Six Sigma Success takes a Cultural Change

January 16th, 2018


As cited in my Six Sigma Overview session, Six Sigma is a business culture change. You can apply Six Sigma techniques to a single project and you might be successful, but to make a big impact on the bottom line of a company it needs to be a full fledged shift in the way an organization looks at solving issues and problems that keep it from meeting its major business goals and objectives. Using Six Sigma on one project does not make Six sigma successful in a company. Six sigma has to be infused into the company’s  everyday process and everyday thinking. Change is hard for people to deal with because they are afraid of the unknown. The actual change is situational or external: a new policy, a new job, a new supervisor. What we have real trouble with is the transition. The transition is psychological or internal. It is the process people go through to deal with the change. Many of the changes that affect us are events that we can’t control.  Our personal transition, however, is something we can control.

Six Sigma is a mind set. A way everyone in the company looks at solving issues. It is a mind set of expected questions to the way a solution was developed and implemented. It is a proven approach that when incorporated in the business culture will result in step function improvements to your business. Six Sigma is not talking about totally changing the way you run your business, but changing the way you solve issues and roadblocks that come up as you are trying to meet your top level goals and objective. A simple and straight forward definition of Six Sigma is:

Six Sigma  is  a 5 step process based on facts and data focused on your customer value to grow your business.

As  simple and straight forward that this definition is,  one of the hardest cultural changes in this definition is the “based on facts and data”. You think that would be easy, but when the boss says it’s so, it’s so! Or is it? With this new cultural change opinions have to be backed by facts and data. Why? Because what was true yesterday may not be true today. Everyone in the organization needs to understand this. People get very defensive about their opinions. That is because they are hired for their knowledge, skills, and experience. That said Six Sigma does NOT throw out anyone’s opinions but uses them as a starting point to solve the issue then moves on to collect data to verify or validate the opinion.

Often I have been given a project to form a team and solve an issue and in the Define step of DMAIC we find that what the boss thought was the issue or cause was not really it but another area was the cause. Everyone has to understand that we always back our statements with facts and data.

Another area that becomes a roadblock for making this a cultural change is not having projects aligned with the top level company goals and objectives. This is very important to keeping top management’s commitment to the projects. If you have people working issues that are not focused on these goals and objectives you will find that management will pull resources (people, equipment, money) from the project to help areas of a higher priority. Yes management may be reluctant at first to having Six Sigma projects working key issues but that is what it was designed for. Designed to work on key issues that the company has little or no idea how to solve. Designed to work those areas where people say it cannot be done. With challenging issues you need a process to identify the root cause through facts and data to find the best solution. Six Sigma has that process in DMAIC (D = Define, M = Measure, A = Analyze, I = Improve, C = Control).

Well there is a little insight into what is meant by a business cultural change and why it is hard to accomplish. As always, if you have questions or comments please feel free to contact me by leaving a comment below, emailing me, calling me, or leaving a comment on my website.

Bersbach Consulting
Peter Bersbach
Six Sigma Master Black Belt

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