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Expert: Organizational Performance

Expert: Organizational Performance

By Doug VonFeldt & Thomas Underwood

Considering this issue of TK Business Magazine features the “20 Under 40,” it is appropriate to consider the knowledge, competencies and skill sets that young professionals need to achieve organizational excellence, regardless of discipline or professional area. The three key determinants of organizational performance, outlined by Gary Yukl in the article "Why Flexible, Adaptive Leadership is Essential for Organizational Effectiveness," provide a good framework for discussion:

  1. Efficiency and Process Reliability Organizations of all types are constantly striving to be more efficient, especially in times of limited resources and highly competitive markets. As customer demands have become more sophisticated, process reliability, or quality, is increasingly of paramount importance. Professionals need the knowledge and tools to identify and guide process improvement for greater efficiency and effectiveness.

  2. Innovation and Adaptation Whether it is adapting to changes in technologies, resource acquisition, customer demands or new regulations, all organizations must adapt to threats and opportunities or they will be left behind. Innovation is the process to enhance adaptation potential. In the book "Collective Genius," Hill and her colleagues note that “In a time of rapid change, the ability to innovate quickly and effectively, again and again, is perhaps the only enduring competitive advantage.” To be innovative, professionals must have the capacity to think holistically and beyond the realm of their job or discipline.

  3. Human Resources and Relations Regardless of the type of organization, it is increasingly recognized that people are the most valuable asset to an organization. Our work models tend to more collaborative, people tend to look at the workplace as more than a place to collect a paycheck, and great value is placed on diversity of workforce. All this suggests that effective human relations is critical for the professional.

These three key determinants of organizational performance are addressed in the continuous improvement framework of Lean Six Sigma.  While Lean Six Sigma is often considered in the context of efficiency (waste, lean operations) and process reliability (effectiveness, improving processes, reducing variation), it is much more than that.  As a problem-solving process, Lean Six Sigma provides a framework for innovation and adaptation. In addition, the core elements of the Lean Six Sigma problem-solving process are people skills, such as of managing teams and effecting organizational change, therefore Lean Six Sigma also addresses the key determinant of human resources and relations.

Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, noted that the biggest benefit of implementing Lean Six Sigma across the organization was that it changed “the fundamental culture of the company and the way we develop people–especially our high potentials...Six Sigma gives us just the tool we need for generic management training as it applies as much in customer service centers as it does in a manufacturing environment.”

There are many ways young professionals can enhance their knowledge, competencies, and skills sets that will contribute to excellence in their organization and their community. Lean Six Sigma can provide a professional development framework to achieve professional and organizational excellence. TK


  • Hill, L.A., Brandeau, G., Truelove, E., & Lineback, K. (2014). “Collective Genius: The Art and Practice of Leading Innovation.” Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.ww

  • Welch, J. (2001). “Jack Straight from the Gut.” New York, NY: Warner Books.

  • Yukl, G. (2002). “Why Flexible, Adaptive Leadership is Essential for Organizational Effectiveness.” University at Albany, SUNY


Doug VonFeldt Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt Certified Project Management Professional

Thomas Underwood Assistant Dean for Academic Outreach Washburn University

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