Sigma is a statistical measure of variability, typically in a given process. In manufacturing, for instance, it could be used to measure the number of sub standard products. In a service industry, it could quantify delays in delivery or other procedures.
Enterprise-wide Six Sigma
In a Six Sigma organization, you’ll find the Quality Department in Production. You’ll also find it in Sales and Marketing, Communications, IT, Finance, and HR. If the company has an e-Business division, you’ll find the quality department there, too.
At least that’s the theory that has developed based on major implementations of Six Sigma. Six Sigma is supposed to be a “whole company” initiative, a quality program to be deployed across the entire organization. As such, quality is integrated into all processes and departments, and quality professionals take on the roles of managers, rather than the sole practitioners, of quality. Six Sigma cannot be externally imposed on a department or process at some distinct, isolated time. Like any sound quality measure, it must become integral to processes. For optimal results marketers, designers, engineers and strategists must work together from product inception to completion.
Where do different departments fit in? How do their respective Six Sigma efforts mesh to achieve that “optimal” level of implementation?
Six Sigma Champions’ efforts to gain support and remove obstacles for Black Belts should involve early interaction with representatives from all departments, not just Quality. Coordinating the roles of the following departments, in particular, and ensuring their cooperation will help any deployment make a smooth start.
Six Sigma for Human Resources
During times of organizational change, Human Resources departments can exert significant influence. Not only should HR ensure that a Six Sigma effort will be well staffed, but HR also can assist with sustaining morale and company unity.
* Make certain Black Belts’ positions are full time and that their old duties have been reassigned
* Develop proactive retention and compensation plans for all Six Sigma experience levels
* Develop incentives for completing projects
* Assist with identifying candidates for future Black Belt and Green Belt training
* Actively recruit new Six Sigma talent
* Develop programs for celebrating Six Sigma success
Six Sigma for Internal Communications
While Communications will be active throughout implementation, its early role is especially crucial. Like HR, Communications can help other departments and individuals feel involved in a Six Sigma effort.
* Develop a strategy and format for Six Sigma communications among all departments regarding project status, expectations, progress, and gains
* Decide upon a timetable for releasing information
* Generate promotional material to gain and keep interest in Six Sigma
* Coordinate efforts with IT toward standardizing communications
Six Sigma for Finance and Accounting
Finance and Accounting have the power to translate important Six Sigma values into monetary values that top management will understand. Next to the Black Belt, they are the Champion’s strongest source of information for presentations and progress updates to upper management.
* Quantify the value of the program in terms that will appeal to the interests of top management, e.g., costs of poor quality and potential for gains from improvements
* Manage key business metrics
* Assist with connecting process metrics to customer requirements
* Determine a plan for representing actual gains clearly and convincingly
* Assist with budgeting plans for training and incentives
* Assist with the monitoring system used to sustain the gains
Six Sigma for Sales and Marketing
Sales and Marketing departments that operate according to conservative models will probably constitute the biggest challenges for Champions seeking enterprise wide support and involvement. Sales departments whose relationships with customers end at contract signing will need to revise their working procedures while still managing to represent Six Sigma positively in promotions.
* Refine understanding of customer requirements and assist with identification of critical to quality characteristics
* Focus marketing efforts on long term customer requirements
* Focus on building lasting relationships with customers and providing continued customer service
* Use marketing communications to highlight relevant results of Six Sigma improvements
* Promote the organization as a Six Sigma company and its products and/or services as Six Sigma offerings
Six Sigma for Information Technology
Highly specific, thoughtfully designed IT solutions can ease the challenges of achieving consistency and process control in a Six Sigma initiative. Information Technology departments should develop systems for organizing and presenting accurate Six Sigma information for the most widespread access possible.
* Create centralized relational databases for product and process development information, making all data available throughout the organization
* Create databases of company guidelines, restrictions, and policies for easy cross-matching of new processes or products
* Automate approval processes and staff notifications
* Make R&D and new product and process specification data available throughout the enterprise
* Develop systems for sharing information with customers and suppliers through the Internet
* Use enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems to capture, codify, and distribute information
Six Sigma for Production
Most Production departments have seen quality programs come and go. Chances are favorable that Production workers will anticipate changes in their work habits and procedures as a direct result of Six Sigma.
* Co-operate throughout the initiative with methods to reduce variation, defects, and cycle times and to control the gains
* Assist with mapping processes as they occur in reality, not on paper
* Assist with nominating future Green and Black Belt candidates
The key roles outlined here can form the basis for a thorough, comprehensive Six Sigma implementation. As implementation proceeds, these roles may expand, and other departments will become involved. Purchasing and Distribution, for instance, will figure prominently into projects regarding transactions with suppliers and customers once the implementation takes a more external focus. Engineering and R&D will take more active roles as the initiative moves beyond existing processes and into Design for Six Sigma.
At all times, all departments can increase their levels of involvement by identifying potential project opportunities and by identifying candidates for Green Belt and Black Belt six sigma training. In fact, departments will only feel real ownership for Six Sigma once they sponsor projects within their own work routines and processes. When individuals begin to enjoy the benefits of Six Sigma in terms of savings to departmental budgets, increased productivity, and improved quality in the work they produce, they are bound to find a stronger sense of dedication to the program.