To Six Sigma or Not – Let’s “Pilot” to Find Out

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 22: In lieu of an enterprise-wide Six Sigma deployment, let’s start with a couple of departments and see how it works.

On the surface, this may seem like a reasonable approach but hidden beneath this “toe in the water” approach, dangers are lurking. Can it work? Here’s what I say . . .

You’ve heard it a zillion times. . . The power of Six Sigma is not in working acouple of projects. It’s derived from the cultural aspect (i.e., changing the way the organization works). The “pilot” approach has some down side that can drown even the best intentions.

When leadership decides to “pilot” six sigma in a couple of areas, it sends a very clear message to the organization that the leadership team is not convinced that it will work. This one decision may be enough to spark a feeding frenzy of negativity among the organization’s “naysayers” that can overtake even the best deployment efforts.A successful Six Sigma deployment requires that leadership be passionate about Six Sigma and continuous improvement andand that they relay this passion through their actions. A “pilot” deployment does not relay passion but sends a clear “caution” message.

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Partial deployment can be very tricky. Once a couple of groups are selected for the pilot, these groups will need to be trained. But training the pilot group is not enough. Other departments will require training. For example, HR (to define Black Belt and Project Champion roles and select the right black belts), Finance (to develop a financial validation methodology), IT (to understand data gathering methods). Also, as team members are selected, it becomes evident that process customers and suppliers need to be involved. Data and input may also be needed from ‘other’ groups which may or may not have had Six Sigma training or orientation. At this point, it becomes clear that success will depend on many groups, not just a few that are being piloted. Without proper deployment in these groups (training and communication) the opportunity for buy-in and support greatly diminishes.

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These are just a couple ofissues related to “pilot” deployments. This does not mean that “pilot” deployments won’t work, as I’m sure some have. It does stress the importance of having a carefully orchestrated plan in place to address issues that may not be present with an enterprise-wide approach. Six Sigma deployment is serious stuff. Whether done correctly or incorrectly, it will have a lasting effect on the organization.

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