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implement Six Sigma however you wish--just don't expect
often receive e-mail and phone calls from people whose
management has expressed an interest in Six Sigma but
doesn't like the approach (i.e., hard work and dedication
from the top down) used by pioneering companies such as
Motorola, GE, AlliedSignal, Texas Instruments and others.
When I suggest that people not proceed until they can
persuade their leadership to do it right, I'm often told
that they must forge ahead anyway. This message is
conveyed with a great deal of weeping, wailing and
gnashing of teeth.
As you might
imagine, this can get depressing after a while, so, in an
attempt to preserve my sanity, I'm writing a column for
those of my readers who want to hear that it's OK to take
shortcuts: If implementation for its own sake is what
you're after--not long-term results--you can devote just
as little effort to a Six Sigma program as you want. So
please, before contacting me, see if the shortcut you want
to take is already on the following list.
Ignore the customer. Some companies spend a lot of
time and money getting customer input only to find that
customer requirements are maddeningly vague and difficult
to translate into internal requirements, goals and Six
Sigma projects. You can avoid this hassle by simply
skipping this step. Besides, what the customer wants is
Start Six Sigma at the bottom or the middle of the
organization. CEOs such as Bob Galvin, Larry Bossidy
and Jack Welch spent a lot of time on Six Sigma. But
unlike these slackers, your executives are too busy to
give it more than lip service. That's OK, as long as you
write some really good lines for them to read in their
speeches. Start Six Sigma wherever you want; just be sure
to give top management credit for any successes.
Don't change the incentives for managers. Managers
will always do what's best for the organization, even if
it has an adverse impact on them personally and
Do it on the cheap. Is it really necessary to
provide 160–240 hours of Black Belt training? Of course
not. Try the "compressed" training programs that offer
four weeks of training in only two weeks, or an Internet
course that only takes a couple of weekends. Also, be sure
to hire the consultant who submits the lowest bid. Better
still, just go it alone: Just think of the savings!
Don't integrate Six Sigma with other initiatives.
If you're already working on lean and a half-dozen other
programs, just add Six Sigma to the mix. Your people are
smart enough to figure out how these programs relate to
Try it on a small scale to see if it works. Six
Sigma is a proven success in organizations of all sizes in
a wide variety of service and manufacturing industries.
But your organization is unique, so who knows if it will
work for you? To prove it will work for you, try a
small-scale pilot. Of course, a pilot will be too small to
command attention from top management, none of the major
management systems can be changed for the pilot, the
supporting infrastructure won't be there for the team, and
so on. But don't sweat the small stuff; your people can
make it succeed.
Don't worry about documenting the bottom-line impact of
projects . When you do TQM projects, it's enough to
show that you made quality better by reducing defects.
What's wrong with that? Besides, it takes a lot of time to
figure out real savings, and that time isn't value-added.
Don't worry about skeptics challenging the value of Six
Sigma in the future; what are the odds of that happening?
Let the quality department lead the effort. Six
Sigma uses many quality improvement tools already known to
quality specialists. Why waste time and money by teaching
these tools to others?
Emphasize statistical skills when choosing Black Belt
candidates. Those "soft" change-agent skills can be
picked up by anyone with half a brain. But statistics are
"hard" skills. Drag the analysts from their computers and
put them to work on the front line!
Let the Black Belts report to local managers .
Successful companies believe that Black Belts have a
difficult time disengaging from their routine work when
they report to their old bosses. But, as your people do
what's best for the company even if it isn't in their own
best interest, that won't be a problem for you.
Use part-time Black Belts. Full-time Black Belts
are difficult to extricate from their real jobs. Busy
managers don't need this confusion. Avoid it by letting
the Black Belts work on Six Sigma projects in their spare
Don't set overly tight deadlines or ambitious goals for
Black Belts. Six Sigma might be viewed as ruthless if
people are held to high standards. Cut the Black Belts
some slack. If they're trying hard and doing their best,
what more can you ask?
Select projects based on local criteria . Some
companies waste time studying the entire customer value
stream and then use Six Sigma to identify projects that
will improve the system as a whole. But your manufacturing
manager is ready to go now, while the others are still
dragging their feet. It would take a lot of time to change
that, and who needs that kind of grief? Take the path of
About the author
Pyzdek is a consultant in Six Sigma. He has written more
than 50 books, software and training products, including
The Six Sigma Handbook (McGraw-Hill). Learn more about Six