Six Sigma: for the Soul

The DMAIC process can lead us to ask the questions we seek to answer most in our lives.

In business, Six Sigma is a structured approach to improvement opportunities from start to finish of a process. It makes you look at the big picture of your business to see how the pieces work together through the lens of continuous improvement. How does implementation impact service? How does this training improve the defined problem? It makes you ask what your end goal is and what issues you may face along the way to get there. What is the problem? The goal in business is perfection, and Six Sigma is the level achieved when there are less than 3.4 defects per million opportunities, or 99.9996% defect free. It is surprising how big of a difference being 99% (3.8 Sigma) defect free is from 99.9996%. The difference is 5,000 incorrect procedures per week, to just 1.7 per week. When employees are on-boarded successfully, the benefits are huge. Their mindset is that imperfection is an opportunity rather than a failure. Employees look for value-added improvements they can make rather than non-value added. This makes them get really skilled at using various core competencies the company sees as valuable rather than being unskilled or overusing those competencies. The Six Sigma structure is proven to work.

What would happen if we applied principles of a Six Sigma approach to our relationship with God? The whole purpose is to explore, discover, and change. Six Sigma goals make you think of where the process has a bottleneck, or a constraint, on your result. These are things that slow us down from reaching our goal. Once found, improvements become possible and then improvements on top of that. The key is finding the constraint, the problem, and changing it. If we apply this same big picture thinking to our spiritual lives, we start to evaluate how healthy our spiritual life actually is (and be honest with yourself for improvement’s sake). If there is an opportunity there, think back at the processes, or experiences, in your life. Think about some of the things that shaped you negatively. With the goal of always getting better and not simply arriving at an end state, think about the painful places that lie dormant but negatively produce in your life. Maybe a hidden issue that makes you angry all the time, or scared. These are signs that you are disconnected from God and yourself. Have you addressed them the way you should? Have you shared them with the people that matter and care about you now? If not, it could be because you aren’t sold on the benefits of letting that go. Our desired outcome when it comes to a connection with God should be to understand ourselves as made in His image and to walk in and share His love and power from that. It looks like peace and confidence and your relationships reflect the health of that. Feeling held back at all from that is an indicator of a constraint.

The DMAIC process is the what guides Six Sigma success:

Define. Measure. Analyze. Improve. Control.

Some of the most common bottlenecks we have in our connection to God are pride and shame. We may think pride equals confidence, and that can be true, but in the sense of approaching God with openness and accepting the need of help, pride lies to us that we don’t need anything. It can quickly become an over-compensation of the true peace and confidence we hope for and is found in Him. The other form of pride that puts a lid on our spiritual health is the thought that we are higher than anyone else. Many times in scripture, we receive the charge to view others as above us (Philippians 2:3) and seeking their acknowledgment above our own (Proverbs 27:2). God lifts you in true humility. Shame is the child of unattended guilt and keeps us from approaching God because of our natural instinct to hide (Genesis 3:10). We believe God’s perfection to be too distant for us or that He would not accept our fault. The reason shame is a constraint to our goal of connecting with God is because we block the stream of our weakness bringing out his strength (2 Corinthians 12:9). We also prevent God from guiding us and changing us, which comes through humility and confession. Hebrews 12:5-6 says:

“And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said, “My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.”

You can apply this DMAIC process to whatever your situation is like this:

Define-Just identify the problem here. Don’t get overwhelmed with everything in this phase. Take time to truly search yourself and define what keeps you from God. Meditate in prayer asking God to show you, ask Him to bring people to show you or help you see the people you already have that may be able to shed light.

Measure-How big is the problem? Ask the people in your life how the newly defined problem you found impacts them. What are the possibilities? Is it worth an improvement or overhaul?

Analyze-Normally this is statistical analysis, but with emotional or spiritual issues that isn’t necessary. Once the problem is defined and to have measured the impact, you are now able to see a new opportunity. Start thinking about ways you could improve this and any issues you may run into trying to improve.

Improve-Now you are ready to implement your new change. To make improvements in your spiritual life, it takes true courage and love for yourself. It is the beginning of valuing yourself to the point of making positive investments into yourself. It is daunting to face painful issues but by the analyze phase, you can clearly see why it is necessary and what the possibilities are for changing. This gives life to a new motivation. Connect with God honestly and your loved ones too. Nothing can be limited if you want true improvement. You are in absolute control of your success here.

Control-This is possibly the most important of all. It is the monitoring and adjustment phase. We tend to make great improvements and get a spark of creative energy that die off quickly. The reason that happens is because we don’t have a plan in place to maintain or monitor our improvements. It’s the reason we have wonderful New Years resolutions but stop going to the gym by March. When your issues come to light and improvements are put in place, exercise discipline to monitor yourself for a set time and then follow up again. The goal of an improvement is for permanent change and avoiding rework. If you fail to do this, you miss any new issues that may arise from new improvements and you can quickly find yourself back at square one. When we can physically see changes paying off, we remain invested in improving. Ask your spouse, if impacted, how your new improvements impact them. Do they notice anything new that needs attention now? Sometimes our issues run so deep it takes quite some time and energy to get back to even, and that’s ok. Healing is worth every scream, tear, and smile.

I mentioned your spouse, and others, above and you may be thinking “I thought this was about God, dude?” Great point. All this connects. Our relationship with God translates into our relationship with ourselves, and therefore, our relationship with others. This is because He is our source, our identity, our peace. If we aren’t connected with ourselves, with God, our relationships are the best indicator we have that there is a problem. If we are absent or treating them or ourselves poorly, they are the ones that help us see that. If our friends or loved ones can tell something is “off” with us, they are reflecting that is a sign of our connection to our source.

I would love to hear if this helped you. What did you define? What did you improve? How did you control it? You are loved.

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