Our society wishes to define diversity in terms of demographic profiles that quantify the degree of variation within a group. Our criteria for diversity are the proportion of females, ethnic diversity, and statistics. I propose a broader perspective that will include people with a diverse range of economic, educational, social, and political perspectives. The critical component is a broad and receptive mind.
Everyone is born with an all-encompassing theory of everything. Certain theories are in various stages of development, while others remain static. A solitary view of the universe is unsatisfactory. Sufficient variety is required to thoroughly investigate all available options. Alfred P. Sloan, the genius behind General Motors, exemplifies this with a top-level management proposal. He was holding a meeting with his staff. The proposal at hand was unanimously approved. Sloan allegedly stated, “This proposal has received unanimous approval, which scares me. Let us place this item on the agenda for our next meeting for reconsideration. In the meantime, conduct research and evaluation on this proposal.” The group unanimously rejected the proposal at the following meeting, just as they had previously accepted it. The moral of this story is that a unified perspective is undesirable, regardless of whether it is universal acceptance or rejection.
Dissonance generates progress. Albert Einstein, if he had been compliant, would never have given us the Theory of Relativity. Einstein’s attempt to incorporate observed data into established theory widened his perspective and resulted in an expanded restatement of Newton’s laws of motion. However, for every Einstein, there are a million quacks. Simply because a new vision is born does not mean it is an epiphany. A good example is the two professors who believed they had discovered cold fusion. The two were so enmeshed in their unchanging theory of everything that they were unable to see the obvious flaws in their research. When their research was subjected to peer review, they earned the reputation of being fools. Their closed-loop reasoning imprisoned them within their ignorance.
Liberals and conservatives, progressives and regressives, the well-educated and those who learned their lessons the hard way all contribute critical perspectives. The conservatives will temper the liberals’ exuberance. The Liberals will entice conservatives away from their fortresses. Progressives will attack the technological frontier. Regressives will gravitate toward the center, never venturing beyond the known. The well-educated will employ a variety of convergent and divergent thinking techniques, while those with a wealth of real-world experience will avoid letting minor details sink the ship. The critical point is to avoid viewing these seemingly diametrically opposed philosophies as in conflict. The objective is not to fight until one point of view completely dominates all others. The inclusion is intended to foster synergy and the development of a solution that each component is incapable of developing on its own.
Lean Six Sigma is designed to generate dissonance. Processes such as 4 S, FMEA, VOC, DMEA, and SPC, among others, aim to improve the current state. All of these are technologies that can be used to disrupt the status quo in a beneficial way. Each of these processes enables systematic and constructive investigation and improvement. They are all, in a word, dissonance. None of them will thrive in a monoculture. Diversification is a prerequisite for Six Sigma. Diversification across all components optimizes results when Lean Six Sigma processes are used.
The first step is to acknowledge that diversity is not a race or a contest. Diversification does not come to an end with a victor. All of these components are necessary for presenting and articulating a considered perspective. The purpose of diversity is to facilitate comprehension. Understanding does not imply consent. Understanding does not imply superiority. Understanding does not imply submission. Each component remains unaltered except for a more complete understanding and subsequent re-evaluation of its respective “theory of everything.” To advance an organization, each component must be convinced that their participation adds value. Each component requires confirmation that their individual condition is secure.
The second step is diversity construction. Diversification will not occur on its own. There are an excessive number of forces working against inclusion. Perhaps the primary impediment to diversity is affirmation. By seeking sanctuary, individuals naturally alleviate their angst caused by discordant information and alternative perspectives. It is natural to receive confirmation when everyone else has a limited and parallel perspective. President Lincoln is the best example of how diversity can be constructed. Lincoln purposefully sought to assemble a cabinet of disparate individuals during a period of maximum turmoil in our country. He regarded as valuable thoughts that differed from his own. Cabinet meetings were frequently fraught. It came to a vote following a lengthy and spirited debate. It was Lincoln who stated, “There were nine nays and one aye. Gentlemen, the ayes are conclusive.” Lincoln excelled at assembling a Team of Rivals*.
The third step is to value and nurture diversity, or as the French would say, Vive La Diversité. Recognize the forces that are at work. Each segment will vie for supremacy over the others. Each segment will reposition itself in a safe location. There is a palpable sense of competition in the air. Every method possible must be used to establish value in the difference and to overcome the forces described above. Each segment’s mission must be to ensure the health and prosperity of the others. The organization must adopt the mental health organization model, in which each individual is accountable for interacting in a way that reinforces the value of others. There must be a distinct value placed on inclusion and a distinct value placed on avoiding exclusion.
While Lean Six Sigma may be effective in monoculture environments, it is far from optimal. Lean Six Sigma’s objective is to generate dissonance. The process by which Lean Six Sigma improves is the accommodation of that dissonance. Diversification that is well-constructed and nurtured is the prerequisite condition for Lean Six Sigma to work its magic.
*Kearns, Doris A Team of Rivals: Abraham Lincoln’s Political Genius, Simon & Schuster