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How To Overcome Six Sigma Controversies

Aug 17, 2007
"The more I learn about customer satisfaction, the less I know," the CEO of a Fortune 500 company recently lamented. By the time some companies get to understand their customers' needs fully, it will be too late. Management is often flooded with customer data detailing their satisfaction levels among other things. However, the data has been collected only as an exercise, not as a means to end customer dissatisfaction.

Can't Anyone Achieve Six Sigma?

There is no doubt that Six Sigma has enjoyed the seat of power like no other management tool has to date. The milestones crossed by the methodology are also non-controversial. Then where are there any problems and why is doubt being cast upon its ability to deliver?

Paddy Rao, Associate VP of a large software services company, a Champion and Master Black Belt himself, cites a major stumbling block for Six Sigma implementation, which is cultural change. A sudden change in the way people work and an altered reporting structure is what people find as obstructions to their routines. "Sometimes it takes ages to break this mindset", says another Black Belt who worked with Rao.

Anyone that says they have successfully implemented Six Sigma means only that they have completed the implementation. It doesn't mean that they have actually achieved 3.4 defects per million. You will notice many things changing as you go about deploying Six Sigma. The market changes, you may see a change in technology or even an internal matter like organizational change can occur.

The Robust Mechanisms Of Six Sigma

As with all other aspects of life, failures are always attributed to Six Sigma but not the successes. A successful Six Sigma implementation essentially requires a rock solid commitment from top management. Despite this, Six Sigma continues to question any authority, critically shaking most of the beliefs that the organization had about itself. As it goes deeper, it potentially shakes the foundations on which organizations exist.

The inordinate delay in data gathering is another obstacle to get Six Sigma out of the starting block. Sometimes the data is not divulged and other times it genuinely takes time to gather. Other priorities coupled with this pushes the implementation team to rush through the deployment.

Add to this the possibility of selecting the wrong project. If this happens, no matter how well you slog out later, the deployment will be a loser from the beginning. You will invariably fail to see a much different result from that of the original.

Indeed, it is the robust inbuilt mechanisms of Six Sigma that have worked for its success in almost all cases. One genuine concern about Six Sigma is about the cost of implementation, which very nearly challenges the ROI. As one CRM specialist put it, "where ROI has catapulted because of CRM, Six Sigma has been credited for it". This is the reason that Six Sigma is so widely accepted, despite the costs.
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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