Six Sigma Journey

The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said: “Change is the only constant”. Enormous scholars addressed how companies can embrace the change to maintain a competitive advantage. In today’s business environment, the need becomes crucial.

Companies are continuously looking for the next magic wand to transform their operations and improve their businesses.  Moving from the agricultural age to the industrial one came as a result of different wands at that time; from manual tools to power- operated engines. Nowadays, our magic wand is not the biggest and the most complicated machine; it is in changing mindsets.

Atkinson (2013) discussed the need for new thinking to leverage the current organizations’ performance and advance it to the next level. One of the methods that companies use to lead that change is Six Sigma.

The purpose of this article is to illustrate the needed steps to deploy Six Sigma in an organization. Under this context, a sample beverage company called ABC will be used. All the information and assumptions that are needed to form the deployment plan will be stated clearly when needed.

What is Six Sigma?

Sigma (σ) is a statistical phrase used as a measure of the variability in a process (Pyzdek and Keller, 2010, pp. 3). In literature, Six Sigma has been defined as metric, methodology, management system and philosophy as shown below.

  • Metric: 3.4 defects per million opportunities (with 1.5 shift in the mean) (McCarty, Daniels, Bremer, Gupta, Heisey and Mills, 2004, p. 4)
  • Methodology: Structured problem solving and continuous improvement technique following DMAIC steps (define, measure, analyze, improve and control) (McCarty et al., 2004, p. 6)
  • Management System: Comprehensive focus on four areas; customers’ requirements, business processes, data analysis, and establishing quick improvements in the business (McCarty et al., 2004, p. 7).
  • Philosophy: Identification of all business work as a set of inputs to produce certain outputs in which controlling the inputs will control the outputs as well. Alternatively, y = f(x) (Kubiak and Benbow, 2009, p. 7).

Recently, Six Sigma is connected with the Lean concept (which focuses on reducing waste) to form a comprehensive approach called Lean Six Sigma (LSS).

Six Sigma Roles and Responsibilities

Six Sigma is implemented via different role players with different responsibilities (Kubiak and Benbow, 2009). The main roles are:

  1. Sponsor who is someone from the top management, responsible for directing the Six Sigma efforts and providing supports for projects.
  2. Champion is an executive who is responsible for the Six Sigma deployment effort in the organization.
  3. Process Owner is the owner of the resources that the team will utilize in order to implement the Six Sigma projects.
  4. Green Belt is a part-time Six Sigma role who has been trained on the Six Sigma concept and basis statists to lead a Six Sigma project.
  5. Black Belt is a full-time role who has a solid knowledge of Six Sigma and statistics and work closely with green belts as mentor and coach.
  6. Master Black Belt is another full-time role who is responsible for training Black Belts and Green Belts in the company, and acting as mentor and coach for Black Belts.
  7. Project team which consists of the assigned members the Six Sigma project with defined roles such as data collection, data analysis, and even implementing the improved process.

Overall of these roles, Six Sigma is powered by the champion who performs certain tasks to ensure the success of the Six Sigma journey (Pyzdek and Keller, 2010, pp. 31). Mainly: developing and mobilizing the deployment plan, ensuring the right selection of projects which are linked to the company’s strategy, achieving the stated costs saving objectives, evaluating Six Sigma players’ performance, communicating the Six Sigma journey with customers, suppliers, and the entire organization, and finally supporting the reward and recognition for the Six Sigma journey.

Company’s Readiness Assessment and Critical Success Factors

The effort needed to deploy Six Sigma journey differs from one organization to other. McCarty et al. (2004, p. 44) discussed that a company should proactively assess their readiness for that journey. Antony (2013) outlined the needed factors before commencing a Six Sigma deployment program which are leadership role, management commitment to provide needed resources, linking Six Sigma projects to the company’s strategy, customer’s orientation and building the right teams’ capability.

The discussion for the critical success factor for the deployment journey was not limited to those five factors. Coronado and Antony (2002) discussed another nine factors which are: cultural change, training, communication, the link between Six Sigma a business strategy, the link between Six Sigma and human resources, linking Six Sigma to suppliers, understanding the tools and techniques within Six Sigma, project management skills and finally projects’ prioritization and selection.

Six Sigma Performance Monitoring

Six Sigma performance should be monitored during the deployment journey. Pyzdek and Keller (2010, p. 39) discussed the benefits of using balanced scorecard in tracking the performance in four aspects, namely: customers, financial, internal business processes and learning and growth. Heavey and Murphy (2012) aimed at leveraging the benefits of the balanced scorecard and integrate it with Six Sigma deployment efforts, so the company’s’ strategy can be translated into a set of matrices.

In this research, the balanced scorecard will be utilized as part of the Six Sigma deployment plan to monitor the progress of this journey.

The next section will ignite the champion’s role by formulating Six Sigma deployment plan in ABC Company, taking into consideration the critical success factors and the readiness assessment of the company.

Deployment Plan Steps

The steps that will be used to develop Six Sigma deployment plan is shown below. Firstly, the company’s background information will be utilized to perform two types of analysis; Six Sigma readiness assessment and risk assessment. The results are qualitatively analyzed to form the final deployment plan.pic 2.jpg

The application of the above steps on ABC company, as a case study, is available here. It is worthy to mention that the readiness assessment that will be used is from International Institute for Learning, Inc. while other resources can be used as well.

References

American Society for Quality. Available at the WWW on http: //asq.org/index.aspx [Accessed in 1st December 2015].

Antony J. (2013). Readiness factors for the Lean Six Sigma journey in the higher education sector. International Journal of Productivity & Performance Management, 63 (2), pp. 257-264.

Atkinson, P.  (2013). Change mastery: Lean Six Sigma and business transformation. Management Services, 57 (4), pp. 30 – 35.

Coronado, R. and Antony, F. (2002). Critical success factors for the successful implementation of Six Sigma projects in organizations. TQM Magazine, 14 (2), pp. 92 – 99.

Heavey, C. and Murphy, E. (2012). Integrating the balanced scorecard with Six Sigma. TQM Journal, 24 (2), pp. 108-122.

International Institute for Learning, Inc. available at the WWW on: https: //www.iil.com/leansixsigma/getlean/Six_Sigma_Readiness_Assessment_Tool.xls. [Accessed in 1st December 2015].

Kubiak, T. and Benbow, D. (2009). The certified Six Sigma black belt handbook. 2nd ed. Wisconsin: American Society for Quality Press.

McCarty, T., Daniels, L., Bremer, M., Gupta, P., Heisey, J., Mills, K. (2004). The Six Sigma black belt handbook. 1st ed. New York: McGraw Hill Professional.

Pyzdek, T. and Keller, P. (2010). The Six Sigma Handbook. 3rd ed.  New York: McGraw-Hill Companies.

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