- What makes Six Sigma work?
- What are the factors contributing
to its successes at big corporations?
- How can it be implemented to
secure the bottom-line results that Six Sigma promises?
These are the most frequent questions being asked by the potential Six Sigma
followers. But, there is no easy answer to each one of them. Simply because
driving a business toward Six Sigma is not a one-time effort; it is about
producing products and services that continue to meet customer and market
requirements. This requires organizational agility and constant vigilance to
changes in the marketplace. Thus, the real challenge with Six Sigma is getting
to the point where one can meaningfully measure a business' current performance
against dynamic customer requirements while developing the internal
organizational abilities to response to changing marketplace conditions. Doing
this well means aligning organizational components inside the company
(leadership, strategy, people, and technology) to give Six Sigma efforts the
momentum and staying power they need to succeed.
Most recently, one of PQA's Associates, Dr. John McLellan has done his
doctorate thesis on the Six Sigma success factors and their integration into the
Management Control structure for the organization. For more information on
this Six Sigma Doctoral thesis, or to obtain a copy,
PQA has also written a PQA Whitepaper on management
commitment for Six Sigma, and the typical and PQA recommended method of Six
There is limited literature to reveal the success factors for Six Sigma
implementation. However, one doctoral candidate, Tsung-Ling Chang, performed a
research survey which identifies ten Critical Success Factors for implementing a
Six Sigma quality system. Based on Chang’s research findings, Process Quality
Associates has developed a Six Sigma implementation framework.
Following is a summary of Chang’s research survey:
General Respondents Information
The samples were mainly selected from two groups of Six Sigma
professionals: the members of the International Society of Six Sigma
Professionals and the trainees of a Six Sigma consulting firm. A total of 345
questionnaires were originally e-mailed with 21 being returned for e-mail
address discrepancies. The resulting sample size was 324. There were 106
In addition, 25 of the respondent companies (24%) had implemented all 10
initiatives listed and 74% of them had implemented over 6 of the 10 initiatives
listed. It indicates that their Six Sigma Quality Management Systems (QMS) are
quite advanced and mature. It also implies that companies, which adopted Six
Sigma programs required a much higher maturity of their quality management
systems. However, it is unusual to find that only 69.2% of the companies were
IS09000 certified and about 20.6% of them did not have any industry
certification. In general, about 95.2% of them indicated that the
implementation of quality initiatives had a positive impact on company business
Research Survey Results
The respondents were asked to indicate their level of agreement with 53
statements about their Six Sigma QMS on a scale of “1: strongly disagree” to
“7: strongly agree”.
After the verification through the hypotheses examinations, the proposed 10
factors: strategic planning, competitive benchmarking, leadership, process
management, human resource development, education and training, quality tools,
information and analysis, supplier management, and customer management, have
been confirmed to be critical to the success of Six Sigma QMS.
Chang also asked the respondents to name the factors they considered to be
the five (5) most critical ones for implementing a Six Sigma QMS.
A summary of the mean value of responses for each critical success factor,
and the Top 5 rankings, are presented in Table 10.1.
10.1 : Critical Success factors for a Six Sigma QMS
|Critical Success Factor (CSF)
||% of SMEs Placing CSF
in TOP 5 (Rank in Brackets)
|1. Top management leadership & commitment are
essential to Six Sigma QMS success. Top management should act as key driver
in continuous improvements, communicate to employees about organizational
goals, and establish an environment for supporting organizational & employee
|2. A well-implemented customer management system is
critical to Six Sigma QMS success. Processes need to be established in order
to monitor customer satisfaction levels, to receive customer feedback, and
to resolve customer concerns.
|3. The education and training system should provide
continuous courses to employees for equipping them with quality-related
knowledge and problem-solving skills.
|4. A well-organized information and analysis system
should be designed to collect the performance measures in order to monitor
the quality of key business processes.
|5. A well-implemented process management system that
identifies, improves, and monitors the key business processes has a positive
impact on Six Sigma QMS success. The quality assurance system, work unit
performance measures, and statistical techniques are essential to process
|6. A well-developed strategic planning system must
translate into executable action plans with related performance
measurements. The necessary human & financial resources must be allocated to
support the implementation of business action plans.
|7. A well-developed supplier management system,
where the main criteria for selecting suppliers is based on quality aspects,
has a positive impact on Six Sigma QMS success. Processes need to be built
in order to monitor the quality performance levels of suppliers.
|8. Throughout the organization, from management to
employees, equipping all with quality tools has a positive impact on
Six Sigma QMS success. Quality tools should be used in production and
|9. A well-developed human resource management system
has a positive impact on Six Sigma QMS success. A job advancement system is
important to human resource development. Various methods are developed to
facilitate the communication between the organization and its employees. To
promptly improve performance, employees need to receive their performance
feedback from their supervisors.
|10. A well-developed competitive benchmarking system
should be capable of collecting market and competitors’ information. The
process of benchmarking information collection needs to be evaluated to
ensure its effectiveness.