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Implementation of Six Sigma PDF Print E-mail

After over two decades of experience with quality improvement, there is now a solid body of scientific research regarding the experience of thousands of companies implementing major programs such as Six Sigma. Researchers have found that successful deployment of Six Sigma involves focusing on a small number of high-leverage items. The steps required to successfully implement Six Sigma are well-documented.


1.    Successful performance improvement must begin with senior leadership. Start by providing senior leadership with training in the principles and tools they need to prepare their organization for success. Using their newly acquired knowledge, senior leaders direct the development of a management infrastructure to support Six Sigma. Simultaneously, steps are taken to "soft-wire" the organization and to cultivate an environment for innovation and creativity. This involves reducing levels of organizational hierarchy, removing procedural barriers to experimentation and change, and a variety of other changes designed to make it easier to try new things without fear of reprisal.


2.    Systems are developed for establishing close communication with customers, employees, and suppliers. This includes developing rigorous methods of obtaining and evaluating customer, employee and supplier input. Base line studies are conducted to determine the starting point and to identify cultural, policy, and procedural obstacles to success.


3.    Training needs are rigorously assessed. Remedial skills education is provided to assure that adequate levels of literacy and numeracy are possessed by all employees. Top-to-bottom training is conducted in systems improvement tools, techniques, and philosophies.


4.    A framework for continuous process improvement is developed, along with a system of indicators for monitoring progress and success. Six Sigma metrics focus on the organization's strategic goals, drivers, and key business processes.


5.    Business processes to be improved are chosen by management, and by people with intimate process knowledge at all levels of the organization. Six Sigma projects are conducted to improve business performance linked to measurable financial results. This requires knowledge of the organization's constraints.


6.    Six Sigma projects are conducted by individual employees and teams led by Green Belts and assisted by Black Belts.


Although the approach is simple, it is by no means easy. But the results justify the effort expended. Research has shown that firms that successfully implement Six Sigma perform better in virtually every business category, including return on sales, return on investment, employment growth, and share price increase. When will you be ready to join the Six Sigma revolution?


Staffing Levels and Expected Returns

The number of full time personnel devoted to Six Sigma is not large. Mature Six Sigma programs, such as those of Motorola, General Electric, Johnson & Johnson, AlliedSignal, and others average about one-percent of their workforce as Black Belts. There is usually about one Master Black Belts for every ten Black Belts, or about 1 Master Black Belt per 1,000 employees. A Black Belt will typically complete 5 to 7 projects per year. Project teams are lead by Green Belts, who, unlike Black Belts and Master Black Belts, are not employed full time in the Six Sigma program. Black Belts are highly prized employees and are often recruited for key management positions elsewhere in the company. After Six Sigma has been in place for three or more years, the number of former Black Belts tends to be about the same as the number of active Black Belts.

Estimated savings per project varies from organization to organization.  Reported results average about US$150,000 to US$243,000. Note that these are not the huge mega-projects pursued by Re-engineering. Still, by completing 5 to 7 projects per year per Black Belt the company will add in excess of US$1 million per year per Black Belt to its bottom line. For a company with 1,000 employees the numbers would look something like this:

Master Black Belts: 1

Black Belts: 10Projects: = 50 to 70 (5 to 7 per Black Belt)Estimated saving: US$9 million to US$14.6 million (US$14,580 per employee)Do the math for your organization and see what Six Sigma could do for you. Because Six Sigma savings impact only non-value added costs, they flow directly to your company's bottom line. 

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