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Why Does Six Sigma Fail?

Six Sigma – iSixSigma Forums Old Forums General Why Does Six Sigma Fail?

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  • #40943

    Johnny Martin
    Participant

    All,
    Currently in my company we are looking at our continous improvement tools.  There are lots and lots of websites, companies offering consultancy on the system.  All with great success stories, which is great.
    I would like to know where it has failed and why it failed. Being a knowledge manager it is important to me to undersatnd where others failed such that we can successfully apply a program.
    Look forward to many responses and a useful dialogue.
    Thanks,
    Johnny.

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    #127964

    Sandrine
    Member

    Based on my  “humble’ experience  as a  consultant,I may summerize the  causes in the  following points:
    *Lack of  appropriate  culture
    *Lack of  enthusiasm & commitment (specially by  top management).
    *spoon-fed staff waiting for  the  consultant  to  do  his homework.
    *wrong diagnosis (not  based on actual status).
    *Lack of  Lean  concepts:
     
     (no  proper  application  of  visual  management,5Ss,Muda,TPM……)
    *Lack of  appropriate  using  of  the  major  quality  tools,such  as C&E,Pareto…….etc
    *Focusing on profit only
    *Cenralization in  decision  making
    *Lack of  follow-up (by  the  company  manager  and  the  consultant  as  well)
    *Lack  of  proper  motivation  and  Reward  System.
    *Lost  Process owner
    *Lack of  proper “project  management”
    *Lost  gains,no quick  wins,lack  of  celebrations
    *Lack  of sustainability
    *High-paid  Consultants without tangible practical  results
    *Applying  “paste & Copy” concept without  considering  the  practical status of  the  concerned  organization.
    Hope this might  help  you to  start  a  useful dialogue 

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    #127975

    Johnny Martin
    Participant

    Thanks so much Sandrine,
    Yes I would agree with the points around culture and leadership commitment. You have also given me some other bullet points to ponder though.
    I look at a company that fails to apply say ISO, never mind sustain it and now wants to shift because it seems it’s a flavour they like.  I guess the leadership failure looms large on that as well. 
    I wonder if anyone out there has tried a pilot style to aid implementation in a global company.  has there been differences in different sectors/cultures of the world. ie is there cultures that six sigma just fits right into and others that it doesn’t..??   Pleas forgive my open thoughts.
    Regards,
    Johnny 

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    #127977

    Orlamuender
    Participant

    Failures generally are due to PPM. (P!ss Poor Management)

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    #127978

    AB
    Participant

    Johnny
    You’ve asked a very appropriate question. But your approach is not appropriate. The collective wisdom of a bunch of consultant is only going to lead you to one answer, and this it “It depends”. Companies that have embarked upon a large scale deployment of a continuous improvement approach traditionally begin with a focussed assessment of what, why, how, who, when, where, etc. of the deployment that can go from a couple of months to a couple of years. Along that path you may invite multiple consultants to present their views but you should start by identifying someone in your organization that will lead this effort.
    That would be more appropriate than collecting partially understood, hastily articulated and potentially irrelevant feedback on this forum. 
    Good luck
    AB

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    #127980

    Vivek Gautam
    Member

    One reason and it is obvious that if the top management is not willing to get on board. It has to be driven from the top. I am having a same issues with my company, being a lean/six sigma certified I am having trouble getting the top management get on board.
     
    Thanks

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    #127981

    Vivek Gautam
    Member

    Obviously, atleast it seems like six sigma just is the right fit for the Japanese culture. Eventhough they did not used the same phrase in the past but were doing the exact same practice that six sigma methodology has.

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    #127982

    Jorge
    Participant

    I would add that many times it can fail because statistics is over emphasized and not really brought down to the level where it can be understood and be useful. One other thing is that you need to redifine your processes prior to engaging in any six sigma deployment.

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    #127983

    FTSBB
    Participant

    Six sigma does not fail; individuals fail six sigma.
    Main reason I see for failure is the lack of generating a hypothesis (before choosing the tool to use!) and using the appropriate method to support or not support the hypothesis.  Six sigma gives you the power to test these theories with real data and apply the laws of statistics to understand the likelihood that your results are right.  Six sigma doesn’t fail, but in the wrong hands it is worthless.
    Other reason I see (in my present company) is a tendency to turn high $ projects that did not use six sigma tools into six sigma projects just to meet the financial goals.  Not all high $ project have to be six sigma, and not all good six sigma project produce extravagant $ savings.  Mindset is: if it saved a lot of money, it had to come from six sigma!  Pure fiction.

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    #127985

    Phillip Werth
    Participant

    Improvements require three things.
    1. A good idea
    2. Selling the good idea
    3. Implementing the good idea
    In my experience the hardest part is finding good improvement ideas.  Certainly 6 sigma can help there.  Management support can help (a little) in motivating people look for improvements and can help a lot in the last two steps.  A good idea comes up when an innovative/creative person with the necessary knowledge and motivation/mindset comes up with one. 
     
     

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    #127987

    ChrisMBB
    Participant

    Here’s a few sources that elucidate the failure modes quite well:
    https://www.isixsigma.com/library/content/c020916a.asp
    “Lean or Sigma?” by Freddy & Michael Balle  (can be downloaded from http://www.lean.org.
    Finally, if you want a lot of knowledge to manage (translation:  a thick book), check out the “Six Sigma Leadership Handbook” by Rath and Strong.  It’s thorough and worth every penny.
    Cheers,
    Chris

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    #127991

    CT
    Participant

    I dont think Six Sigma ever fails, it may struggle due to lack of management of projects, which can cause chaos, especially among projects in multiple plants.
    Management buy in is key, there must be a firm commitment to align projects in order to prevent overlap, and confusion, with foresight that not all things can be completed at once.
    CT

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    #127992

    Fact man
    Participant

    I think it is important to understand that the tools do not fail. People fail for a variety of reasons, many listed above. There is no such thing as a bad tool. Each tool has a specific use and it is dependent upon the user to use the correct tool for the application. If a program fails do not blame the tools.

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    #127994

    NobleX
    Participant

    I found some failures in six sigma to be involved in processes based on bad assumptions and value judgements for one thing whether it be on the DMAIC, DMAIV, or the Design of Experiments amongst the many. Sometimes when you implement six sigma on a product you continuously improve, you find the current product has deeper flaws than originally thought. On one hand it may lead to proper improvements but on the other hand it may lead to a badly needed upgrade on an existing product or platform.
    Sometimes you look at these failures and it leads to resolutions. Other failures can lead to misleading assumptions or leaving out data variables during the analyze phase.
    NobleX

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    #127997

    Mike Carnell
    Participant

    Johnny,
    Just to be up front I am a consultant and to add credibility to AB’s response “it depends.” Any other answer would be incorrect because not every company is alike and so deployment failures won’t all be for the same reason. The converse is true as well not every success is the same either. There have been countless companies that have benchmarked every move GE made and tried to copy the deployment but without the GE culture it doesn’t work the same way it did  at GE.
    The top management buy in is way to over worked. In more cases than not top management is bought in at some level otherwise it wouldn’t be happening. There seems to be some very unrealistic expectations around what top management will do when they are bought in. It still takes work. It still takes change management. It still takes more than 8 hours a day. When people tuck their tail and scream no management buy in the minute they see any resistance – they are more the issue than management is. Regardless of how aligned and bought in the leadership team is there will be a group that will push back at some level.
    There is also the school that believes that this is about doing projects. It is to a degree. The deployment is about program management. All it takes it a short look at the “project management” software that is on the market. It does exactly what it says it will do – manages a project which on a project by project basis is ok but you can do that with Microsoft Project. A large group of successful projects does not equal a successful deployment. The Six Sigma program (not project) needs to earn its way into the success strategy of the business and you can run DOE’s all day every day for a solid year and the tools won’t do that.
    There are way to many people out there that do not spend enough time on the up front work to a deployment. If you go to the blogs by Gary Cone one of his first talked about what he was doing at the start of the deployment (actually he is working a deployment that was underperforming to what happens typically). We have been involved in the “fixing” a deployment a few times and the thing that seems to happen most is they have no vision of what the company looks like beyond doing projects so the focus runs to training and tools (that is the same death spiral that TQM took). That mentality will fail. We also had one company that took the 5 weeks of typical training around tools, jammed it into 3.5 days, and then did 4 weeks of change management.- the result was 355 day cycle time on projects because they could get the organization ready to change but struggled figuring out what to change to. Not enough tools.
    My opinion is it still depends. You need to take an honest look at your company and its culture and figure out what program fits with it. Having the greatest stats in the world with no change management will fail as surely as change management and no stats. There have been successful six sigma deployments, successful lean deployments and successful lean six sigma deployments there isn’t any secret sauce or guaranteed mixture of the tools that guarantees success and they will deploy separately.
    This isn’t new. Read the stuff from Deming on there isn’t a formula for instant pudding in “Quality, Productivity and the Competitive Position.” He was dealing with it 20-30 years ago and the lack of understanding and persistance and drive and being willing to pay the price for success are what makes the difference. If Jack Welch would have caved in to all his critics when he took over GE – would they be the powerhouse they are today? Probably not. You have to know that there was some feeling when he saw the term Neutron Jack but he had a vision of GE and he drove the vision and took accountability for the results. There have been countless conversations on deployments about failure for lack of accountability but when the discussion turn to GE they criticize the culture. What is the cornerstone of that culture – accountability.
    Just my opinion.
    Good luck

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    #128005

    Dog Sxxt
    Participant

    Culture (not the company culture) definitely playing a big part on what the best approach you shall adopt. For instance, Chinese and American think very differently for a same subject.
    Top menagement buy-in is an over blown issue. Sometimes people just make use of lack of management buy-in as a lame excuse for their own incompetent to manage projects or tasks.
    According to an article in Fortune I read several years back, 80% of CEO fails are due to poor execution on their strategies.
    I believe same factor and weight can be applied for six sigma or any other programs. Execution is a key to success or failure.

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    #128006

    Dog Sxxt
    Participant

    A typical academic talk. You can earn a PhD if you explore these ideas to 300-page length of thesis. 

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    #128007

    Dog Sxxt
    Participant

    If you are a hands-on implemetator, you shall aware that main resistance is from some hidden or underground leaders from all levels. You have to build up good relationship with these hidden leaders to gain their support.
    Top management support can only overcome a certain degree of under current resistance.  You have to be a good politician and diplomat on top of your technical skill. Lack of management support is not always a valid reason.

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    #128017

    Mike Carnell
    Participant

    Johnny,
    I meant to respond to your question on pilot programs earlier and forgot it.
    Doing a pilot is a pretty typical question. The danger in a pilot is the same issue you see with any other hypothesis test. How far can I extrapolate the result?
    The bigger issue is the message it sends the organization. If the Leadership Team does a pilot what is the answer to “do they believe the program (not just SS but any program) will work?” If they believe they are wasting resources and that SS can help reduce the leak why would they wait? If they aren’t sure there is a large group of people in any organization that won’t resist but they also will not support until management makes up their minds.
    Just my opinion.
    Good Luck

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    #128024

    Sandrine
    Member

    I’m  respecting  your  point  of  view.Allow  me  to  tell that  all  the  mentioned  points are  actual  and  practical,have  observed  them one  by  one  during  my  work first as Change  Management  Champion during the integration  and  merging of  a  big  industrial company and  later  as senior (quality  &  management) consultant for  more than 10  SMEs.I have  (case by  case) practical (field) examples  for  each  point.I’m  planning (may be  in  the  near  future) to  consolidate all  those (life)  cases in  a  book (with evaluation & focusing on the  lessons  learned).I will not ignore success  stories.Hope that you  would then suggest my  name  as  a  potential candidate for  the  PHD?
         Have  forgotten to  add the  following three important points:
    *Lack of appropriate AP with realistic  time-schedule
    *Lack  of Team Dynamics +mixing up of  roles
    *Lack of  appropriate training (on-job  training) + less practical case  studies .
      Thank You

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    #128031

    Sudhir Bhise
    Member

    from my angle six sigma fails because of lack of commitment from top management. secondly decisions based on fake data. it has been observed that people are reluctant to give the factual data. so solutions identified through this don’t give the desired results which loses confidence of top management on this methodology. its all because of poor implementation of six sigma methodology.

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    #128039

    Dog Sxxt
    Participant

    Sure, we used to award honorary Permanent Head Damage title to theorists who would suggest 100 maybe solutions for a problem.

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    #128040

    As they say …
    ‘the human brain is so rational, it can explain anything.’
    You know my view on this … methods should match the real world, not the other way around.
    Cheers,
    Andy

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    #128044

    Szentannai
    Member

    What’s the point in a reply like this ?
    Regards
    Sandor

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    #128045

    Dog Sxxt
    Participant

    Hi Andy, I treat you “teh tarik” when you are visting my old place.

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    #128047

    Khare
    Member

    Hi John,
    It never actually fails….it works all the time provided the senior management is willing to adopt the idea and also ready to action on the pointers……which as per my experience the management is most of the times reluctant about the same
     

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    #128048

    Johnny Martin
    Participant

    All,
    I asked a challenging question and as AB sid maybe not quite appropriate. However, you’ve all given me many personal thoughts and aired them in a very public way and for that I thank you.  You are all acting a great learning org way…keep up this good work.
    I’m now left to ponder what I’ve read from this great dialogue so far and summarise in a way I can present a very honest and somewhat opinion of what does cause failure.
    Not to confuse I’m going ask another question around the Plan, Do, Check, Act cycle and Six Sigma.   Not a versus question.
    Many many thanks
    J

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    #128050

    Szentannai
    Member

    Hi,
    one of the frequent reasons for failure that I saw was the micromanagement of the projects.
    For example some time ago a BB posted in this forum asking for help on a project that aimed at making phone usage more attractive for hotel guests. There was a lot of response, basically all along the lines that cell phones being cheaper no one will be stupid enough to use the hotel phone, the BB should look at Internet or something similar.
    His answer was that his manager did not allow him to look at other options except simple phone usage. I am pretty sure that the project failed, unless the poor guy developed a method of mind control :-))
    In general, if the project is not allowed to go where the data leads it, failure is almost inevitable IMHO. And it is sooo easy to blame the methodology or the culture afterwards.
    Regards
    Sandor

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    #128073

    Sandrine
    Member

    PDCA is  the  best  suggested  tool  for Lean & Hoshin
    DMAIC is  the  initial tool  for SS Implementation

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    #128076

    Sandrine
    Member

    I have  to  respect  your  point  of  view,regards

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    #128295

    Pablo Quintana
    Participant

    That was a good explanation Mike!I read once that leading change in the field is quite more complicated than it is a top management. Managers will buy in and “sympathize” with your idea, but the doers will feel threatened with change.You need to use politics and be respectful of what is in place, recognize that these people made their best efforts to get things where they are, and that your are an intruder rocking their stable world.That is something usually left out at Six Sigma trainings.My 2 cents.

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    #128907

    RDtheBB
    Participant

    Hey All,
    I think Mike hit it right on the head.  People do tend to use the excuse that Top Management was not behind the deployment so it failed.  I have been a BB for a little over 2 years and have found my most difficult task is getting that mid-level group of people to get on board.  Politics and hand holding are a major factor in trying to get people who work with the day to day doers of your process, convinced that you are only there to help. 
    Not sure who said it but senior management is usually on board otherwise SS would not have been put in place.  Those that report to the Senior Man. are not going to disagree that it is a good thing to them, but are much more resistant when it comes to actually helping you in getting the people in the process excited about change. 
    Without a desire by everyone to improve or to at least try…you are likely to not get the desired results.

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    #128910

    Mike Carnell
    Participant

    RDtheBB,
    I agree with you. The issue is rarely in the top structure and even their direct reports. It is the layers below where the real work lies.
    The direct reports are typically aligned because they are part of the decision to do it. Unfortunately the layers below are rarely part of that decision and most deployments move directly to training BB’s and that leaves the midlevel management alienated. The longer they are left out of the loop the more difficult it is to enroll them in the process.
    Just my opinion.
    Regards

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    #128912

    Mike Carnell
    Participant

    Pablo Quintana,
    Thanks. Sorry I lost track of the string.
    For some reason politics has a bad connotation but if you read some of the stuff by Peter Drucker it is how things happen and it isn’t going to change much. It does take a certain amount of politicing to get people enrolled. We have a client who uses a company called Landmark (http://www.lebd.com) that runs in parallel to our deployment that focuses on transforming the company culture at the same time we are working projects. The two seem to compliment each other pretty well.
    They build a value system around how people deal with each other and speaking the truth (truth not necessarily being what you want). It makes it much easier to determine who you can and cannot rely on. That in itsself saves time and effort.
    Just my opinion.
    Regards

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    #128950

    thevillageidiot
    Member

    All good advice…the point I would add is how you manage the implentation….the question is not if you are going to get pushback, but when and to what degree…just like any other risk assessment, you need to address that and be prepared to take action.  Do not expect full cooperation…it will not be there…push through it using the tools at your disposal to mitigate where you can….aligning incentives and evaluations to project submission, selection, execution and implementation ain’t a bad place to start…managing through the wallet and/or the ego is usually effective….Good luck.

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    #128963

    CHITNIS
    Participant

    It fails if
    1.CEO is not committed for Six Sigma
    2.Measurement Culture (incubation period of big event) is not inculcated paitaintly before launching Six Sigma
    3.Mindset of stakeholders not changed.(Show pilot success with high impact projects through this approach, get their buy-in.Talking will not help!Results will!!)
    4.Business Performance Metrics of Process Owners is not linked with KRA (Don’t say two six sigma projects are to be completed by a manager, rather say ‘Improve Productivity by x%, reduce defect by y% by this time)
    5.Tollgates reviews (Review Committee) and progress reporting are not done on timely basis.
    6.Deployment is too fast

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    #128989

    quality1
    Participant

    If some succeds with SS, and some fail, the problem is not the tool, is the method you use it.
    Related article:
    http://www.qualitymag.com/CDA/ArticleInformation/features/BNP__Features__Item/0,6425,141655,00.html
    Gyorgy

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