July 18, 2024
Six Sigma And Beyond

“Six Sigma has galvanized our company with an intensity the likes of which I have never seen in my 40 years at GE.” Jack Welch admitted this in the year 2000 annual report of GE. As one goes by various comments, it becomes clearer that Six Sigma is not just a fad created by top management but an effective tool to fix gaps in performance which play a role in making improvements to the bottom line and customer satisfaction.

But is it enough for companies to have the ‘gaps’ closed just once? Does it ensure that ‘normalcy’ will not return to the daily scheme of things? Does Six Sigma need to be continued in order that the momentum gained is never lost? What would be the financial impact of continuing Six Sigma beyond complete implementation?

The Robust Nature of Six Sigma

Six Sigma’s intrinsic strength lies in its structured questioning ability which, when rationally executed, bring forth the inherent shortcomings in any process. The implementation methodology allows for comparing the prevailing procedure against what is defined to being the most suitable one at reducing error-producing subroutines. For example, removing errors from the preparation stage will have a positive impact on subsequent processes.

At certain levels, this is called as Customer Value Creation (CVC). CVC is a two stage method which comprises Customer Value Analysis and Operational Excellence or OE. Both of these are driven by a thorough understanding of customer values and the excellence in operation needed to achieve that. OE, as such, is a thorough fact based and analytical approach to removing bottlenecks.

Looking Beyond Six Sigma

Preparing the mindset for looking beyond Six Sigma requires a continuum plan for the road ahead. It is said that Six Sigma brings the objectives of companies to a winning stage; it is sustained for the future when a quality approach is adopted as a culture by the entire organization. Having set the stage, preparing for growth thereafter requires an ‘outside in’ approach and a retrospective view.

The “outside in” approach: The “outside in” approach begins with looking inside from the perspective of the customers. This is different from that of a mere marketing slogan. With a strong footing in science, taking into account behavioral economics across customer demographics, it covers the infrastructure support, after-sales service and supply chain management. In a way, the “outside in” approach paves the way for operational excellence (OE).

Operational Excellence is said to be focused on execution. If the “outside in” perspective works toward dispelling myths and wrongly conceived notions about customer needs, OE on the other hand, by using powerful analytical and measuring tools, prepares the ground for returning what the customer data revealed.

For looking beyond Six Sigma, a long-term vision is expressed and it can be summarized as a ‘growth cube’. The vision seeks to place the customer on top on a continuous basis. It comprises and emphasizes customer profitability and customer share with the number of customers. The growth cube is framed with a view to long lasting growth in terms of the three components instead of growth volumes.