Motorola's Change Management Evolution

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Jeff Cole

Six Sigma

When you think of Six Sigma, you think of Motorola, where the methodology was first invented by engineer Bill Smith in 1986. As the inventor, Motorola has been engaged in Six Sigma longer than any other company, with over $18 billion dollars in verified savings since its inception. This month, I sat down with Jeff Summers, Director, Quality and Six Sigma Learning of Motorola University to discuss how Six Sigma at Motorola has evolved to integrate change management.

JC: Jeff, thanks for talking with me this month. For starters I get the general impression that early on Six Sigma may have been focused more on the technical side than the human side of the toolbox—is that fair to say?

JS: Yes, originally Six Sigma at Motorola was focused primarily in the labs and factories. That’s where all the data was. The early practitioners were mostly from engineering, manufacturing or quality. Most of the problems concerned product or process engineering. The majority of data was continuous and fairly easy to work with.

JC: Today at Motorola there’s a great emphasis on effectively attending to the human side of a Six Sigma process change. How did this evolution come about?

JS: Well I would like to tell you that we were smart enough to figure it all out ahead of time, but there is plenty of evidence to suggest otherwise. We evolved to the current program through the school of hard knocks. As we started trying to move the discipline into the enterprise, we realized that the tools that worked so well with machines and products didn’t work so well with people-driven processes. We sprinkled some change management into the process, but it wasn’t enough. Ultimately, it came down to reframing the problem as a change project and then realizing that some of the changes might require a technical approach, like DMAIC or Lean and that some were best solved using psychology, influence, and an organizational development approach. In short, we had to balance our approach between the technical side and the people side.

JC: At some point, you and the Motorola team had to go about designing your approach to change and weaving that into DMAIC. Were you able to apply any Six Sigma design tools or principles in creating your change management approach?

JS: At Motorola University we have developed a CDOV [Concept-Designed-Optimize-Validate] approach to creating new learning products. We put together a team of subject matter experts, collected data, baselined current processes and then benchmarked about seven-eight other change processes. We developed a Concept, set goals and got the approval of our sponsor and key stakeholders. Next we Designed the actual process and tools. We designed the training material in parallel to save time. After testing the process and training material with target audience, we Optimized both and launched. We continue to Validate and improve the process as we use it.

JC: At a very high level, can you share some of what you have done?

JS: We realized early on that we were pretty good at the technical side of most of our projects. We had a rich history of problem solving, project management and data analysis. The result of this history is a set of processes and tools that allowed the user to navigate the various technical aspects of a project. We decided that if we could create a process and tools that looked and felt like the technical side, but lead the user through the human discovery process, that it might be accepted better from a cultural point of view. In addition, it would be much easier to integrate into our Six Sigma processes.

JC: Are you seeing good results from this approach?

JS: Yes we are. The course material is offered independently or integrated into our Six Sigma training program. We have trained around 600 employees this year and we are applying the process and tools on numerous major projects. We are seeing results and the approach is gaining momentum which is evidence that it is working.

JC: Lastly, what tips do you have for other companies working on integrating change management into their Six Sigma efforts?

JS: Realize that the people side of many projects is more challenging than the technical side. With this in mind, don’t leave it to chance. Have a process to discover who is involved, what is changing and the relevant internal/external context. It is only with an understanding of this information that we can begin to design the very specific "how" we will deliver a successful project.

Thanks very much Jeff! To learn more about Motorola’s approach to change management or Six Sigma, please visit