Must 6Sigma come from Top down?

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    I work in a non-Six Sigma company, but with a few folks in middle- to lower-level management positions who champion Six Sigma as the process improvment method of choice. My position on Six Sigma is neutral. I see some of the benefits, but as a program manager in an IT division, am not involved in process improvement projects, so as to really leverage a method like Six Sigma.
    I argue with my Six Sigma advocate friends, since they maintain that Six Sigma must come from the top down. My friends Dan and Max maintain that if Six Sigma is not initiated and supported from top management, it will flounder and not be taken seriously. Our top management is ambivalent as far as process improvement is concerned. They are not advocates of any particular philosophy–“just so long as the job gets done.”
    I propose that it should be the middle layers who champion Six Sigma and execute. That it need not be initiated and/or sponsored by top management. When will the CEO have time to listen to a middle manager sell him Six Sigma? He won’t. At least, that’s the mentality among senior management at my company.
    So, I ask you–first theoretically, and secondly practically–must Six Sigma be initiated and championed from the top for it to succeed? And if so, how would I, as a director in operations, sell it to the top?  If it need not be championed from the top, could middle managers champion Six Sigma and have as good a chance at success?
    Have you had success in implementing Six Sigma without top management sponsorship (neutral mentality?)


    Kelly Maidman

    IMHO, you must have buy-in from the top. By definition, your “Champion” must have enough pull in the organization to: 1) influence key stakeholders/Process owners/int-ext Customers and 2) remove barriers and adress resistance issues. The Mid-Layer Managers are responsible for the tactical application of the top-layer strategic vision. Can it be done without support from the top? It’s possible, but it may be a long, miserable and difficult road. Even with buy-in from the top, it takes an adept Change Manager to identify and deal with resistance and potential “land-mines”. I’ve seen, first hand, the effects of a Leadership vacuum in regards to Six Sigma.If you find yourself supporting a particular Continuous Improvement initiative, sell your vision. Perhaps you can tackle a few small-scale/controlled-scope projects and document your successes and send the results up the chain. You’ll need to convince both the Strategic and Tactical Leaders of: “what’s in it for them”. Use data to demonstrate the value of the initiative.Good Luck and please keep us informed!-Kelly


    Kevin Hankins

    The most successful will come from the top-down _and_ the bottom-up.  The top should, very early on in the SS program, broadly and deeply solicit any interested stakeholders to participate in an affinitization party from which the SS program can be defined.
    To only be top-down, as are many SS programs, is to grossly offend your most experienced, valuable, existing (Master / Black / Green) Belts and other stakeholders that understand your business.  They will be driven out of your company very quickly, to other companies that must carefully balance hired help vs consultants.


    Ø6 Sigma BB Coordinator

    Anything can be possible.
    In my former company, I had some projects with no champion or good support from management. Enough time was the only thing I had. However, I still completed my projects successfully. I just champion myself. I think that as a middle manager, you can drive Six Sigma in your responsible area if you have enough time and resources to do.
    I think you can be successful at project level. However, I am not sure about the entire program.
    Six Sigma Black Belt Coordinator

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