However, success has not been consistent everywhere. In areas of highly mobile workforces, such as sales and services, deployments have always been a challenge, even though these people are the ones who are in constant touch with customers.
Some organizations that have tried to use Six Sigma in field sales have used information technology solutions too soon. There is a wrong perception that Six Sigma will interfere with the productivity of the sales staff or take up time that they would rather spend with customers.
There is a lack of data and well-defined processes which leads to variation in work methods, and a process to build upon. Sales staff and others that have their own pace feel that Six Sigma is adverse to their success. Sales staff and field staff are always on the move, and to get them together for Six Sigma training is very difficult.
For successfully implementing Six Sigma in a mobile workforce a few tips are listed below:
Single Out the Relevant Critical Y's
This is one thing that the mobile workforces are always advised to follow, whether it is Six Sigma or other improvement techniques. If Six Sigma tools and methods were beneficial to them and their goals, then staff members would be open to such change.
This means that if price, profitability, costs, productivity and cash were taken as the underlying factors for their business definition, they would be open to such change. Linking specific outcomes (i.e. the critical Ys) to the field process that affects their targeted goal is the starting point to fill in gaps in the process.
Supporting the Field Staff
The field staff will initially resist Six Sigma, as they feel that it takes time they need to spend with customers. If sales effectiveness techniques are developed, they will allow the initiative to move ahead. By reducing the amount of time to be spent by staff on Six Sigma training, if companies ensure an awareness of the tools and approaches with small training, they will accept the usefulness of the tools and methodology.
Using simple tools and methods relevant to the people and the project, the identification and mapping of the relationship between the various factors can become very useful.
Emphasis on Technology for Data Gathering
Effective use of technology can be beneficial for Six Sigma projects with mobile workforces. Success is dependent on the sharing of ideas and other communication. Entering data into various applications can become cumbersome for them; that can be overcome by the usage of personal digital assistants (PDA) equipped with Mobile task Application (MTA) software.
The objection to maintaining data can be overcome with the use of technology, which allows the organization to manually track data. The speed and ease of data collection assists in reducing delays in performance and outcome.
Once entered, data can easily be retrieved later for business management and improvement purposes. This helps schedulers to get instant data on demand and better manage customer needs.
Though there is initial resistance to change, if companies give sufficient attention to various factors of change management, the process becomes simpler. By making a clear case for Six Sigma, project leaders can demonstrate the data that shows why and how improvements are to be brought about.
The involvement and communication of all concerned and affected people is necessary. Six Sigma training and periodic discussion on the Six Sigma approach forms a major part of this process. By changing organizational structure, policies and procedures to make it easier for staff to comply with the changes, better compliance of Six Sigma can be expected.
Using Six Sigma methods in sales and field staff areas is very difficult. If managers use technology effectively to simplify tasks, they will become easier and Six Sigma would then be accepted by mobile workforces better.
About the Author
Tony Jacowski is a quality analyst for The MBA Journal. Aveta Solution's Six Sigma Online offers online six sigma training and certification classes for six sigma professionals including, lean six sigma, black belts, green belts, and yellow belts.