For three decades now, many international companies have been using a tested process improvement methodology known as Six Sigma, which improves outputs of a process by identifying and removing the root causes of defects or errors.
In fact, in 1995, the then CEO of General Electric, Jack Welch, made Six Sigma a key focus for business strategy at his company. By 1996, Motorola who were the originators of Six Sigma had reported savings from deployment of Six Sigma totalling some decent $17 billion (or at today’s exchange rate an equivalent of almost MK6 trillion). Before the year 2000, up to two thirds of the world’s biggest 500 companies had employed the Six Sigma methodology.
But, you may also ask why we should employ Six Sigma or whether this methodology only makes sense for big companies. First, you can apply the philosophy or approach of Six Sigma to any type of industry or any size of organisation. Any organisation can benefit from minimisation of errors. What you need is a plan for your organisation to follow a defined sequence of steps. You also need to measure and quantify the targets that can be controlled, monitored, tracked and therefore achieved.
There are three attributes that make Six Sigma a special process improvement methodology when compared to other regimes of process improvement. First, the style of leadership that Six Sigma preaches is that of passionate and strong management using measurable data and verifiable facts for decision- making – not guess work or assumptions. Second is the focus on clear and quantifiable financial benefits that would arise from the Six Sigma project in question. Thirdly, Six Sigma uses the special framework of ‘Champions’, ‘Master Black Belts’, ‘Black Belts’, ‘Green Belts’, and ‘Yellow Belts’.
Yellow Belts are people who have the basic understanding of what Six Sigma methodology is. This is basically an entry into the Six Sigma hierarchy of skills and knowledge. The next level is for the Green Belts. These are sometimes referred to as the ‘workers’. The Green Belts work under supervision of better qualified Sigma professionals. They gather the needed information, conduct experiments and tests. Sometimes, Green Belts are called upon to lead small Six Sigma projects.
Black Belts are skilled Six Sigma professionals. They are usually tasked with the responsibility to lead big company projects from start to the end on a full-time basis. Such projects usually cost more than $100 000 and their returns are many multiples of the investment. They will have under them a team that they also train and coach in Six Sigma, including some Yellow and Green Belts. Once the Six Sigma project is completed, the Black Belts are assigned to lead other Six Sigma project, or they might revert to normal operational roles.
Then there are the ‘Master Black Belts’. This is the highest level of Six Sigma qualification. Master Black Belts continue monitoring the effects of projects that they implement, training people to do things the new way and embedding a new culture of doing things. When Black Belts have demonstrated proficiency in solving difficult projects, have become self-starters, are self-reliant to a reasonable extent, they become eligible for additional training as Master Black Belts.
Of course, a Six Sigma Project team cannot work in isolation. They need interfacing with the main business or organization and they need top management support. This is the role that is played by the Champion. A Champion helps to translate the vision, mission and goals of the organisation to the Six Sigma project team in order to create an organisational deployment plan. The Champion also helps in identifying the projects to be run under Six Sigma methodology and he or she also helps to mobilise the resources and assists in removing the stumbling blocks and show stoppers.
Successful people seek to continuously improve things they are involved in. In your success journey, employ Six Sigma in order to achieve dramatic improvement of your business, your company or organisation that you work for. If you can, get some serious training in Six Sigma to climb up the Six Sigma Belts ladder!