[Interview] Six Disciplines software – more than just software

Six Disciplines, LLC, an Ohio-based company, is currently helping small and mid-sized businesses enhance and grow their business through the use of their innovative Six Disciplines system.

According to Six Disciplines, the system includes a comprehensive series of integrated business process software suites, specifically designed to make the Six
Disciplines methodology practical for continual improvement to take place.
Each Six Disciplines system software suite was developed ‘from the ground up’ for organizations that want to transform and continually improve their internal business processes.
It’s software, but not “just” software. It’s a way of doing business – the Six Disciplines way. I interview the CEO and founder Gary Harpst about this unique software system.
Is Six Disciplines a technology (software) or a way of life and/or business process?
Yes, you could say that Six Disciplines is a little of all of these. By definition, we refer to Six Disciplines as the first sustainable business excellence program that is optimized for execution, and specifically designed for small and mid-sized businesses.
While Six Disciplines does include a software component, software — by itself — is NOT the answer. Based on our research and field studies, it takes four interrelated components to enable companies to achieve sustainable business excellence – and only one of these components is software.
[Hear Gary Harpst’s interview on Small Business Trends Radio]
All businesses struggle with executing their plans consistently over time. And, sustainable excellence requires great execution on multiple dimensions at the same time: strategy, planning, sales, marketing, services, product, and people.
1. A systematic business-building methodology – based on proven best practices, to empower organizations with a holistic way of addressing how to “work on the business”
2. A local accountability coach – who teaches you how to uncover strategic initiatives, decompose plans and goals, and monitor progress toward goals
3. An online activity management system – that enables each person in the organization to manage daily activities in support of individual goals and company strategy
4. An active shared learning community – which accelerates learning, benchmarking and best practices among companies and coaches
How does Six Disciplines software differ from other software from other software vendors?
Having spent more than 20 years as the CEO of a successful software company (Solomon Software, which grew to 400 employees and $60m revenue, merged with Great Plains, was then acquired by Microsoft in 2000), I would not characterize Six Disciplines as a traditional software vendor at all, but rather as an integrator of proven business best-practices, laser-focused on the challenges of sustainable business excellence.
During the past five years, we carefully researched both the larger enterprise market (which can afford and enjoy the benefits of ERP, CRM, SCM, BI, analytics, performance management, executive coaching, etc.) – and the needs of small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) – and discovered an incredible opportunity that SMBs have to “leapfrog” over larger enterprises in the area of strategy execution.
Over the past 25 years, tremendous progress has been made in many areas, including applications that help us do things “better, faster, cheaper” – but do they really help us to “do the right things?” More recently, software applications including those in BI, performance management, dashboards, balanced scorecards and predictive analytics have been adding to the mix of best practices, enabling larger organizations to get a handle on how to communicate strategy down into the organization, and cascade organizational initiatives into individual plans for each employee. With the Internet driving pervasive connectivity, the opportunity is approaching for small and mid-sized businesses to benefit from all of these investments made by larger businesses.
Small and mid-sized businesses have the same execution challenges that all growing businesses have, but with greater economic, expertise and people factors to overcome.
In the typical day, people need to manage many types of “activities”:
plans, projects, time, documents, leads, customers, complaints, suggestions, meetings, measures, budgets, recognition, recruiting, email requests, business processes, etc. An activity management system helps people to perform the kinds of activities they need to perform every day, in order to “plan and execute better.” The software that our Six Disciplines clients use is an integrated activity management system that makes the Six Disciplines business-building methodology practical to use on a daily basis.
The Leadership Centers – are they a mix of IT and business process experts?
Six Disciplines Leadership Centers are staffed by a combination of experts. The president or GM is typically someone who is a sales-oriented, C-level executive who understands and can easily relate to other small and mid-sized CEOs. The coaches and consultants employed by Six Disciplines Leadership Centers are business process experts who are trained and certified on the Six Disciplines Methodology and the Six Disciplines software. Many of these coaches and consultants have business process expertise, but unlike traditional management consultants who provide specific solutions/recommendations, our approach is to help organizations understand how to improve their own business processes using the Six Disciplines Methodology as a catalyst for discovering and uncovering strategy, execution and innovation from within.
Six Disciplines Leadership Centers use a series of proven best practices to bring about total organizational engagement. The process starts with senior leadership going through a 3-day planning retreat where they step back and decide what’s important, setting the strategic direction for the company. Then, goals and high level initiatives are determined based on the organization’s vital few objectives. Cross-functional team leaders learn to articulate and be accountable for company-wide initiatives, and team members learn to be accountable for daily activities that support the organization’s goals. Communication and accountability are strengthened and over time, the organization learns how to become more aligned and execute against their strategies. The Six Disciplines Leadership Centers teach small and mid-sized businesses how to become more competent in the most critical core skill of all – to learn how to execute their strategy – consistently over time.
Could my local IT consultant sell me the Six Disciplines software?
The Six Disciplines software is not available like most software – we do not license or distribute it through traditional software channels (VARs, dealers, distributors, consultants, etc.). The complete Six Disciplines program (the methodology, local coaching, activity management software and shared learning community) is only available through franchised Six Disciplines Leadership Centers throughout the U.S.
We’re just in the initial launching phases of our Leadership Center franchises, and currently have them operating in Northwest Ohio, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Raleigh, Tampa, and Indianapolis. However – we’re currently looking to expand our network of Six Disciplines Leadership Centers in Austin, San Antonio, Pittsburgh and in Michigan. For more information about this premiere business coaching franchise opportunity, check SixDisciplines.com/franchise.