It is not unusual to find managers who believe their lean-six-sigma programme to be working; they point to the results being reported from projects being done.

Usually the results being reported are based on reductions in activity times; a project will have mapped activities in a process and then reduced the time of some activity, and this is claimed as a saving. But is it? What do we know about what has happened to the end-to-end flow of work? Has this changed? What do we know about demand, in particular failure demand? Has this changed?

But you can see why this intervention would have appealed. It treats change as project work and it focuses on activity as cost – two assumptions at the heart of command-and-control thinking.

The wise senior manager will compare the ‘results’ being reported by the tools programme with the actual total costs. When you do this you often learn you have been conned.