Levels of Six Sigma strategy deployment: part 2

Posted on June 15, 2012 by


In my previous post I suggested that almost every organisation can be broken down into three basic levels. The highest level is the business level — the umbrella level that encompasses everything related to the company. The next level is the operations level, while the lowest level is the process level.

In this post I’ll be focusing on the operations level:

Operations Level: The strategy helps expose “operational issues” for what they are: a collection of higher-level problems that become confounded. The Strategy helps break apart the “issue” into its components, allowing you to define problems, formulate plans and take positive actions. The Project Champion’s role in this effort is as follows:

  • Recognize operational issues that link to key business systems. Often, the tactical solution to an operational issue is masked by the underlying support system. For example, imagine a company’s quality information system (QIS) which provides statistical data on product defects. The problem is that the defects are not identified until after the fact. Thus, while specific problems can be fixed, defects continue to appear sporadically over time. The company will not be able to improve its quality until it has identified the systemic problem: a QIS that delivers a posteriori data. Once it recognizes that the issue is system-dependent, it can find a solution (for example, an in process quality measurement system).
  • Define Six Sigma projects to resolve operational issues. Choose projects carefully. Six Sigma projects are usually identified and selected based on whether the project will save costs, is connected to operational issues with larger critical-to-quality (CTQ) issues, is connected to the operation of a business support system, and can proceed in a time-efficient manner.
  • Measure performance of Six Sigma projects. Quantitatively gauge how well projects progress, in both an absolute and a relative sense, collecting and analyzing data at the appropriate business levels.
  • Analyze project performance in relation to operational goals. Compare the performance of a number of Black Belt projects with the operational goals of your business, and investigate the relationship between cycle time and quality.
  • Improve the Six Sigma project management system. Say, for example, that a business is tracking the savings generated by a project. At this point, it might start comparing projected and actual project costs. Or it might want to track other variables, such as net savings or project completion time.
    Control inputs to the project management system. Institute regular audits of the project management system, ensuring standards are established and consistently met.
  • Standardize best-in-class management system practices. Once you have uncovered a best-in-class management practice, make it a standard and transfer that standard to all relevant sectors in the business.
  • Integrate standardized Six Sigma practices into policies and procedures. Institutionalize your Six Sigma practice into the fabric of day-to-day operations, interweaving the practice into operating policies and procedures and reinforcing them through rewards and recognition.

This free download also argues that Middle Management have a strong role to play too:

How have you implemented continuous improvement at an Operational level? Leave a comment below: