TQM, ISO 9000, Six Sigma: Do Process Management Programs Discourage Innovation?

The decision by a rock group in Northern Kentucky to call itself 6 Sigma suggests that process management programs may definitely be part of mainstream consciousness. But does the continuing popularity of such programs hide the fact that they can end up suppressing innovation? “The risk is that you misapply these programs, in particular in areas where people are supposed to be innovative,” notes Wharton management professor Mary Benner. “Brand new technologies to produce products that don’t exist are difficult to measure. This kind of innovation may be crowded out when you focus too much on” the statistical measurement of outcomes. Benner and Harvard Business School professor Michael Tushman look at the evolution, and potential misuse, of process management programs.

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