Six Things to Do for Successful Six Sigma Initiatives - dummies

Six Things to Do for Successful Six Sigma Initiatives

By Craig Gygi, Bruce Williams, Neil DeCarlo, Stephen R. Covey

A Six Sigma Initiative can be a complicated compilation of projects that may need your constant attention. Use these six tips as guidelines to keep your initiative on track for success!

Target tangible results from your Six Sigma projects

Typically, Six Sigma leads organizations to reduce their costs by as much as 20 to 30 percent of revenue. At the same time, these organizations increase their revenues by 10 percent or more.

To realize these returns, however, each Six Sigma DMAIC project must be tied to a tangible financial measure of return — dollars saved, new revenue gained, specific costs avoided, and so on. You must formally measure, track, and roll up these financial gains if you want to achieve the startling financial returns that are the hallmark of Six Sigma.

Without tying projects to tangible financial measures and tracking their financial impact, Six Sigma efforts naturally drift away from their financial potential.

In isolated cases, a Six Sigma project isn’t directly focused on cost reduction or revenue enhancement but rather on some other objective of the organization. If you complete a project with an object of increasing brand awareness, for example, you may have difficulty quantifying how much that project improves the company’s bottom line. But if the project enables the company’s key business strategies, it’s still worth the effort.

Think before you act

Too often, people jump into action and do something — anything — to solve a problem. They confuse action with effectiveness. This approach showcases activity, but it usually ends in a continuation of the problem or, at best, a less-than-optimal solution.

Businesses and organizations have a vested interest in getting optimal results quickly and consistently. Six Sigma’s DMAIC methodology forces you to shift the bulk of the activity of solving a problem into defining, measuring, and planning a solution.

Each project starts with a detailed, in-depth definition of what the problem really is and what the objectives of the solution are. Next, you take extensive measurements to verify the current performance of the process or system and then follow it with in-depth analysis of inputs, outputs, conditions, and causes and effects.

Only after you complete all these steps do you attempt an improvement solution. The result of this upfront rigor is almost always an optimal solution that you can quickly and efficiently put in place. In the long run, the front-loaded DMAIC approach solves the problem more quickly and with better, more consistent results than other approaches do.

Put your faith in data

An admonition among Six Sigma practitioners says, “In God we trust; all others must have data.” Without data, decisions are based on supposition, estimation, opinion, and sometimes wishful thinking. Data allow you to objectively identify and select the truly best ideas and solutions from among the many alternatives. If you listen, the data tell you what you need to do to improve by leaps and bounds.

Making decisions based on data, however, isn’t easy. Data require you to suspend judgment and personal bias and to confront sometimes brutal and undesirable facts. In the long run, though, trusting data consistently leads you to better and more-rapid solutions.

Align Six Sigma projects with key goals

One of the most important Six Sigma success factors is selecting projects that line up with the key goals of your organization. Successful and lasting Six Sigma efforts are always made up of projects that are each specifically focused on moving an organization toward its stated goals.

Unleash everyone’s potential through Six Sigma

The best Six Sigma efforts extend beyond full-time Black Belts. When an organization broadens its Six Sigma knowledge and participation to Green Belts, Yellow Belts, and even those with basic Six Sigma awareness, it unleashes the vast potential of a greater number of its employees. Instead of relying on a handful of isolated, specialized experts to drive organization-wide improvement, an entire army is enlisted to contribute to the effort.

Leverage technology in your Six Sigma efforts

Technology and software are inseparable from Six Sigma. Yet many people try to segment technology into its own, isolated corner. Others dismiss its contribution outright because they don’t understand how to leverage its potential.

The right technology can help anyone in Six Sigma do his or her work better and faster — and that’s a goal everyone wants to achieve. Anymore, you need technology to get to the problem — especially as more and more processes are defined and managed within IT.