Exploding Six Sigma Myths
Six Sigma doesn’t improve the customer experience. It may seem that Six Sigma turns the focus away from the customer because it is driven by data. In so many companies, quality improvement is driven by the latest customer complaint, or some manager’s latest issue. This may seem like you are being responsive to the customers, but such an ad hoc and scatter-shot approach is inefficient and ultimately doomed to failure. The question you need to ask is what data is presented to the organization in order to select improvement projects? Without the right data, how can you succeed? Unless the approach is systematic and the solution driven by measurement and analysis, there is little hope for lasting quality improvement.
Six Sigma is oriented toward the solution of problems at their root cause and the prevention of their recurrence, as opposed to attempting to control potential causes of failure on a project-by-project basis. Six Sigma inspired process redesign will change the way a company thinks about how they do their work and deliver their services. So many companies are focused on short-term financial goals. The “show me the money” attitudes of shareholders and the stock market shift focus away from the customer. Six Sigma, on the other hand, is clearly focused on the customer. It accomplishes this because it centers its attention on the end results and long-term cultural change.
Six Sigma is not just about number crunching and finances. All of the numbers are just data used to reach the real goal of Six Sigma: helping increase quality and service for the customer. Companies need to figure out what their customers want and need. One thing any customer of any business in any industry wants is a better experience. Quality and efficiency don’t only help the financial bottom line, they help the customer experience.
Companies need to remember that their first and final allegiance should be to the customer. By embracing Six Sigma, a company can achieve greater quality and efficiency in the flow of information and interaction between people, especially interactions with customers. Transforming the process of these flows will yield quality results for the customer experience.
Six Sigma is just another fad. There have been so many quality improvement fads over the years. It is not surprising that people are now a little jaded. The weakness of many of these fads is that they have the superficial appearance that something profound is happening, yet the substance is not there. A whole bunch of numbers and graphs on spreadsheets are not enough to bring about substantial and lasting quality improvement in an organization. The fads sell themselves as cheap and easy quick fixes. The reality is that there are no quick fixes to significant process improvement. Six Sigma understands that.
Six Sigma is neither a fad nor a quick fix. The data and descriptive statistics that Six Sigma mines out of a project are real data and meaningful data. You use data to create actionable goals, analyze and determine the root cause(s) of defects, and then measure the results to shows how those goals were achieved. The data determines the causes of the problems that need improvement and how to eliminate the gap between existing performance and the desired level of performance. Tools are put in place to ensure that the key variables remain within the acceptable ranges over time so that process improvement gains are maintained. The changes brought about through Six Sigma are real, significant, and long-lasting.
Also, Six Sigma is not a simple 1-2-3-you’re done process. It is a “way of life.” It is a multi-level, cyclical movement toward continual process improvement. Six Sigma is a time-consuming and high-energy process. Companies develop a long-term plan that outlines the move from current performance levels to Six Sigma performance levels, with tangible, short-term goals in between.
Successful Six Sigma programs are built on a solid organizational foundation. The organizational structure and system needs to be clearly identified and communicated to the entire organization to successfully implement Six Sigma Quality. Becoming a Six Sigma organization doesn’t just happen. Planning and training goes into setting up a successful Six Sigma organization. Employee roles and responsibilities must be established and clearly communicated to all.
The more Six Sigma projects your company completes, the more involved you become with more mature and meaningful projects than when you began. Six Sigma becomes part of the core of your business. It isn’t a quick knock-off program; it keeps growing and changing as your business needs grow and evolve. The other fads didn’t last at your organization, but Six Sigma will.