When the core of your business is about running more than 1,000 upscale hotels around the world, you learn a thing or two about meeting the needs of demanding customers. In 2001, Starwood Hotels and Resorts – owner of such famous hotel brands as Sheraton, Westin, W and Le Meridien – embarked on a Six Sigma program to ensure that quality is quantifiably measured and constantly improved. As Starwood’s deployment celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, the program has reached maturity, but it has hardly stopped changing.

At next month’s iSixSigma Live! Summit & Awards (just three weeks away!), John Peyton, senior vice president of operations at Starwood’s North America Division, will discuss the evolution of the company’s decade-long involvement with Six Sigma in the Executive Keynote Address, ‘Checking In with Starwood Hotels’ Six Sigma Programâ? (9:45 to 10:30 a.m., Tues., Feb. 8).

In his address, Peyton will describe how Starwood’s Six Sigma program has evolved to meet the needs of its internal and external customers. When the program was launched in 2001, for example, teams of trained Black Belts were sent out to each Starwood property to drive the continuous improvement culture at the local level, adding new full-time Black Belts as needed. Two years later, as most of the low-hanging fruit was plucked, the company shifted its strategy and instituted its Best Practice Transfer program, scaling back the number of full-time Black Belts at each property and having them manage projects from the divisional level. By 2007, change was brought about again when Starwood rolled out its Lean Hotel Operations program, training its hotel management staff about ways to reduce transaction time and speed up communication.

This year, Peyton says, Starwood is embarking on yet another new initiative: Adding Kaizen events to the Lean Six Sigma toolkit. For the next three months, the company’s Black Belts are being trained to administer a series of three-day Kaizens across all Starwood properties. Once the training is complete, Peyton says Starwood should hold about 200 Kaizens this year and another 400 by the end of 2012.

Another element of continuous change is Starwood’s highly regarded program of fast-tracking its best Black Belts to leadership positions within the company. Last year, Starwood’s North America Division took home the top honors at our Best Places to Work event, and this year the company has been named again as a top-10 finalist. Come to the iSixSigma Live! Summit & Awards in Miami next month and see how Starwood compares with the other nine finalists when we reveal the top Best Place to Work at our Awards Ceremony (8 to 9 a.m., Wed., Feb. 9, 2011).

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