn’t pay off quick enough, and that’s a baby in the bathwater thing too, right? I want to try to kind of parse out what’s going on with that, and so let me ask you another question because you made a comment to me earlier before we got on our call here. You said you know the kind of a Six Sigma industry earlier in this call you said we grew starting in the 90s, grew really fast and then before we talked you said it’s kind of plateaued a little bit. It kind of leveled off, so there’s a number of companies out there that have adopted it and there’s a demand, and a need for the kind of knowledge that is required to be effective using the Six Sigma approach, but why do you think it leveled off?
Robert Tripp: I think the market got saturated. I think enough people had been introduced to it, they had tried it, but there wasn’t an organizational infrastructure to support them in the application of the Six Sigma concepts or Lean Six Sigma concepts in a structured way, so, you know, the interest sort of dies off. Now, what’s interesting to me is, going back to the comments you were making just a moment ago, is yes, there is a lot of latent exposure to Lean and Six Sigma and continuous improvement tools.
And I’m working with a client right now where, you know, they haven’t had for about seven years, they haven’t had a large bureaucracy. That is, a leader of Six Sigma reporting, you know two or three levels down from the CEO, whose sole objective is to drive Six Sigma. This is kind of, this experience that I’m talking about. It’s a client who’s trying to build Six Sigma, I’d say from the middle out, meaning that they have a middle manager who manages a fairly large budget and is offering training through his budget and through his organization, to his own employees as well as everyone else in the company who wants to join, okay? And they apply the tools and the projects, excuse me, the tools and the concepts and documenting the projects, you say and that sort of advertises the projects. And if you want to join the training, you’re welcome to. Now, the company does support it in the sense that there is an internal mechanism for charging back the cost of the students going into the training, but it’s much cheaper than the students going to the training externally.
You know, a lot of people say, yeah, we’re interested and yes, we’re happy to get a certificate through attending the training within this, you know, corporate unit whose part of the job has nothing to do with Six Sigma, but they found it valuable to themselves and they’re willing to open it up to the rest of the organization and it’s great. What’s exciting about that, is you’re getting pulled from the rest of the organization because they see value, they see a deliver benefits, but we haven’t created a massive bureaucracy and infrastructure to support it, so that when the financial winds change, all that really needs to happen is we just adjust sort of a focus on the projects to focus on the critical financial issues of the day. We don’t have to worry about paying for what’s perceived as a bureaucracy that doesn’t really add value to the organization.
Michael Webb: Yeah, and I think that’s an interesting observation. I have also seen that in some companies. There is a sort of a natural pull among middle management that may want something like this. They need something like this, but there is no corporate, at least not with a huge funding, you know, some sort of corporate bureaucracy that has a quota imposed on it for how many millions of dollars of cost savings that they’re going to claim each year.
Robert Tripp: Yeah, the whole organizational structure or people managing other people, and responsible for projects, they keep it very, very simple. But what’s great is it’s organic, and people are joining this because they want to and they see the value in the way of thinking. You know, the interesting thing is what Lean Six Sigma is trying to do is, it’s trying, obviously, improve processes. But it’s also trying to develop people, and it’s trying to give people a sort of a consistent, and disciplined approach to addressing problems in the organization using data, and some analytical techniques. You know, it’s not trying to force it down their throat. And these concepts, what they will not do, okay, the idea of applying them to unique and different situations is exciting to people because they can see the that you can really acquire your own sense of creativity, your own contribution to a project, working with your project team to solve a variety of different issues of your organization.
One of the things we like to do is we like to talk about, talk to the people about seeking of themselves, not as people with a title or certification, green belts or black belts, but essentially, you know, mini-entrepreneurs, within the organization, who develop a portfolio of projects and going through this training offers a tremendous sort of development. It offers a tremendous opportunity to really do something in the organization that they can document and share with the rest of the organization as they progress through their own career path.
It’s exciting to see people take that on and really engage in this notion of, “Yes, there is a certain entrepreneurial spirit that’s alive here because every time you went to sell an idea, you are a salesperson. You have to justify it, and there’s significant and rigorous study. You have to find the right people to network and make your ideas readily accessible to people, to other people in the organization. And that’s how you build a name for yourself and help develop your career.
Michael Webb: Yeah, so people are using it as an instrument to help themselves. They see it as a way to help solve problems and they distinguish themselves by their ability to actually do that.
Robert Tripp: Of course, yes. Now, when companies run into trouble, in my opinion, is they undermine that process and that spirit of self-development, and again, I’ll say the spirit of entrepreneurial-ism. They undermine that by creating black belt or green belt positions that they go externally to hire and fill from the outside. Because then the position becomes a destination point. It doesn’t become a path for people to flow through on to something else. Unless you create it, it would be defined as a destination point. It tends to put out … it’s like throwing water on a fire. It puts a damper on the energy behind the sort of grassroots trying to gain these tools and concepts and ideas and apply them to their own organization as a way to benefit from their own careers.
Michael Webb: Well, and I think there’s another thing, that might be going on sort of surreptitiously in the background. I believe Six Sigma was formulated to sell to senior executives. It was very marketable in that it was very palatable. Here’s a set of rules, you’ve got engineers, there’s hard evidence here, you follow these rules, DMAIC train people to go through this. Everybody, like GE approached it. A very top-down, very command and control company, and so take this Six Sigma pill and, you know, force it down your throat and get some results from it and you know, fire the bottom 10% of the organization and that’s how you make this beast get better, right?
Robert Tripp: Yup. That’s really interesting, and it gets back to the point you were making before, was why has the industry sort of plateaued? And that may be one of the core reasons. It’s not new and it’s not exciting as an initiative for executives to buy into.
Michael Webb: Right, and there’s enough backlash out in the marketplace. You know, it’s interesting. Toyota is and in the whole continuous improvement world … people who’ve worked for Toyota, don’t always have the same view of continuous improvement as people communicate or described it as. I had a client, a potential client, I’ll say. They never actually became a client, and I learned many years later that the reason for that was that, because I work with VPs of sales instead of VPs of manufacturing or also General Managers, but all my work is focused around sales and marketing, right?
The VP of sales in this company was adamantly opposed to any kind of process work and not because he’s a concrete head, he didn’t get it, right? He was doing a pretty good job and he knew that he should measure stuff, but his wife had worked for a number of years at a Toyota plant and had been treated in such a way, that she thought it was awful, and he absorbed that kind of attitude, and so there was no way that I was going to win this company as a client when the VP of sales is adamantly blocking the door. No way, right? And he was making his numbers, so he didn’t really have any problem that had to be solved and the president of the company backed down and said, okay, well we’re not going to force this issue.
I think there’s a lot of confusion out there in how this is positioned. Another clue. The industry is organized sort of semi-organized right? There’s the Six Sigma-oriented people, there’s the Lean-oriented people, there’s the continuous improvement people, you know, the Deming people, the Shingo-oriented people. Honestly with the exception possibly of the Shingo oriented people, the number one concern you hear or complaint or frustration of people in the industry, and you tell me if you heard this as well, is that it’s difficult for the practitioners to get senior management to pay attention. To recognize this stuff is important for the whole company. It’s important to senior management. It’s not just a tool for the shop rats, it’s not just a tool for the people in the plant or the engineering department, right? And they have trouble getting that message across that. Have you seen that also?
Robert Tripp: Oh, absolutely, absolutely, and again, if we can engage the people who are going to the training and applying the tools and facilitating teams to deliver successful projects, you know, deployment as a whole is only successful if we deliver results project by project. It’s always good to be difficult to work with management who have to make decisions based on several criteria not just those that are of interest to the specific project teams so it gets back to the practitioner, whether it is a green belt or a black belt, the person facilitating these improvement teams, it gets back to these practitioners understanding what they need to sell to the senior management to help their solutions be better accepted in the organization.
It’s not always an easy formula to follow. In fact, this is part of the challenge. It’s not formulaic. You can’t make it, again, we’ll get back to a checklist conundrum. You can’t make this a checklist. You have to make this something that people evaluate the circumstances of their own situation effectively and find the right pitch to create value to the end-user, or the person that has to buy the solution or the result of whatever you’re trying to deliver.
That being said, yes it’s difficult to get management to engage because they have a lot of competing priorities. One thing we can do when we deliver projects is be as rigorous as possible at driving towards some sort of financial estimate or qualification of the results of the project, and we don’t have that. We don’t have much to work with. So that has to be at the most basic piece of things, but your projects can have great value beyond whether we’ve accounted for using standard, you know, accounting practices or management accounting practices. There’s a lot more to be said with projects in many cases within simple financial numbers. But it’s a starting point and we have to build that discipline in.
Michael Webb: Right. I think that was one of the other sort of subtle hidden assumptions in the way Six Sigma is talked about and taught and presented to management, which is that everything’s a project. And yes, in fact, everything is not a project, right? We have some ongoing things that must continue even after our production system must continue, right? And we need to be able to measure and demonstrate that we’re actually creating improvement there, and it’s not a project, and a little project which may have very little payoff. Well, for example, there’s this great story that, I’m trying to remember the name of the fellow, the former head of LEI Lean Institute, used to spend time, he worked at Toyota for a number of years. GM would send people in to observe them. Like, at the Nummi plant, in California. And the VP of finance sent somebody in his department to go observe them and told that person, “Look, I want you to bring back only improvements that are more than a hundred thousand dollars a year. That’s what I’m interested in. Not things, you know, little crappy things. I want the big hits that we can implement.”
Well, the guy goes there and he sees them in the midst of a project where the union people had requested that the soda machines be moved closer to the break room. The next day, they had five electricians and you know, they’re doing it. Where’s your payback on that, right? He couldn’t include that in his list to send back to the VP of finance of GM. In fact, Toyota was getting huge return on that. You just couldn’t measure it because the Union people, now knew that they were being listened to, right? It’s not about projects, it’s about something else that obviously was not on the radar of that VP of finance at GM.
Robert Tripp: Well that’s really interesting because lean and Six Sigma way of thinking, right? What’s funny is that we tend to get into this thought pattern or, I’ll called a paradigm that you know, every day as you said, “Everything is a project.” Primarily because that’s how it’s taught, okay? But the thing is, is once you kind of become adept at something, you don’t need to actually practice it necessarily in exactly the same way that you were taught it. The project is a vehicle that’s been, or an architecture, that’s been created for the purpose of teaching people who are unfamiliar with the tools or giving them exposure that they get comfortable with the sequence and the way the tools relate, and how their thinking flows through the problem solving, the discovering process.
The reality is, you don’t really want people in the end, to practice your way of working in that manner. So, it’s interesting, you know, it really gets back to this checklist. I think we get so ingrained into a particular habit, and the way we apply a set of tools that we’re not willing to sort of work out outside that box and say, “You know what, this organization is different than where we started. Now it’s time to think more critically about how do we get people to engage in practices simply as a way of working, not as a project-based infrastructure?”
Now, there’s the trade-off. If it’s not project-based, it doesn’t have a defined beginning and end and it’s going to be very difficult to evaluate a financial benefit. On the other hand, you know, you’re getting the benefit of sort of a culture, you know, way of changing the organization. So I think there may be an opportunity here to balance both, and of course it’s going to vary from one situation to the next. But, that’s the organizations who are starting down the Lean Six Sigma and the continuous improvement process certainly want to design their structure around project execution, but I think it would get more maturity, they need to consider a more fluid approach that allows people to deploy these tools, both in a project architecture and outside of work.
Michael Webb: Now, you said something I’m going to push back on, I think you would agree with this but so let me just put it out there. You seem to imply that if you don’t have a project focus then you can’t measure improvement. And I heard a different interpretation, of process improvement. There was continuous improvement which takes place in something, the kind of work that’s done repetitive on and on and on like in a production plant, right?
Like sales and marketing. It means every day you have to go do something that makes more people find you, finds more qualified prospects, brings those prospects closer to giving money to you. It’s a production process, a production system. Likewise, you have to find the right raw materials, you’ve got to bring them in, they’ve got to be prepared properly, and assembled properly according to the schedule and a SPEC. All those are all production processes and managements try to use things called key performance indicators.
They’re going to be making their desired result, but then, that system, sometimes, needs to fundamentally change the way it works. That’s a project, right? There’s breakthrough improvement versus continuous improvement, and you’re using at the root, you’re using the same principles of how you use your mind. But you’re managing it with a beginning, middle, and an end in a project case and you’re managing it with improvement in those data-driven KPIs to determine if we’re improving continuously and also to determine if that project created a difference that goes to the financial statements. What do you think of that characterization?
Robert Tripp: I think it’s a fair characterization. My concern is that we can define a project however we want to define it, right? I mean the issue is we need to have a specific beginning and end to a sequence of activities. We acquire projects to address maybe issues or opportunities in these processes. We define those projects as a sequence of events that are being delivered to achieve a specific outcome. Typically those projects have, you know, one of the KPIs, as the beginning and the end, right?
The amount of time it takes, obviously, there are other KPIs related to new services required, and then the outcome of that project as well, is certainly being measured. So it’s kind of, maybe the combination of those three elements that are… They’re helping to define, you know, the boundaries of that project experience. But when you are certain with that specific beginning and end, it’s much easier to estimate the financial impact for sure.
I don’t think that, you know, if you’re not defining boundaries on the event, then you wonder when they stop accumulating metrics to say how well you performed. Now you can watch incremental changes take place. So, let’s say we introduce a continuous improvement program that has, the intended effect of improving some KPI on a process. Well, you can apply specific projects within that continuous improvement program, but the program itself then is not the project, is considered that projects are the events that are driving the change. So, I’m still sort of in this place where you have to define the beginning and the end to your, you know, sequence of events, if you want to evaluate the results of those events with a specific starting point. I’m not sure I answered your question, Mike.
Michael Webb: Well, if you have a process that’s functioning, and then you can put a process behavior chart on it, and statistically determine if there is a change to the capability, the variation, right? The output, the yield of that project. So, theoretically if you have a breakthrough improvement, suppose you change the website, and it now has a great way for people to get information and self-assess their needs and then reach out to get specific information about solving a problem that then goes to the sales force. And the purpose of that project is to generate a higher quality of lead to the sales force.
Well, before you have that project implemented, you have a rate of leads and a quality of the leads that are coming in. After that project is done, you have a different rate of leads and quality of leads that’s coming in. You can put that on a process behavior chart and tell that an improvement took place.
Robert Tripp: Right, right.
Michael Webb: That’s what I’m talking about.
Robert Tripp: Yes, but you defined the beginning and the end, with the project you defined an endpoint to that project where you can evaluate, “Okay, did we make the changes of the KPIs, and that you’re interested in changing?” Now, what defined the end of that project could be timing, could be reaching a certain level of performance in the KPI. I don’t know, but there is something specific that defines the end of that project, right?
Michael Webb: Yeah. Well there is, but lots of times those projects end, and I guess the point is, and I know this from a guy who wrote the improvement guide as a matter of fact, who I hope to have a future show. His name is Cliff Norman. You shouldn’t measure the process when you changed, you know, use the dates, the beginning and end, in the project to measure the process. You should just be measuring the process and then see if the data tells you that there was a change in the capability.
Robert Tripp: I think that’s a fair statement.
Michael Webb: Yeah, it’s a fair statement. Okay, so geeking out here a little bit, and then we will pull it back to something that’s sort of relevant to sales. And then, that’s going to take us into management, and then maybe we can wrap up. I was quite shocked back in 2006 when I wrote Sales and Marketing the Six Sigma Way, to realize that the Six Sigma industry had precisely the same problems as the sales training industry.
The two were structured the same, right? They sold training. It was relatively easy to sell. It was pretty easy to buy. People understood what it was. They made money by putting buns on seats. Universally there is a problem of demonstrating results. And so the training consulting companies tried to sell field coaching with management, you know, for implementation. And the managements who bought the training often were reluctant to buy the field coaching because they just thought it was a high profit add on an unnecessary type thing, and that was just a state of the industry, right? And because they’re focused on training. In Lean, many times it has been similar because it’s the same kind of thing. The solution to that dilemma is to not allow the focus on the consultant’s product, but to change the focus, the consultant has to change the way they work to give it a focus on the customer’s problem. That is a huge shift in mindset, so my question to you is, do you agree? And how do you do that?
Robert Tripp: In your assessment of the similarities of the two industries, I agree 100%. I think it’s fascinating that you sort of, you observed that from the sales and marketing and selling training side of things, but you can certainly see it also in the consulting side of stuff. You have to look for the value proposition in anything that you’re trying to sell. And one of the advantages I think that we have, or could have within the Six Sigma industry, again is to focus on helping the people quantify the impact of their projects, you know, financially as much as possible.
And, I realize that, you know, that can create difficulties and challenges down the line as you start to mature as you are in the organization with deploying these tools. Because the focus on financial qualification tends to draw people’s attention away from the other benefits as part of the conversations we’ve already been having. And so that can be an impedance to driving a cultural change in the organization. That being said, yeah, I agree with you 100% that it’s difficult to sell this without, you know, understanding exactly what the organization needs as a result of the training, and the human resource development that you’re proposing.
Michael Webb: Right. Well, and when we get into sales and marketing, that whole concept of the ability to measure, that’s a whole new world because they think that getting measured all the time, but they’re not. All they measure is the end result, and the net of that is they end up doing the same things over and over and over and expecting different results. And it’s been a big Chinese wall between the sales and marketing world and solving problems and the operational, you know, production management world where they can solve problems and produce measurable financial results with a lot of credibility.
That would be a great topic for another conversation with you. We’ve sort of been chewing the fat here going around, you know, a bunch of different poles and a bunch of different observations. But it is useful to step back and say, this industry is here for a reason. It does have results. It does have some ramifications that people would prefer not to be the case. There’s this story in the industry, a fairy tale, I mean, not in the industry but, a girl was thrown into a dungeon, full of hay and manure and they check on her and she’s just thrilled. She’s digging around, and then they ask her, why? Why are you so happy? She says, well, if there’s a lot of this manure in here, there has to be a pony, right?
Well, that’s kind of like where we. There’s some really good stuff in this operational excellence industry, right? And we’ve found some of it, but it hasn’t really stuck, and until it’s understood that sales and marketing needs it, engineering needs it, human resources need it, most importantly, none of those people are going to think they need it until senior management recognizes that they need it. And it is how we’re talking, and we’re trying to penetrate that barrier.
Robert Tripp: If I could add to that, real quick Mike, I would agree with you 100%, and even to the extent that we try to emulate or replicate the Toyota model for Lean production, execution and design. I think we have to recognize we’re dealing with different cultures and different business models. And we have to be willing to incorporate our own sense of judiciously applied continuous improvement tools and methods, based on the culture and the method that exists, and I think the same would go for your sales and marketing processes as well. I think too often we get, again into our paradigms according to the way we learned it, or according to the way it’s been advertised, it was practiced, but forget that you have to be creative enough to apply it to your unique circumstances and flex and mold and really craft your own deployment and approach to match the environments to work again.
Michael Webb: Yeah, right. I agree with that, and then how you stay on the rails and make that effective and prove it with data. Yeah, that requires a lot of thinking and you can’t use checklists. You need thinking people. Anyway, I love talking about this stuff and trying to solve the problems in the world. I want to thank you for being interested enough to spend this time with me. Let’s pick another topic because guys like you have really, really valuable experience and-
Robert Tripp: I’d love that, that would be great.
Michael Webb: I appreciate your interest, and we’ll see how the audience reacts, hopefully, they’ll ask us some questions and this will spur a further productive conversation. So if someone wants to get ahold of you, at Argo how would they do that?
Robert Tripp: The best way, really is through my email. You know, I’m not a very sophisticated marketing machine here, so I’ve got my personal email address at R.email@example.com. Also, you can reach me at 317-506-4849, on my phone and you know, we’ll engage in a conversation, that would be great. I’d be happy to talk to anyone, whether they have questions or ideas or thoughts to share, it’s always, it’s a fun field to sort of explore, so, yeah. Thanks for the opportunity, Mike, it’s been great chatting with you. I appreciate this.
Michael Webb: Same here, and we will talk again soon.