Time to Revamp Six Sigma

Time to Revamp Six Sigma

Businesses that grow by the development and improvement do not die. But when a business ceases to be creative, when it believes it has reached perfection and needs to do nothing but produce no improvement, no development, it is done. – Henry Ford

Let us look at Six Sigma as a business today and look at how we can we strengthen

Six Sigma is very powerful, combined with mighty Lean makes it is even stronger. Six Sigma has produced tremendous results over the years, organization have made humongous benefits by adopting Six Sigma to their culture.

A recent trend in Analytics has made Six Sigma take a back seat; many fail to understand that Six Sigma is a package and more than just statistics and it offers a long lasting solution, but we got to adopt series of changes to Six Sigma to be more effective. I am sharing my first line of thoughts (few more are in the pipeline), looking forward to your valuable feedback.

Apply Lean to Six Sigma

Speed is everything. It is the indispensable ingredient to competitiveness. – Jack Welch

The moment you mention Six Sigma to any leader, one of the reaction would be “It takes too long to complete” Despite they know the value of Six Sigma and the result it delivers. We all must accept Six Sigma lack speed

Majority of Six Sigma practitioners are also a Lean specialist, but fail to look at six sigma projects with the lenses of Value add and Non-value add. "Waiting" waste is the default in the project be it in moving from one phase to another phase or within. Just in time is forgotten entirely, by default Six Sigma projects are expected to take a longer time. "Over processing" is inevitable in the form of presentations. We create presentations which do not add much value to the work. A brainstorming session, which can happen over a cup of coffee for 10-20 mins get delayed in the name of formal meetings. The time has come we apply Lean to Six Sigma and accelerate the execution process. We got to move from 6 months to 6 weeks to 6 hours.

Knowledge coupled with skill, desire & availability of data (which happens in most cases of IT/ITes/service sector), we should start executing projects in less than 6 hours’ time. We should begin by educating professionals on how Six Sigma projects can be completed in six hours.

Customer alone is not at the centre

I grew up with learning; Six Sigma is customer-centric, this is partly true. Both Customer and Business are at the centre; In fact, business takes the majority of the centre portion. Six Sigma starts with Voice Of the Customer but what follows soon is the business case. Business case has to talk revenue loud and clear; it should address either revenue generation or revenue saving. A project with either zero or minimal impact on the bottom line tends to get no/less attention unless it is either related to human safety or health.

I remember in one of the company when senior management was reviewing the projects, the head of the review panel always started with the project which had maximum impact on financials. I was talking to a Knowledge Management professional few days back & he was thinking of making a difference in KM. I asked him to adopt the Six Sigma approach & set a target to generate a million dollar. He was surprised to hear revenue generation in KM as his thought about Six Sigma was different, my question was why not? We can generate millions of dollars by applying Six Sigma to KM; I know a Six Sigma leader got into Knowledge Management and making a positive impact in dollar value.

Start talking about the revenue generation language by adopting Six Sigma; In fact, revenue generation is the key to succeed in Six Sigma project.

A company using Six Sigma must balance both financials measures of success (voice of the business) and customer measures of success (Voice of the customer). The Balanced Scorecard (BSC) is a great tool to evaluate the impact of Six Sigma on Business & finances but often forgotten in Six Sigma. Start using BSC for project selection help to have a better buy-in.

Customization is Must

Customization of the Six Sigma training as per the industry is a must to help participants learn better; only then he would be empowered to implement the learnings; otherwise, they will be wasting their time learning the concepts which are not so relevant. Many participants at the end of the session feel that Six Sigma is not for them, because the examples dealt were from a different industry. If the trainers do not share enough case studies from the domain of the participant has come from, how can we expect the participant to apply the learnings at their workplace? We should start seeing certifications like “Lean Six Sigma for IT”, “Lean Six Sigma for Manufacturing” to realize the more significant impact.

Customization must also happen at the usage of the statistical software, Minitab is the most associated with Six Sigma, but majority of the IT industry uses “R” instead of Minitab. How about using the specific tool used by their respective industry rather than universally making participants learn Minitab which they might never use.

Six Sigma is not just about Statistics

Six Sigma is more than statistics. Most complex projects involving multiple X's (inputs) and Y's (outputs) with different data types are necessary for complex analysis, and that needs extensive use of statistics. However, the question is how often do we get such complex projects? Why don't we think of delivering results by executing and adopting simple analysis? Isn't it good to deliver ten projects generating one million dollars each taking one week each rather than one project producing 10 million dollars and consuming more than ten weeks? So, how about creating those ten professionals who can generate one million dollar in one week.

I happened to teach some of the necessary graphs and charts to a few operations guys, and they went onto using them everywhere which got them significant results.

By painting a picture of statistics, we are scaring many professionals to start their Six Sigma journey. We got to enable Six Sigma to masses, and train at their level to make them comfortable in driving business results. Once we start seeing that happening, we can see the real transformation. History shows why GE & many other companies were so successful in adopting Six Sigma compared to others because they taught to masses than selected few and everyone had their share of contribution, if not revenue generation but at least revenue saving.

Analyse phase of Six Sigma is just a few clicks away, you should know where to click and how to interpret the data, one need not be an expert in statistics to learn that. Keep it simple to a level where participants understand how to use it.

I want to end my article with Shigeo Shingo Quote "The Most Dangerous Kind of Waste is the Waste we don't Recognise."

It is time for us to realise the waste we have been producing while executing Six Sigma projects & strengthen the same.

You can share your feedback on the below link:

Srinivas V