A well planned Six Sigma deployment can lead to a rewarding experience and immense benefits for an organization. On the flip side, however, a flawed deployment may lead to disappointing results – the failure of the entire deployment effort, and/or a significant waste of time and resources. There are five problems in Six Sigma deployments, which, if not handled well, will derail a deployment effort. By recognizing these mistakes and working to avoid them, a team can stay on track.
Problem #1: Leadership Indifference
Support and commitment for a Six Sigma deployment from the leadership of an organization is the key driver for success. Leadership must walk the talk and continuously emphasize the importance of Six Sigma at all forums. Support should be forthcoming not only from senior leadership, but also from leadership at all levels in the organization. No amount of good intentions, resources, effort or time will make up for missing sustained leadership support.
Because this support is such a driver, extra effort should be made to keep leadership engaged at all stages in the organization's Six Sigma journey. Senior management should share regular communications with the entire organization, emphasizing the importance of the Six Sigma initiative and how it is tied to the organization's overall business objectives. Senior management should also reserve time to review deployment progress at all management review meetings and should be careful in granting their team any concessions on Six Sigma goals. It is important for Six Sigma to be a compulsory agenda item for all the public events in the organization as well.
Problem #2: Faulty Deployment Strategy
A deployment strategy helps to align organizational business goals to expected deployment results and to maintain the sustenance of Six Sigma in the organization. Lack of alignment may cause confusion among the key stakeholders and associates about the value of the entire effort; this gap delays deployment in many organizations.
To avoid this, Six Sigma deployment strategies must align the organization's business goals with the deployment results. Strategies should encompass all aspects of deployment planning, Six Sigma learning and development within the organization, project execution and coaching, information management, and operational excellence achievement. Teams should evaluate their progress on each of the strategies at regular intervals and tie it to a change in business results. Once this relationship is established, teams may start monitoring the relationship closely, regularly sharing the information on change in business results with the organization and conducting any course correction if required. Visible change in business results gives an organization confidence in the Six Sigma effort.
Problem #3: Stress on Training and Certification
Training and certification are important aspects of an overall Six Sigma deployment effort because they build competency within the organization. But sometimes teams are more focused on training and certification goals, and fail to support project execution. Without adequate mentoring and coaching support after their initial training, Belts may select projects simply to meet the certification targets or projects may be inordinately delayed.
Deployment teams should always be focused on the organization's business goals and create an infrastructure for Six Sigma project selection, mentoring and coaching that will bring the most tangible benefits for the organization. To stay on track, senior management should regularly review changes in business results along with parameters of the Six Sigma deployment such as training and certification, and insist on course correction if there is lack of progress on business results.
Problem #4: Incorrect Project Selection
A lack of focus on project selection and prioritization can lead to projects that lack data or business focus or projects focused on process areas that are outside the Green Belts’ and Black Belts’ realm of control. This results in delayed or scrapped projects, and quick disillusionment among the Green Belts and Black Belts.
Deployment teams must ensure that selected Six Sigma process improvement projects are data-based and focused on business, financial, process and customer goals, and prioritized properly to ensure these goals are met. Teams should conduct regular workshops for project identification and selection, and ensure that all selected projects have a sponsor who will be responsible for tracking and signing off the business benefits of the Six Sigma project. Once the projects are in progress, teams should closely monitor progress, provide additional mentoring if required and make corrections if business goals are not being met.
Problem #5: Segregating the Effort
Every individual member of an organization has a stake in its growth and progress; therefore, each is responsible for contributing to and facilitating a successful deployment. Yet sometimes deployment teams fail to communicate the benefits of the Six Sigma deployment to the key stakeholders. Often only the deployment team will make formal goals relating to Six Sigma results.
Teams should link together an organization's business and strategic goals, Six Sigma deployment goals and individual goals to explain to the rest of the organization how everything is closely related. This way they may win support from all the associates in the organization – which they need to meet the deployment goals. Senior management should regularly reach out to their organization's associates about the importance of deployment results and how the results can benefit their careers; career growth is a powerful booster for deployment initiatives. In addition, senior leadership and other associates at an organization, on whom Six Sigma success depends, also should set deployment goals. Deployment teams can help to chart out Six Sigma roadmaps for all the individuals in the organization to ensure that everybody is responsible for the deployment and monitoring the integration of Six Sigma into the company's DNA.
Fight Problems Early
Successfully avoiding these common mistakes will yield long-term benefits for an organization and accelerate its march toward becoming best in its class. The key to success is to identify these challenges early and take robust corrective actions to nip the problems before they become an issue. Leadership and organization support as well as a robust deployment strategy will help a team steer clear of these roadblocks and can create a win-win situation for all the key stakeholders in the organization.