Peter Pande Responds to Business Week’s “Six Sigma: So Yesterday” and the Struggle Between Efficiency and Creativity."

We're asking some leading specialists in Six Sigma, Lean and Op Ex to comment on the recent Business Week article that concluded Six Sigma was passe and "wrong" for innovation-based companies (which would, of course, include pharma). Here's what author Peter Pande, president of Pivotal Resources had to say: The notion that Innovation and Six Sigma cannot co-exist is both alarming and risky.  Certainly, it's critical for a company to balance these efforts.Done right, Six Sigma can support innovation, and even provide a spark for developing new and practical ways to improve health benefits provided by the pharmaceutical industry. For example, one of the greatest areas of opportunity in industries like Pharma that rely on a solid new product pipeline is to smooth the transition from promising concept to marketable product. Six Sigma-type disciplines have been instrumental in helping find redundant or unnecessary activities that slow new product introductions.They help leaders and product teams identify risks"”not often a strong skill set for R&D types"”and develop contingencies when issues arise through the trial, approval and commercialization of new products. Six Sigma methods can also enhance innovation through more effective insights into the needs of customers. As an example, I would suggest there are opportunities to better understand the causes behind the thousands of drug dispensing errors that occur every year, with serious and all-too-often fatal consequences for patients. With that knowledge, might pharmaceutical companies contribute innovative delivery or error-proofing solutions that could save many lives. That kind of customer-focused investigation is central to Six Sigma and has led to real innovation in many industries. I'm not totally sure why the Business Week article ignores these examples.  It may be the fault of leaders who poorly understand and misapply Six Sigma, or "Belts" who over-emphasize analytical tools. But I do know executives at 3M who say Six Sigma inspired them to think differently about their businesses"”to go beyond previously accepted limits to find new ways to add value to customers. Companies and leaders who recognize that innovation, customer focus, efficiency and speed are actually complementary are better positioned to succeed.  Those who surrender to the idea that "research" and "running a business" are somehow opposing ideas limit their own perspective and actually squelch creative thinking by assuming it can only come out of the lab.  We'll have more comments as they come, but what do YOU think? Please write in, or take this little survey.