Process Optimization aka Sigma


We need to eliminate waste and speed up processes. We want an Agile R&D organization. We free scientists from routine administrative tasks so they can concentrate on the science. We do this by automating or process optimizing routine tasks. We develop a master plan, a process map that runs from basic research through to product launch, with thousands of steps and hundreds of participants.

We step back from this process map, apply a bit of 'common sense' and experience from other assignments, we cut out many redundant or unnecessary steps, and at the end we step back from our work and claim we have cut out so-many days and so-much cost from the overall R&D effort. Our maps and our recommendations are given the seal of approval by management, and everyone then is committed to following them


It’s a goldmine for folks selling generalized solutions, such as software or Sigma. However, a flawed R&D model is still flawed no matter how much you save in cost cutting exercises. You can stem the bleeding but that still doesn't bring the patient back to health.

An optimized process still leads you to the same deadend, only perhaps you get there faster and cheaper. Feable efforts at mapping quality into the process are easily gamed by the players, who now know that management is looking to demonstrate this mapping exercise they just spent $X million to complete wasn't pure folly. An astute player knows that by making his or her boss look good, then they will be next in line for that large bonus or promotion. Dissenters+ will be weeded out.

Innovative R&D does not follow a set path. Certain mini-steps can indeed be recognized as being similar from pursuit to pursuit. Everyone will need to put on their boots before the journey, so there is a value in knowing the best way to tie the laces. But beyond these very minute tasks there should be no home for process optimization+ in the R&D for innovative products.

Appropriate Uses None. We're looking for behavior fundamentals+ that are often in direct competition with the mechanical guiding principles of most process optimization efforts. The future may transform process optimization to incorporate competition, freedom & responsibility, etc., but for now the discipline is tainted by its roots that stem from economies and efficiencies.


Further Reading