Is it realistic that a commitment to continuous improvement could actually replace operational controls?  Strategic controls?

I don’t believe this would work because continuous improvement such as lean management practices do not seem to work in all industries. There are situations where Six Sigma and other strategies do not work well. In the last 50 years, there has been a trend in operations and production management to utilize the lean management, specifically Sigma Six. This management system is considered to be a model of operations management. Although originally designed for auto manufacturing and developed from the Toyota Production System (TPS), lean management concepts are often applied to a variety of operations management systems in different industries and production systems.  The problem with this approach is that Six Sigma is not a perfect fit for many companies and in many instances this system fails. The eagerness of many industries to adopt a successful operations management system has led to poor outcomes. These outcomes have been documented with companies that implement systems such as Six Sigma:

Many companies have embraced Six Sigma, a quality-control system designed to tackle problems such as production defects, and lean manufacturing, which aims to remove all processes that don’t add value to the final product. But many of those companies have come away less than happy. Recent studies, for example, suggest that nearly 60% of all corporate Six Sigma initiatives fail to yield the desire results (Chakravorty, 2010).

 

The problem rests more in the fact that lean management systems were implemented in companies that diverged from manufacturing environments. As well, many of these companies altered the Six Sigma approach or TPM approach radically from its original form in order to fit the a particular work environment.  An examination of the lean management/Six Sigma system shows that the choice of system for a company may need to be more specifically designed rather than trying to use a one-size-fits-all approach.

Bibliography

Chakravorty, S. S. (2010, January 25). Where Process-Improvement Projects Go Wrong Six Sigma and other programs typically show early progress. And then things return to the way they were. Retrieved from The Wall Street Journal: