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Six Sigma Success Factors

Business managers who are implementing Six Sigma must understand that there are critical factors that will play a direct role in the success of the program. The bottom line is that for Six Sigma or (any other management initiative) to yield the advertised results, there are many factors that must be considered, aligned, measured, and acted upon. It is important to keep in mind that while there are tremendous differences in management styles, and priorities, from business to business, one thing is clear: The companies that focused on continuously measuring and driving management behaviors, including aligning initiatives and priorities, yield a much higher return on their programs than those who leave it to chance. Knowing and understanding, how these factors influence the Six Sigma in your organization will be critical to its long-term success. Studies have shown that review of the failures and shortfalls, of companies who did not experience success with Six Sigma, has generally concluded that the lack of attention to these success factors, for a sustained period of time, created a management vacuum around the program.

The bottom line is that positive results don't come easy, and are driven by many factors besides management alignment. Without the infrastructure of the statistics, the Black Belts, the projects, and the training, none of these results can be realized. However, it should be noted that the lack of alignment between people, strategy, customers and processes, can quickly derail the best-intentioned initiative, and quickly divert the attention of management.

Here is a brief overview of some of the success factors, Six Sigma

  • Management Engagement-Positive management support can be felt in a variety of ways. In order for Six Sigma to succeed, there must be visible, consistent support and an active role in communication and reward. There must also be a direct link of Six Sigma to corporate strategies. The program must provide a clear prioritization (relative to other initiatives, programs and priorities). The program must include a function that creates accountabilities, expectations, roles and responsibilities for everyone in the organization, coupled with regular reviews to assure, and verify progress.

  • Communications-This factor plays a vital role in the overall success of Six Sigma. Various aspects of communication must be stressed in order for overall success of the program. This includes: the creation and communication, of a Human Resources plan to support Six Sigma roles. Consistent and regular written communications, on Six Sigma news and successes. The development and dissemination of communication aids to management, along with advocating and creating a "common language" based on Six Sigma.

  • Projects-The projects that fall under Six Sigma supervision will directly influence the success of the program. Companies looking to succeed with Six Sigma will need to establish a documented 1-year Six Sigma project inventory (and refresh it regularly). They will also need to assure linkage of Six Sigma projects to critical business and customer needs. They will focus on establishing projects of appropriate scope and size (with significant savings and achievability). They will assign a Champion and Black Belt to each project (and hold them accountable). Finally, they will implement a project tracking system to facilitate replication and reuse.

It is important to realize that the documentation of these success factors and their sub-factors is merely a first step in the process of assuring their implementation, and making them a permanent part of a company's culture and operating system. There is also the issue of assuring their effectiveness, and use by the appropriate members of the target organization. This is crucial since the traditional methods of monitoring management behaviors have been largely subjective. Companies with effective Six Sigma will find a productive way to gather, measure and evaluate data.

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