iSixSigma

My Business Is Different, Six Sigma Won’t Work

If you think Six Sigma won’t work for your company, you are either ignorant or refuse to change. Every business process can be measured, improved and controlled using the Six Sigma methodology.

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Reading the iSixSigma Discussion Forum unearthed a thread about the application of Six Sigma to Facilities Management:

When it comes to the implementation of Six Sigma in companies where it is difficult to measure the parameters, how it can work? For example, companies in facility management who provide housekeeping services, etc. How can Six Sigma be implemented there? I also think back to the times I’ve spent working with various business functional areas – marketing and sales in particular. I cringe when I think back to their arguments about why Six Sigma isn’t applicable to them because their job is not a science; it’s an art. My defense often seemed to fall on deaf ears.

Whenever I encounter situations like the two illustrated above (I’m sure you can come up with a few examples from your life), I immediately think back to an article written by a fellow iSixSigma author, Kerri Simon. She said, “We know that everything in business is a process, right?” Yes, Kerri is totally correct. But I also think that many people – regardless of their position within a company or organization – often “forget” that fact.

I say “forget” in quotes because they don’t really forget, but because they are either ignorant or refuse to change.

  1. Ignorance. I believe that when people hear of the magical methodology called Six Sigma, they forget that every business runs because of processes, metrics and leadership. Albeit, they may not run well, but they run. How well they run depends on how efficient the processes are in meeting the customer requirements. How fast processes improve depends a great deal on the methodology used to identify defects (using metrics), isolate the root causes, and eliminate causal factors. None of this gets done, of course, without leadership. There is nothing magical about measuring, improving and controlling how well a process performs. It works in manufacturing, and it works in sales.Want a few other examples of functional areas or industries where it works? Accounts payable, shipping, engineering design, writing, management, customer service, semiconductors, software, hardware, human resources, marketing, training, collections, risk, reception, healthcare, finance…I think you get the idea. It works anywhere you need to improve processes. Just to reiterate – every business uses processes.
  2. Refuse To Change. This is purely an emotional response. Most people don’t like change, but want to be thought of as “change agents” within their business. Jack Welch, former GE CEO and Six Sigma Champion, encouraged employees to “embrace change.” Nothing improves without change. Most people realize this so they find a piece that they can change here or there, but truly embrace the status-quo. If you’re a team leader (Green Belt, Black Belt, Master Black Belt), you need to understand how to lead change within your business. Otherwise, people will most always resist.
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So How Do You Make Six Sigma Work?

Well, if you don’t have a Quality background and you haven’t taken a Six Sigma Green Belt, Black Belt or Master Black Belt training course, do yourself a favor and sign up for one. The iSixSigma Discussion Forum is the best I’ve seen for getting immediate project help, but you are going to need to understand everything from both a high-level and detailed-level view. You most likely need to be trained to do this. Let me repeat myself, you most likely need to be trained to execute Six Sigma well.

If you have the background and training, then you need to select the right project. Let’s run through an example that should help you get your mind moving in the right direction.

Facilities Management Example

Who is your customer? If you operate a facilities management company, anyone hiring you to perform janitorial services is your customer.

What are their requirements? These should be specified in the request for proposal that the customer supplies, or in the contract that you supply. If your customer is holding you accountable, there is probably some minimum service level agreement within the contract.

What are the correct metrics? Remember, you can’t improve what you don’t measure. What’s important to your customer? Ask them. Interview them. Create a written survey and allow them to return the survey to you anonymously. Here are a few ideas about what I require from my janitorial company on a daily basis:

  • All trash removed
  • All glass cleaned
  • All rugs completely dirt free
  • All floors shiny
  • No dust on free surfaces
  • All movable objects (chairs, wastebaskets, tables, etc.) replaced in proper position
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How do you measure these requirements? Define a unit, opportunity and defect. Measure your process – It’s that easy. Randomly pick a day a week and visit the facility when the janitorial crew is done. Is every wastebasket empty? Is every pane of glass and counter-top clean? Can you flip over a rug and see dirt on the floor? You get the idea here. No rocket science or fairy dust needed to measure how well a janitorial process is running.

How do you improve your processes? Look at what is causing your defects. Create a pareto diagram of your defects. Focus on the major issues using the Six Sigma DMAIC methodology.

Will Six Sigma Help My Business?

Only if you want it to and only if you are educated in how to properly select and implement a Six Sigma project. Where can you go for help? You’ve already found the best resource available…post your project questions to the Discussion Forum, but be specific in your request. There are a tremendous number of brilliant and helpful people that read the Forum daily. If you supply enough process information (measures, defects, major process steps, steps you’ve taken so far, etc.), people will no doubt make suggestions that will help you progress and successfully improve your process. Good luck!

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