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Six Sigma Adoption and Cultural Issues

Aug 17, 2007
The most easily expectable reaction from employees for Six Sigma implementation will be the one of "Well, here they are at it again" or "How good is it over other existing methods?" Knee jerk reactions, such as these are nothing new in an industrial world. Cold responses such as these can dampen the zeal of Black Belts initially, if not completely unnerve them. Why should the culture be so different and how to adopt Six Sigma in these circumstances are some of the big questions that confront the project team.

Cultural Issues - Six Sigma Adoption and Acceptance

Most of the times it is the skepticism that manifests as different issues opposed to the adoption of Six Sigma. Surprisingly enough, skepticism is not just limited to employees alone. Let us say a saving of $250,000 per project seems unreal when you really look at it. Further, it becomes even harder to believe when advertised a higher cumulative amount over long periods of time and several projects. Accrued savings could run into a couple of billions of dollars in a decade's time.

On the other hand, management isn't always open to accepting the migration to Six Sigma from another regimen. Questions may arise, such as "Does it apply to us? It might have produced results elsewhere but this is a unique situation." The question remains same even if the product or process is same as that of competitors. This roadblock predominantly exists because of the wrong conviction that they are somehow different from peers and that it won't work for them.

Take another one for example. "Six Sigma takes fulltime Black Belts which we can hardly afford at the present moment, at the cost of our day-to-day activities. It also requires several others to dedicate some of their time to the project."

Strategizing Six Sigma Implementation

First of all, it is essential that management has an open mind. Six Sigma is applicable across the board, regardless of the size and line of business of the companies. Also realizing the need for it, much later when the market and the top and bottom lines have eroded, will be of little help.

1. The Proof Of Pudding Is In Eating It: Success stories of Six Sigma will have no impact as much as the actual success you could show now. The milestones for impressive results are financial uptrends, better employee satisfaction, and finally the satisfied customer. Measured by the 'conventionally perceptible barometer', the more visibly acceptable changes satisfy the skeptics.

2. Reviewing The Work Culture At The Beginning: There is no better way than assessing the cultural ways of a company and employees' work culture while you are still putting together the project and the team. The support from top down, infrastructure and the context of time will help shape things up for deployment of Six Sigma.

3. Familiarity And Positive Developments Bring About Positive Changes: As things get familiar to people, they tend to see reason and accept spending resources. This basically stems from their realization of returns from the deployment.

Maintaining an environment conducive throughout the deployment is crucial for its success. The transformation it brings in can be far more rewarding than financial benefits alone.
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 lean six sigma, black belts, green belts, and yellow belts.
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