Six Sigma Success Linked to Culture Change


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Michael Marx
Research Manager
iSixSigma Magazine
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Bainbridge Island, Washington (May 2, 2007) – Companies that treat their Six Sigma efforts as both the impetus and/or mechanism for culture change are more than twice as likely to have successful deployments than those that see no link between Six Sigma and culture, according to research published in the May/June 2007 issue of iSixSigma Magazine (

The survey included responses from nearly 1800 Six Sigma professionals around the globe. “Almost all the companies represented were purposefully pursuing culture change,” said Michael Marx, research manager for iSixSigma. The three main changes that companies wanted to see were to achieve greater focus on customers (67%), develop data-based decision making (57%), and create a process orientation (52%).

According to Marx, the link between culture and Six Sigma success was obvious in the results. “Of the respondents who said their Six Sigma deployments were successful or highly successful, about seventy to eighty percent also said that their companies understood Six Sigma requires a change in cultural norms and/or can be used to help change those norms,” Marx said.

“Conversely, seventy-two percent of companies that said Six Sigma had no role in culture change labeled their efforts as unsuccessful or highly unsuccessful,” he added.

The good news for companies is that the culture can start changing rapidly – if they pay deliberate attention to cultural shifts. “More than half of the respondents who said their companies paid at least some attention to culture change saw noticeable changes in culture within two years,” Marx explained.

The survey also showed that Six Sigma-trained employees used their change management skills far more often than generally perceived. “Though only thirty-two percent of respondents said they would label their Black Belts as ‘change agents,’ almost twice that figure said they personally use change management skills frequently or all the time,” Marx said.

The results provide a strong impetus for companies to pay more attention to the culture shifts needed to support Six Sigma and to the kinds of shifts that Six Sigma can help create inside a company. “The more effort a company makes to change its culture, the bigger the impact,” Marx concluded.

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