The Six Sigma management system can enhance an organization’s profitability by increasing the quality of its processes. Six Sigma has improved the processes and profitability of companies such as General Electric, Motorola and AlliedSignal since the 1980s.
Successful Six Sigma deployments contain the following common elements:
Support of executive management
– To succeed, Six Sigma must be a permanent part of the business strategy and practice. It must be at the core of management’s vision for the company. Adoption of Six Sigma requires the full support of upper management. Executives establish project selection and approval criteria and define the standards for success. Management has the power to select and train the deployment team; they can ensure that the organization’s top performers take charge of implementing Six Sigma. This sends a powerful message about the company’s commitment to Six Sigma.
– The most important resource required to deploy Six Sigma is people. Six Sigma works best when there is a critical mass of employees at all levels of the company who are trained to lead and staff project teams. Upper management’s support of Six Sigma implementation helps to overcome the opposition that might occur when the organization’s best and brightest employees are taken from their daily work to be trained in the methods of Six Sigma.
– Any effort at Six Sigma implementation will only be as successful as the quality of training that employees are given. Effective training first takes into account the knowledge, skills and abilities that are required for each group of participants. After needed skills are assessed employees may require remedial education to make sure they meet basic requirements of literacy and numeracy.
Training begins at the executive level to help top managers understand the vision of how Six Sigma methodology impacts business success, so that Six Sigma projects can be connected to achieving business goals. Middle managers are trained to be Six Sigma champions and act as project sponsors to lead by example and demonstrate the organization’s commitment to Six Sigma by conferring authority on project teams and allocating needed resources.
Black Belts are chosen for their leadership ability and knowledge of the company’s operations and culture. Their training focus not only on Six Sigma methodology but also on successfully completing projects to prepare them for leading project teams full time. Green Belts are chosen from the ranks of the company and possess knowledge of the business processes and critical thinking skills. Green Belt training gives candidates a basic understanding of Six Sigma and allows them to meaningfully participate in and contribute to the project team.
Data for decision making
– The Six Sigma process is based on data analysis. Gathering and interpreting data are key aspects of Six Sigma that help determine which projects an organization selects for improvement and which resources are dedicated to the project. Correctly analyzing process data gives organizations quantifiable information to make objective decisions.
Organizations must implement and execute Six Sigma correctly to enjoy its benefits. If upper management and champions do not support Six Sigma with internal promotion and by allocating required resources, project teams will follow their lead and the short-term pressures of daily operations will crowd out the long-term benefits of process improvement. If high-performing employees are not included in the process and provided adequate training project teams will struggle and be ineffective. If management pursues improvements based on incorrect or misinterpreted data, process changes could be inadequate or occur in the wrong area.