Organizational Culture: a Six Sigma success driver

Posted: December 16, 2010 in Six Sigma
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Joyce Wycoff in his book “Transformation Thinking” says:

‘When an organization commits to creating an environment which stimulates the growth of everyone in the organization, amazing things start to happen: ideas pop up everywhere, people start to work together instead of “playing politics”; new opportunities appear; customers begin to notice service and attitude improvements; collections of individuals begin to coalesce into teams’.

It is a prevalent practice in organizations that start Six Sigma initiatives to employ specialist Black Belts (BB) and Green Belts (GB) to manage the improvement process of the organization’s operations. While it is a good practice to adopt, it is not the most efficient and effective. Outside BB and GB individuals are expensive and will yield shorter-term benefits than if Six Sigma culture is instilled in the workforce itself responsible for the process under improvement.

The optimum approach to nurture Six Sigma in an organization is to consider all employees as potential Green Belts then select few to receive advanced training and become Black Belts. Most of employees are capable to be Green Belts. The goal should be to train them in three main areas: problem-solving techniques, continuous improvement models, and interpersonal and team building skills. Black Belts then can be selected and trained on further advanced statistical tools and techniques with more emphasis on team building, conflict resolution, coaching and mentoring skills so that they can guide the rest of employees to achieve their optimum performance.

Motorola proved this concept when it discovered that most of cost savings, process improvement, and higher customer satisfaction came from the direct labor working on the process. Those people are the best to know the process and its areas to improve. They know what impedes achieving excellence, and only by training them on problem-solving and improvement techniques they excel in achieving breakthrough yields and highly capable processes.

Employee involvement is essential in any successful Six Sigma project. Sense of responsibility and accountability by an employee is magnified when he/she is involved in defining the problem, measuring the process, analyzing root causes, and contributing to the selection of best solution to implement. By this the organization will get the one-million-dollar worth jewel of ‘employee Buy-In’.

As Alan Larson mentions in his book ‘Demystifying Six Sigma’, “something magical happens when employees become more experienced and effective with Six Sigma tools and the results come rolling in…you can feel human energy, like static electricity, in the air”.

By infusing six sigma skills throughout the entire organization you will develop a continuous improvement culture in which all employees are involved towards achieving customer satisfaction within the frame of collaborative focus led by the organization executives; this is the concept behind Total Quality Management (TQM). So, if you are thinking to improve your organizational performance, and I am sure everybody is, start by thinking out your strategy to instill the culture of continuous improvement among employees by training and by allowing those savior specialists to emerge from your company instead of paying thousands to acquire external professionals who are ‘foreigners’ to your processes and to your workforce which in turn may reduce the likelihood of your projects’ success. At the end of the day you are optimizing performance on employee as well as process levels and you increase the morale amongst your people.

NB Idea of this blog was inspired by Alan Larson book “Demystifying Six Sigma, A Company-Wide Approach to Continuous Improvement”

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