My newest Audible adventure has been with the book “Winning,” narrated by the author, Jack Welch. This one has really sucked me in – it’s especially appealing to me how he boils down complex management concepts into terms that are easy to understand. One of those concepts is GE’s “Six Sigma” practice, which is all about decreasing product variations.

The specific example he gives to demonstrate Six Sigma (the moniker refers to the lowercase Greek letter sigma ‘σ’ – the symbol statisticians use for Standard Deviation), is about a manufacturer delivering three loads of products. They deliver the first load after 3 days, the second after 13 days, and the third after 7 days. After enacting Six Sigma, the manufacturer delivers all three loads on exactly the 10th day – decreasing variation and using rigid processes help cut costs. Also, even though 2 out of 3 product loads actually arrive later, the consistency of always delivering on the 10th day actually increases customer satisfaction.

This concept of consistency is one that I think applies to personal life as well. Good things and bad things happen to all of us, but in order to avoid depression I think it is equally important to avoid mania. In the long term, satisfaction and mental stability are best achieved by maintaining an even keel temperament (not too happy, not too sad) rather than riding the roller coaster of unrestrained emotion. Perhaps this means never summiting the mountain of joy after a big win – but if it also means avoiding the depths of depression, I’d call it a fair tradeoff.

Your thoughts?

Six Sigma and Living Your Life Even Keel
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  • OK, but why is consistency important? Is it good in itself, or does it cause goodness, or what?

    Rather philosophical-sounding questions, but I would proffer this response:

    Consistency reduces uncertainty, which makes planning easier/possible. It is important to have “flex” in your schedule.

    If you’re rushing from disaster to disaster – putting out fires, essentially – then you are incapable of adjusting to further change. Worse, any change you make will be reactionary, and not pro-active; you will constantly fall behind and fail to innovate. At some point, it’s inevitable that you will meet an emergency you can’t recover from in time, and perish.

    I wouldn’t say it’s consistency, in itself, that is beneficial – I would say, rather, that it’s the additional flexibility which consistency allows. The ability, in other words, to (i) react to emergencies calmly and competently, and (ii) pro-actively evaluate the future, and change in a direction you choose (plan).

    As a side note, I’ll say I don’t agree with your conclusion – that consistency is better if it allows you to avoid the depths of depression. I like the mathematical explanation: If you take a line (probably a sinusoid) with y-axis positive/negative emotion, and the x-axis time, then the important measurement is your NET emotional takeaway. That is, it’s the integral over time. So it’s more important to focus on maximizing the positive emotions (total) than it is to maximise consistency – which could lead you to a consistent _negative_ emotional state.

  • Great response! I particularly like the argument about always being prepared for further disaster.

    Also, you sent me to the dictionary with “sinusoid” -nice.

  • If life were a function, “NET emotional takeaway” would equal the area under your path. To me, this area equals life’s fulfillment. If plotting a happy linear path and a manic sinusoid path account for the same net fulfillment, is a two dimensional outlook really adequate? Are positive inflection points in life more valuable than negative ones? Does the net shape of fulfillment, drawn by your f(x) matter?

    Although I respect the beauty of a simple life, and admire monolithic fulfillment, I prefer an abstract path, playful geometry, and more axis: X,Y,Z…


  • Dadio

    Drew, a week without your blog entry is like a week without sunshine. I hope your slave driver’s let you get back to your personal life because your fans are waiting for a dose of wisdom. Jordies’ comment was incomprehensible! Did he do that on purpose? Talk to ya soon…