Procedural Plenitude

Remember the K-Car? Detroit bosses would look out their windows to see what kind of cars people were driving. “Yep, they love our stuff.” Meanwhile, the formerly blown off W. Edwards Deming was not dissuaded when American manufacturers told him to pound sand. Instead, he headed across the Pacific. It wasn’t long before names like Lexus and Infinity were replacing Cadillac and Lincoln to describe quality. Finally, American business woke up and began clamoring to get their hands on the Demming material. It became hard to find a company without some kind of quality initiative. Consultants were everywhere. We were inundated with three letter acronyms like QFD, SPC and DOE. Soon, everyone was so focused on the Malcomb Baldridge Award and ISO certification that business suffered.
Then along came Motorola. They made a big splash with Six Sigma. This snappy sounding fad apparently has something to do with a Greek martial arts expert that has a black belt. It turns out, it was created by some college buddies from the Sigma Sigma Sigma fraternity who could not find work and hooked up with another fraternity, Charga Lotta Mulla, to create a bunch of acronyms and buzzwords packaged in technical soup with a cool name. If Wall Street had any idea how much time is actually wasted in corporate conference rooms on this endeavor they would be appalled with a kind of "Sick Stigma".

Now don’t get me wrong. This stuff does work for certain situations. The problem is that people make careers out of it and then start applying it to everything. Too much of a good thing is bad.

Quality endeavors all seem to require the definition and documentation of procedures. If it is written down, then it must be repeatable; this is apparently the key to quality. So we now have a procedure for everything.
For example, in order to use the rest room one must:
1. Submit a request to use the facilities.
2. The request is forwarded to the requester’s supervisor for approval.
3. Once approved, the request moves to the facilities management.
4. When facilities are available, notification will be sent to both the requesting individual and the supervisor.
5. The requester may then proceed to use the facilities.
6. When finished, the user must notify the facilities management in order to update availability.
7. Facilities management will collect metrics on usage and provide results to the supervisors in order to monitor and improve efficiency.

The problem with procedures is that they must be defined. This necessarily requires a procedure to define procedures. Of course, this in turn requires a procedure for defining a procedure to define a procedure. In a recursive mirror reflecting mirror quandary, this spirals into infinity.
Now that is brilliant! The consultants will never be out of work.