Six Sigma is Strategic - Six Sigma

Historically, initiatives centred on quality have frequently been undertaken at a tactical level, focused on projects or cost reduction. Eckes (2001), amongst others makes the point that Six Sigma activities must be supported by processes and structures to ensure they move business objectives forward. Knowles et al (2005) suggest that the DMAIC cycle should be replaced by two linked cycles, one setting strategic objectives, from which project definitions are developed and followed through with the outcomes feeding back into the strategic cycle to understand the contribution made to strategic objectives and what that means at a strategic level.

The Supply Chain Conceptual Improvement Model (Adapted from Knowles et al, 2005)

Although senior management may profess their interest and support the practical evidence suggests that most quality related activities were delegated downwards to quality managers and that, despite the evidence of benefit, they were never seen as central. Six Sigma has moved the focus back to quality as a strategic initiative, perhaps most famously in the person of Jack Welch who not only declared that Six Sigma was central to the way the expected GE to do business and based 40% of senior management bonuses on achievement of Six Sigma targets but also required that (as the did) senior management (Henderson and Evans, 2000):

  • Personally spend time in each Six Sigma training wave talking to candidates and answering their questions.
  • Drop in on Six Sigma reviews (held weekly and monthly).
  • Make site visits to observe first - hand the integration of Six Sigma into business culture and operations.
  • Monitor progress through weekly summary reports and monthly reviews with the Master Black Belt team.

By talking in the language of senior management (money) and by requiring hands-on commitment and direct involvement Six Sigma creates a much stronger cultural impact.


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