7 problems you should avoid when implementing Six Sigma

Six Sigma is one of the most successful and popular improvement programs of the recent years. Its reputation is well deserved given the many benefits it has achieved in several companies. However, it is very common to find cases of companies that have totally failed in their attempt to implement Six Sigma or are getting significantly lower results, very different from those predicted when they wanted to implement the Six Sigma program.

1 .  I just have no clue why I’m implementing Six Sigma

Before you start implementing any change in your organization, the management of the company must be clear about the reasons of it. You and your crew should be able to answer the question about why you are actually doing it. Otherwise, it will be very difficult to involve the company’s staff in the changes that follow after Six Sigma.

2. Lack of performance indicators related to Six Sigma

A Six Sigma program, a lean manufacturing program and a motivation program must be justified on the basis of the improvement they will bring to the company, on a set of key indicators that will help you to think a strategy for the company operations in the short, mid or long term. The success of a Six Sigma program lays in the results it generates for the company. Period.

3. You just forgot a pre-selection of projects to be allocated to Six Sigma

We all make mistakes; the problem are consequences. The risk of missing a pre-selection of projects is huge. Just imagine a situation: you start the training Six Sigma program in your company but there is not a group of projects to be allocated to each candidate. What happens if you have already sent to train a number of people that it’s larger than the number projects available? You don’t want to know. A simple way to detect this situation is when you observe, at least one week before the training, the candidates to be trained when they desperately visit the offices of all managers in the company, applying for a problem to solve, of any kind, in any area.

4. Measuring the success of the program by the number of black and green belts

This way of measuring is misleading. It creates a need to certify your staff in the more efficient possible way to the limits of obsession, and, unfortunately, it usually produces an increasable plastic certification-criteria. You will focus more on the number of graduates than the results themselves.

5. Turn every project into a Six Sigma program

By getting to this kind of extremes, you will end up with people who all they do is “Six Sigma”. It means a lot of trouble. The line between job responsibilities and participation in improvement projects is lost. Remember Maslow: if your only tool is a hammer, everything will look as a nail.

Gold smith hammer_six sigma_david kiger
Image courtesy of Aiko, Thomas & Juliette+Isaac at Flickr.com

6. Training unnecessary people for the objectives of the company

There are always people that, after they are no longer working in your company, leave the functionality of your organization intact. And the reason of this is that they just don’t contribute to the objectives of the enterprise. You could fire them or they may quit and everything will remain normal. When you waste time, money and energy in this kind of employees, this situation causes a double damage to the program. In first place, it will be quite clear to the rest of the organization that the program does not have real support from management, since you are playing with the alternate players and not with the headlines. In second place, Six Sigma is not a system that turns bad elements into productive people by divine touch. Actually, it is more like an elite MBA (Harvard, Yale, MIT, etc.) program where applicants have been previously selected and are already known to be good.

7. There is no way for watching the results of Six Sigma projects

It seems strange to some people, but it’s pretty obvious: Why do you try to implement something that’s already in operation? Well, the reality is that, in most cases, once certification is achieved and any kind of recognition has been given to the participants in the project, the focus of all of them will be the next project; and every achievement of the last one will be just old history. If the Control phase was carried out correctly, this should not affect the operation of the project that has already been implemented. Nevertheless, a perfect implementation is almost never achieved. It is necessary to monitor the project after its implementation, at least for two reasons: for confirming that the annual expected savings are actually carried out, and for achieving the integration of the new mode of operation, implemented by the project within the normal operating procedures of the company.

I hope it works. See you next time.

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