Six Sigma Incentives: Yay or Nay?

Benchmarking results consistently identify examples of Six Sigma success. Even so, getting “naysayers” on board is a continuous challenge. What do you tell them?

Nayism 20: Why are black belts getting monetary rewards? The rest of us are working just as hard. Why should they be treated “special?”

The topic of monetary incentives and rewards is highly debated. Arguments on behalf of both sides can have merit. So what’s the answer? Here’s what I say . . .

The decision on whether to use monetary incentives to reward BBs, champions, teams, etc., is not a “one size fits all” answer. It has been proven that incentives can drive behavior. Many companies offer bonus and incentive programs that reward employees for meeting operational goals or profit targets. When all employees get rewarded, it seems to be generally positive. Issues arise when a certain group of employees (such as BBs) are rewarded above and beyond the rest of the organization.

The decision to use incentives should be based on the need to use them. In a perfect deployment where some of the “best and brightest” are picked for the BB role and their “term” as a BB isviewed as a career enhancer, the effects of monetary incentives are minimal. These folks are being driven by another incentive. . . career growth. If on the other hand, the top leadership is luke warm about the “whole six sigma thing,” champions are not as engaged as neededand/or top performers view the BB role as a potential career risk, properly designed monetary incentives for BBs, teams, champions, etc. may help drive the behavior change that’s needed to prove that six sigma can and does work.

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Cultures that tend to reward everyone alike, regardless of performance or contribution, are more likely to scoff at BB incentives because it doesn’t fit the norm. In this case, anything that is done ‘extra’ for a BB or their team may spark push-back. If your culture really needs incentives to help change behaviors that will drive Six Sigma success, you should take this spark and use it to ignite a whole new way of thinking. After all, being a good change agent is what Six Sigma is all about!

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