Enacting the Transformation - Six Sigma

Create the Environment for Transformation

Communication of the vision is the first part of making it happen. It is important to ensure, as in the previous phase that the communication is not just one way, and that the way the strategy is deployed connects it to the local area and to what people are expected to do differently.

We need to engage a wide range of people actively in the transformation to be successful and to become active in any change people need 3 things: Will, Focus and Capability (Smith and Tosey, 1999). Traditionally, Six Sigma initiatives are good at the focus and, for Black and Green belts at least, the capability; but outside the belt community the will is often addressed only by haranguing with facts and data.

The Will - Focus - Capability model

For individuals to act they need the will, This will be bound up with their personal motivations, and the culture and politics of the organization. They also need the capability; This will mean they need to have the skills, techniques and experience that allow them to deliver change. But to make it an attractive proposition to act they must perceive that this is a priority for the organization; leaders and managers must encourage and create an environment where the desired behaviors are supported by systems and procedures as well as their own actions and statements.

Many organizations try to begin Six Sigma with a campaign to win hearts and minds and lots of training. However, if there is no immediate organizational focus on action once the training has been conducted they will lose momentum. If we stir up interest with a campaign and set up appropriate systems but fail to show people how they can make a difference then we have the kind of top - down initiative which does not work because most people don’t know what action to take. Finally, unless we address changing the culture and motivating individuals, process change and training will not make much difference; they could act, but the likelihood is they will not.

Remember Peters and Waterman’s (2004) ‘system without passion and passion without system; neither deliver success. For an effective transformation, the three elements need to be kept in balance throughout the process.

Develop Improvement Projects

In chapter we noted that under the Hoshin Kanri approach there are two types of improvement which might be required to achieve strategic goals, dependent on current performance, these are:

  • Breakthrough: where significant improvements are required.
  • Incremental: where continuous improvement will be suicient.

Six Sigma projects are, in general suitable for the former and some ‘beachhead’ projects should be quickly set up to help deliver early and significant benefits to generate momentum. However, if this is all you do then the rest of the organization will feel side - lined, or that the initiative is not going anywhere as it will practically be invisible to them. Also begin to encourage lower level actions in respect of continuous improvement with a limited Six Sigma toolset and volunteer teams working on continuous improvement of their processes.

Ensure resources are provided to support all improvement projects as an early failure will prove a large barrier to moving on with the deployment. The following is a sound process for this stage:

  • Set up initial projects: They must be clearly linked to business and customer priorities and to closing the gaps identified in the earlier analysis. Ensure that they are also in line with staff issues to further cement the idea that this is something that staff can own and influence.

  • Identify and Train staff: Avoid a sheep dip approach to training all staff, this is never effective and absorbs huge amounts of resource. Train those immediately involved in projects and those who might be affected by them to an appropriate degree. Train on a just-in-time basis so that skills are used very soon after they are trained.

  • Generate quick wins: Although projects may be systemic and long term in nature try to find quick highly visible improvements which can establish the potential and usefulness of the overall project. Publicise these quick wins.

Review, Measure and Evolve

Again, mindful of the principles of learning, measure the success of the process, look to build learning into individual projects as well as the wider initiative:

  • Review projects: Make sure that progress is reviewed regularly. Encourage reflection and self - assessment in the project teams and place emphasis on honest reporting rather than meeting goals. This is important at all times, but more so in the early phases when we are learning about the deployment and need to ensure the correct approach is being taken. Encourage ‘double loop’ learning where governing ideas as well as processes are challenged.

  • Measure results: Be honest about what results are being achieved, it is tempting to be over - optimistic to encourage acceptance, but people will soon learn the truth. Use the measures to learn; if we did not achieve what we expected to, why not, and how can we do better in the future? Never use measures to punish or reward as this will distort behaviors (see panel). Ensure measures of acceptance and feelings are recorded rather than just numerical results.

  • Celebrate success and learn from projects: On successful conclusion it is important to recognise the efforts of those involved and Publicise not only the benefits but also the things that have been learned.

  • Review the initiative and realign priorities: On project completion it is important to update the higher level and re - assess where priorities now lie for the next set of improvement activities. Making the connection between the tactical and strategic cycles. Build on what works and modify what doesn’t.

At this point it is entirely possible that it becomes apparent that Six Sigma does not really work for your organization. If this is the honest outcome (at whatever point in the deployment) it is a valid response to exit and try something else (Moosa and Sajid, 2010). Clearly tenacity is required for such a major transformation, but a head - in - the - sand approach helps no - one.


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