In this short video, CEO and Founder of Six Disciplines, Gary Harpst, introduces what the Six Disciplines organizational excellence program is, and discusses the research that proves excellence programs DO work (like Baldrige, Six Sigma, EFMQ, and Six Disciplines) IF they are consistently adoptedand followed.

The question is one of two paths: is YOUR organization ready to commit to an excellence program like Six Disciplines?


Welcome to our workshop “Building Organizations That Execute.” My name is Gary Harpst. I’m the founder of Six Disciplines. And Six Disciplines is an excellence program, and it’s the name of our company as well. And the mission of our company is to build organizations that execute.

Our purpose today is to give you the information necessary to make a really important decision, and that decision is whether or not it makes sense for you to implement an excellence program. Let’s talk about what an excellence program is. I’ve read years ago, someone coined the phrase, “Working on the business versus working in the business.” The idea being when you make widgets, sometimes you focus on the widgets, sometimes as you grow, you need to focus on the organization that produces the widgets.

Well, an excellence program is an organized way to work on the organization, whether it’s for profit or not for profit, and most excellence program have a series of things they try to address. How do you approach strategy? How do you create focus on the workforce? How do you create focus with the customers? How do you improve the operational excellence and efficiency of the organization? How do you build leadership at every level in the organization? These are the kinds of things that you address in an excellence program, and the overall purpose is to perform better. Pretty logical.

Now, the question is, do they work? They’ve been around for a long time. And here are two gentlemen that I have studied their research a great deal, in fact, communicated with them directly, Dr. Hendricks and Dr. Singal. They approached this question of, “Does it from a systematic and a scientific point of view?” And I’m going to go through the study in a little more detail than normal because I think it’s the right question for you to ask, “Do things like this work?” And these two gentlemen set up a 10-year longitudinal study that looked at organizations that implemented excellence programs and compared them to organizations that did not. And they were very meticulous in how they did this.

You use publicly available data, like they were all public companies, and so they could get that kind of financial data. They looked at more than 50 two-digit SICs cross industry , they looked cross country, around the world, cross culturally . And they compared organizations in the same industry who had not implemented an excellence program with those who have. And they looked at five years of performance before and after implementing the program.

And here is the key to their findings. I mean, the bottom line is that they do work. They make a huge difference. On the average, the 600 companies that implemented excellence programs outperformed those that didn’t by almost two to one in terms of earnings growth and in terms of sales growth over a five-year period. So, it’s really not a question of whether these programs work. It’s a question of whether you implement them. And this is not a new concept. I mean, there are many things in our lives where we know it works, but for whatever reason, we don’t want to engage in doing it.

Fitness is a good example. Most of us know how to be fit. The question is whether you really of the mindset, and now is the time to enter into a fitness program. And so, it’s very much this way when you think about implementing an excellence program. The research shows over and over and over, they work. The real heart gut question for all of us is, “Do we want to engage in making it happen?” And that’s what we’re going to approach today is, what all is involved in doing this? Now, our excellence program, you could think of as a three-legged stool.

The methodology, the systematic way we work on crafting strategy and managing strategic change, once you’ve set a vision, what has to change in the organization, how you align operations to run the organization efficiently and cost-effectively, how do you provide continuous improvement, how do you create team work to deal with these surprises. All of these things are dealt with in our methodology. We call that the “Six Disciplines Methodology,” and it’s sort of the seat of the stool, but that stool is supported by three legs.

One leg is coaching, someone who comes alongside and helps you stay on the program, just like in a fitness program. The other leg is leadership development, which is critical. Leadership, the ability to take responsibility and make things happen is developed at every level in the organization. And last of all, the third leg is technology. Software, use of portable devices, those sorts of things, mobile devices, put these all together in support of the methodology. 

And that’s part of what makes our program different is, you don’t have to assemble all these pieces. So many of the excellence programs that exist today are what we call non-Prescriptive. They tell you what the problem is, but they don’t tell you how to fix it in terms of working on your business. So, our objective today, as you can see in this diagram, we’re going down the road. We want to become a fork in the road. We want to give you the information to say, “Do we want to stay on the same path or do we want to go in a different direction?”