It is not easy to implant the concept of Six Sigma into the culture of a company. This is because Six Sigma hardly bears any comparison with other quality management tools, barring a few similarities with Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award. But unlike the Baldridge Award, Six Sigma gets to the core of the business sphere with proven tools. But what really stands out as the major difference between Six Sigma and all other quality management tools is the whole army of highly trained employees coming from various professional and organizational backgrounds, not just from the quality assurance specialization. This is why they are called internal change agents.
It is irrelevant to say whether Six Sigma evolved as an alternative to other quality tools or management tools. However, some similarities can be seen between Six Sigma and other similar programs. Certain tools and concepts of continuity in improvement are shared across all quality programs. But it is the set of differences that make the Six Sigma environment a unique one.
Six Sigma Environment
At the core, the concepts of Six Sigma gels completely with the fundamentals of doing business. This is underlined in the basic emphasis that is given to total customer satisfaction, taking profitability to different sphere through maximization techniques. To quote an expert, “Six Sigma speaks the language of business”.
The success of Six Sigma depends a lot on the environment in which it is being implemented. The conduciveness of the environment for Six Sigma implementation is brought about when the vision of upper management is shared by everyone in an organization. This becomes clearer when seen against the backdrop of huge number of personnel working for it. It could be different in an ISO 9000 environment as the onus of implementation is relegated to the quality assurance department. Satisfied customers, a more realistic workload for employees, an improved work culture and finally a rising bottom line and profitability for the owners, are all contributors to the success of Six Sigma.
Linking Six Sigma to Financial Gains
Next, Six Sigma does not just focus on manufacturing or production-related activities alone, but the entire gamut of doing business. Cross-functional implementation coupled with recognizing opportunities for improvements in all key areas of business can be neglected but at the cost of relegating Six Sigma to the status of other traditional quality programs. The finance and planning departments are also included in Six Sigma implementation.
The powerful tools available with Six Sigma help to improve functioning of key departments. For example, marketing and sales can collect customer input. Feedback in the form of customer satisfaction levels can help the finance department adjust the accounting method to focus on predominantly costs and benefits. Human Resource can concentrate on rewards and recognition based on universal criteria, tracking employee satisfaction etc.
Business becomes “as usual” with Six Sigma once the project selection does not remain the sole jurisdiction of the quality team. When individual department heads begin to own responsibilities for business goals, the environment can be said to have arrived where it was expected. It is “business as usual” from here onwards within the Six Sigma environment.