Corporate six sigma office staffing

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    Robin Gates

    I am interested in advice on the type and extent of six sigma support that is best provided by the corporate six sigma office. 
    We are starting six sigma in a $2+ billion revenue company with 6,000 employees and 6 business units.  The current plan is for a small corporate office headed by a six sigma champion reporting to the CEO.  There will be a Six Sigma leader in each business unit reporting to the Executive VP and with black belts reporting to six sigma business unit leader.
    I am assuming that it is common to have some technical support (e.g. master black belts) provided centrally as well as training and overall program design, oversight and monitoring.  But I am interested in what has worked in other, similar sized organizations.  Also, what other functions (change management, communications) are best done centrally.
    Any advice would be appreciated.
    Robin Gates


    Houston Mayer

    I think it would be appropriate to have a master black belt standardization function at the corporate level reporting to the champion. This role would be to standardize training conducted in each business unit by other black belts. Project documentation activities should also be coordinated by the same individual to facilitate role up reporting at the corporate level and the sharing of best practices among the units.
    Probably a champion, a master black belt and an expert administrative aid positioned at the corporate level would be a solid start. Will initial training be provided by an outside source or will the master black belt be responsible for this activity? It will be a tough job for one individual to teach classes in six different locations and still provide guidance for simultaneous black belt projects.



    Great question.
    At the corporate level there should be a six sigma council, a steering committee. The corporate senior executive should run but not own this committee.
    The committee should consist of the senior execs ofeach of the division ofthe company and chaired by the CEO. Six Sigma is serious business an needs serious oversight.
    The MBB’s of each division should be advisors to those in attendence at these steering committee meetings.
    I would suggest at the corporate level the staff should consist of an admin for orchestration of all the training events and  certificattions, coordinating the training material etc. A financial person who would monitor and oversee the financial results.
    The key function at the corporate level is standardization and barrier busting.



    Robin, here is what might work:
    1. Centralize training, communication, (dis)incentives, hiring, overall program.
    2. Decentralize mentoring, technical resources, tools.
    On the softer side, ensure that the new program is supported from the CEO’s office so that all 6000 recognize the importance of the program. Initiate new hires to Black Belt positions into the company culture if they are external hires (which they probably should be), at the same time need to provide existing 6000 and the new Black Belts a common vision. Provide Black Belts access to top leadership, so that they can really make the difference and needless to add, hire the best!!
    Frequent (at least once a month) reviews would help and good amount of rewards as well. Your specific industry segment would also help focus and tune these suggestions …
    Do let me know if this helps!



    I would suggest that the best response to your question is unknowable, in that no one responding understands the corporate culture and organizational maturity of your company.  The best infrastructure for your company depends heavily on those factors.
    If your organization is postured for success and is anxious to reap the benefits of a six sigma deployment, a minimal corporate staff (one exec and an admin), with all other resources decentralized might suffice. 
    If, on the other hand, your entire organization is not on board and ready to engage completely, decentralizing resources could be a big mistake.  If the business units don’t “get it”, their BB’s may be tasked with activities that are inappropriate and their subsequent lack of results will cast a negative perception on “Six Sigma”, even though they really haven’t used the resources (BB’s) correctly.
    Succeeding in causing the culture change required for success is probably the most difficult aspect of a six sigma deployment. Jack Welch hit the nail squarely on the head when he articulated his view that all it really takes to succeed with six sigma is for the CEO to be a raving lunatic (relative to six sigma).  If you are fortunate enough to be in that situation, the rest will work out.  Any other scenario is a set up for a long and tedious effort that does not have a high probability of success.
    Hope these thoughts help.

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