Six Sigma as a Strategic Tool

As mentioned in the earlier articles, Six Sigma helps the organization develop at various levels viz. operational, tactical and strategic. While the operational and tactical goals of cost reduction and increased customer satisfaction are well understood and appreciated, the strategic intent behind Six Sigma is not well recognized. It is the pivotal factor, however in the success or failure of any Six Sigma initiative in the organization. Here is an explanation of the same:

Efficient Processes Have Become a Business Imperative

When Six Sigma was introduced by Motorola, it became a strategic advantage for them. Since, not many of their competitors had the efficiency of Six Sigma tools, they were leading these corporations and the marketplace. However, with the passage of time, every major corporation on the planet has developed a Six Sigma program. Efficiency is now the name of the game. Hence, from a strategic standpoint, there are now Six Sigma programs competing against other Six Sigma programs and the better ones win!

Isolated Efforts are Not as Effective as Co-ordinated Ones

Over the course of time, there have been numerous studies that have been conducted about the efficiency of these Six Sigma programs. It has been found out that companies that follow Six Sigma projects sporadically do not stand to gain as much from it as do companies that have a well co-ordinated effort. Today’s marketplace requires using Six Sigma processes to execute the companywide strategies.

Process Improvement Opportunities are Many and Varied

An organization that is truly dedicated to Six Sigma philosophy will find many and varied projects that can be executed. Even an already Six Sigma organization needs to be developed over time. This is because technological changes unleash better ways of doing work and the organization must continuously adapt.

Hence, the challenge lies in prioritizing between the different Six Sigma projects and executing the correct ones. Projects must be checked for strategic fit i.e. how do they help meet the long term goal of the organization in question.

Example: A company like Facebook that relies on intimate knowledge of its customers to place ads, must execute Six Sigma projects related to Customer Relationship Management (CRM) first and then if resources are left must consider alternative projects. Facebook would not want to be operationally efficient at the cost of being misdirected from its long term strategy.

Alignment between Strategy and Six Sigma Operations

It is for this reason that Six Sigma has been tied up with a process called Hoshin Kanri by the Japanese. Roughly translated into English, it means management of direction. Six Sigma efforts, therefore need to be well directed.

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