NPS and Six Sigma

Recently I had the opportunity to attend the IQPC Australasia Six Sigma summit. For me, the highlight of the event was a presentation given by GE. The presentation focused around how the company was taking the voice of the customer to the next level by aligning NPS (Net Promoter Score) methodology with Six Sigma.

NPS is generally incorporated into a satisfaction survey and revolves around one question. End users (customers) are asked how likely they are to refer something, such as a product or service, to a friend or colleague. Generally the question is asked using a 0-10 scale, with 0 meaning very unlikely to recommend and 10 meaning highly likely to recommend, Ratings are classified into three categories:

  • 9-10 (promoters)
  • 7-8 (neutral)
  • 0-6 (detractors)

According to the presentation, promoters are likely to promote your product or service, neutrals will not say anything, and detracts are likely to speak negatively at a rate of three times more than what the promoters will say.

I’m currently incorporating NPS technique into a Six Sigma survey for Black and Green Belts within my organization. I’m doing this because I believe that a successful Six Sigma program is not only about improvements and value added to the company but also sustainability. Ideally, a team of promoters would be great, however, if the current team is primarily made up of neutrals or detractors, then the recruitment and retention of future belts may be in jeopardy. I would encourage all Master Black Belts and deployment leaders to use NPS when determining satisfaction with your Six Sigma program.

Comments 4

  1. Laura Gibbons

    You mention

    Ideally a team of promoters would be great.

    One question – One comment – What does your current landscape look like with regards to your team and One comment – This would be nice but it isnt realistic. What are you doing to ensure that those detractors or neutrals are kept at bay, or their damage minimized if they have to be on your team, or you have no say in the matter because your team was constructed by your leadership?

  2. Holly Hawkins

    Based off of our survey results, the majority of scores for likelihood to refer the Six Sigma program were in the neutral to slight detractor range (fortunately no one rated the program with a score worse than 5). Because the survey was set up as anonymous, I could not go back and ask specific belts to clarify their response, however feedback on several supporting questions have provided some insight as to what may be causing dissatisfaction. For example, a big issue noted by Green Belts is support from their Process Owner, and to a lesser extent their Project Champion. As a result of the feedback, Champion training is currently being revised, along with a reassessment of leaders who need the training. Additionally, as part of leadership development, the majority of Process Owners are now undergoing Yellow Belt training.Further feedback indicated belts would like refreshers on at least one topic that was covered during their original training. An action item has been established to try to develop a brief lunchtime learning session on at least a monthly basis. A focus group with the belts will be conducted to see what specific refresher training is in the highest demand.To answer part of your question “What are you doing to ensure that those detractors or neutrals are kept at bay, or their damage minimized if they have to be on your team…” I would say I am communicating everything from the satisfaction scores (and comments), to the action plans, to the updates of the action plans (to validate the feedback has not gone on deaf ears). Actions speak much louder than words, so when an action item has been completed, the belts can physically see the change as well. As your Six Sigma program is constantly evolving, I’m also communicating to the team why changes are being made.

  3. Holly Hawkins

    To answer the second part of your question “or you have no say in the matter because your team was constructed by your leadership?”, I would use the data driven philosophy of Six Sigma and provide leadership with the facts. I’m not quite sure of your situation but if people are being chosen for these positions (and not choosing themselves), you can obviously get feedback from them if they are surveyed. Also, looking at metrics such a project cycle time, value delivery, tenure in role, tenure with company after leaving the Six Sigma role, and comparing them to benchmark or industry standards may help. Lastly, to instil a potentially more positive team, you may suggest to leadership to develop some sort of application or nomination form to be completed by individual employees (and not their managers). Going through an application process, much like a job interview could eliminate any preconceived notions the employee may have and would also give leadership the ability to review the merits of the application (and compare with others wanting to be on the team in an “apples to apples” format) before making a decision.

  4. Andrew Downard


    We have been using NPS in various forms on several our internal (to the program) surveys for about a year now. In addition to the standard NPS question, we ask some variations. For example, whenever their direct reports close a project, every manager is asked "would you recommend that other managers use Six Sigma methodology on similar projects in the future." Same thing about training courses. We always ask not only the people directly involved, but also the people they report to. Those "one-level-up" data can be quite reassuring to managers in new areas and functions as the program expands.

    Regarding the detractors, my philosophy is harsh: ignore them as much as you possibly can. They take enormous energy to convert one by one, and a lot of times you won’t be successful anyway. I’d rather spend my energy on with folks on the other end of the spectrum. Give your brightest stars enough time, attention, rewards, and recognition, and you will eventually sway the majority towards the desired behavior. No need to deal with the detractors head on. In my experience, this is more effective way of dealing with detractors in the long run.

    Of course, before you can adopt this strategy you have to make sure your detractors are not correct in their beliefs…which is a step a lot of programs miss.


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