Most efforts to improve Operational Efficiency  (OE) have at their core the elimination of variation in a process. It starts by setting standards, measuring the variations, and then progressively eliminating the causes of the variations, until you have a repeatable process with minimum variation.

Terrific so far.

Change in an organisation, change of any sort, has at its core a dissatisfaction with the status quo, and a determination to change it, not necessarily by the CEO, or anybody with power, but by someone who is dissatisfied with the way things are.

How do these things sit together?

The value of process conformance leading to OE are undoubted, but in gaining the benefits, we eliminate, or at least minimise, the opportunity for change, which flourishes on diversity.

Change, or non conformance, brings risk and growth, high levels of conformance brings a death by boredom, but both are necessary for organisations to flourish.

This is another paradox that challenges the leadership of organisations, one not generally recognised by those who advocate “Lean” thinking, of which I am one, and its cousin “6 Sigma“, but something that leaders perhaps need to consider in the way they go about nurturing the culture of the organisations they run.