Tuesday, February 27, 2007

But I'm left handed

Here's what BusinessWeek has to say about ambidextrous organizations.

"I can't stand this," said a senior manager of an Standard& Poor's 500 company recently. "One minute the management team is telling us to innovate, and the next minute they are giving us our marching orders in deploying Six Sigma. It's crazy to tell people they should be focused on becoming more efficient while at the same time you want them to explore untapped growth potential. This is making me nuts."...

Six Sigma is designed to inject more efficiency and productivity into a company's systems. It focuses the organization on operational excellence and on "doing things right." By its very nature, Six Sigma fosters a very low tolerance for risk because risk increases variation.

Innovation, on the other hand, seeks to brave undiscovered, uncertain territory. Such fledgling efforts are inherently inefficient as they ramp up. To be in the game, innovation requires a tolerance for failure and risk-taking. Especially when design methods are deployed to reframe the problem, innovation seeks to "do the right thing."...

In their Harvard Business Review article, "The Ambidextrous Organization," Charles O'Reilly III and MichaelTushman, business-school professors at Stanford and Harvard, respectively, acknowledge the paradox of exploitive vs. explorative efforts. Their conclusion is that smart companies separate the more ambitious efforts at innovation from ongoing efforts at continuous improvement, allowing for different processes, structure, and cultures to emerge within the same company.


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