Author: Frank Lucer
One of the problems that businesses and other organizations cope with when deploying a six sigma project is poor planning. Often, the goal becomes paramount and distracts management from laying the proper groundwork that ensures success. In truth, if integrated haphazardly, a project that has the purpose of improving quality can easily fail to deliver expected results. Below, I'll explain how the groundwork of a six sigma strategy should be laid in order to increase the likelihood that it will succeed. We'll explore planning, training, and other issues that play a significant role in make sure your quality improvement initiative is successful.
Planning Your Strategy
Before initiating any six sigma project, a lot of planning need to take place. In fact, the level of planning that you conduct before launching your project can have a huge influence over the results your efforts yield. First, you'll need to determine which business processes have inefficiencies or defects that can be fixed. They'll need to be prioritized. Part of your strategy for addressing the problems will be identifying strong, analytical project leaders for each initiative. Ask them to put teams together that will be responsible for gathering and studying data, and offering innovative solutions to implement.
Setting The Stage
A large part of your success in deploying a six sigma project will rely upon having the support of senior managers. They don't need to be involved in the day-to-day work of analyzing data and designing solutions, but the employees throughout the organization should know that your initiatives have management support. At this stage, you should appoint someone (perhaps yourself) to communicate project updates directly with the CEO. That person should also serve as a project advocate to the CEO, along with other department heads.
Training The Troops
As with most training programs, black belt and green belt training is critical to your project's success. Unfortunately, senior management is often wary of spending limited resources in this area. Their thought is that preserving limited capital by scrimping on training expenses won't have an impact on the initiative. In fact, it will. You may need to approach management to "sell" the idea of sending your team leaders and their respective teams through black and green belt training. The investment is worthwhile; having troops who understand the approach of lean flow process management is essential.
Role Of The Black Belt
The six sigma black belt has a few different roles to play. They need to guide their teams (typically comprised of green belts) and provide help when necessary. They should also be available to support their team members by mentoring them with a top-level perspective of the project. This might include identifying their skills and weaknesses, and adjusting the areas in which they contribute. While black belts should be involved in the minutiae of the daily tasks, they provide unique value in their ability to manage the efforts of their teams.
Even though six sigma is a process-oriented strategy that relies heavily upon analytics, its success requires the involvement of employees. That includes those in senior management positions as well as the troops in the trenches of daily operations.
The underpinnings of six sigma are built upon the concept that creative answers and innovative solutions can come from any area of an organization. That means that every employee becomes a valuable resource to tap; and that's why you must encourage their buy-in. Because the strategy and its deployment is perpetual and has a continuous impact on businesses, employees are often the best people from whom to solicit ideas.
About the Author
This information on six sigma and lean processes is provided by BMGI, a leading education and consulting firm in the lean six sigma field.