Implementation Challenges of Lean Six Sigma

By Dr Maruti Prabhakar, Ph.D, CFE, ITIL, CSS MBB

The Concept of Six Sigma begins with a process model and its implementation is called Business process Management (BPM) and the process of Six Sigma began at Motorola in the 1980’s. Six Sigma is the letter in the Greek alphabet σ used to denote Standard deviation, a statistical measurement of variation. Standard deviation can be thought of as a comparison between expected results or outcomes in a group of operations versus those that fail. With Six Sigma Standard deviation we arrive at 3.4 defects per million opportunities or 99.9997 percent this would mean that at six sigma, an airline would only loose three pieces of luggage for every one million that it handles. Six Sigma implementation requires usage of Statistical Software, data collected from the site, cooperation of the employees working in the respective organization. The three primary elements of Six Sigma are Customers, Processes & Employees.

There are several roadblocks if you try to implement Six Sigma in a respective organization there will be resistance stating that Six Sigma is too Statistical, non-cooperation from employees as they don’t want to come out from the comfort zone of their work and are afraid whether their performance will be measured during the rigorous process of implementing the Six Sigma Framework –DMAIC (Define-Measure-Analyse-Improve-Control)  because Lean Six Sigma is all about reducing the waste, redundant processes and variation in the process ,so people from all the departments like Production, Finance, Planning have to cooperate in improving the process which they are likely to resist as the people in the organization feel that they might lose their job during the implementation activity. Typically in an Organization the percentages of people having neutral attitude towards the implementation of Six Sigma will be 70% and 15% will be resistant towards the Six Sigma initiative the rest 15% will be supportive for the Six Sigma implementation initiative.

There are some areas where the Six Sigma Consultant finds it difficult to do the formulation of problem statement. Resistance to implement the concepts, in all levels of management, leading to political intelligence coming into play and finding and freezing the right team members for implementing and spearheading the projects selected.

Resistance from the employees or employers will be also like they disagree with benefits and return of investment on a Six Sigma Project, criticizing the statistical tools stating that that they are cumbersome to learn and whether the employees are trainable on these tools, sometimes the employees will delay the implementation to show that Six Sigma is just a fad and there are no benefits by implementing it.

There is also a misunderstanding that Six Sigma is meant for large Manufacturing Companies and not small and Medium Companies so employers of small and medium companies resist to the implementation of Six Sigma.

There can be resistance if the management is not qualified to understand the various business intricacies of their company.

Stakeholders (People who are investing money in the Six Sigma Project) can also resist the change stating that Six Sigma is very Complex and whether the Company has the resources to understand the DMAIC Framework.

Other kind of resistance will be from the workers in the factory because they don’t understand the value of implementing Six Sigma and don’t want interference in their day to day work.

The degree of resistance to implement Six Sigma can vary from organization to organization depending on the environment, domain of the organization and people working there.

How to overcome the challenges in implementing Six Sigma:-

These are some strategies as listed below to overcome the challenges while implementing Six Sigma which are as listed below:

1. Convince the Management of the Return of Investment based on Operation Costs and Productivity efficiency also demonstrate the Software Minitab and explain its Simplicity by displaying various graphs in the Software so that they don’t avoid statistics.

2. Convince the employees that nobody will be out of job but their participation will incur rewards in the form of financial bonus from the top management

3. Select the best, qualified team in the organization and mentor them and train, certify them to be black belts or green belts.

4. Form a very good Standard Operating Procedure for imparting training to the employees and prepare training manuals which are easily understood by the staff with day to day life examples.

5. As per the respective organizational process assets the Six Sigma Consultant has to bring a cultural and smooth transition in the organization by getting the buy in from the top management and further convincing the staff about the importance of change management for the better and future prospects and not short term benefits.

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