Business Processes: The Reality - Six Sigma

Although Deming’s model is intuitively logical it can be seen that in many organisations the reality is that there exist ‘functional silos’ within the process. This is due to different departments or groups of experts ‘owning’ parts of the process and often having measures which conflict with each other.

The Reality of Responsibility & Measurement in a Process (Adapted from Deming 1990)

Figure shows schematically how this might look. The typical ‘owner’ departments are shown in each colored segment and indications of key measurements that might be applied are shown in bold. It is interesting to note that the interfaces on this diagram require careful management if conflict is to be avoided. This, in effect, is where the continuous process model is most likely to break down with sub - process optimisation and local goals taking precedence over the broader picture. This picture is why the cry “I can’t believe they work for the same company as me!” is so common, everyone is being driven by different goals so that the commonality of purpose one might reasonably expect breaks down.

Until departments can look beyond their own boundaries conflict will always exist. It can be argued that this integrating function is, perhaps the key function of management. Developing the vision and buy - in required to make this a reality can be supported by the application of Hoshin Kanri planning systems and Six Sigma projects which focus on horizontal processes rather than vertical functional silos (figure ).

Business process versus functional organization focus for Six Sigma projects

In process terms it is important to understand the linkages between the purpose of the process (effectively customer requirements) and the key elements of the process which deliver the purpose. In Six Sigma terms we talk of the Critical Y’s and Critical X’s.


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