Six Sigma–The 8 Stages of the Breakthrough Strategy at the Operational Level

In the seventh chapter of their book Six Sigma:  The Breakthrough Management Strategy Revolutionizing the World’s Top Corporations, the authors Mikel Harry, Ph.D., and Richard Schroeder get to the “meat” of the book by explaining what the Six Sigma Breakthrough Strategy consists of.   Before explaining the stages of the strategy, the authors related the three levels of the strategy:   the business level, the operations level, and the process level.   These three stages were covered in a previous post.   In this series of three posts, I go through the 8 Stages of the Breakthrough Strategy for each of the three stages.   Last post covered the Business Level, and this post covers the Operational Level.

1.  RECOGNIZE … operational issues that link to key business systems

An issue that comes up at the operational level needs to be broken down into its components, each of which can be deal with separately.    However, it is important to see how these components fit together, because that will give a clue into how they are all tied into key business systems.   You can have quality problem-solving tools that try to reduce defects after they have occurred, all measured through a quality information system or QIS at the end of the manufacturing line.   But a better approach is to install an in-process quality measurement system that connects to the end-of-line, so you are able to forecasting end-of-line defects before they occur.   This is the first step in preventing defects, rather than correcting them.

2.  DEFINE … Six Sigma projects to resolve operational issues

How does a company prioritize the operational issues to be resolved?   With these criteria:

a)  the extent of cost savings to be realized

b) the degree to which an operational issues is connected to larger critical-to-quality issues

c) the degree to which an operational issue is connected to the efficient and effective operation of a business support system, and

d) the expected length of time necessary to resolve a specific operational issue

3.  MEASURE … performance of the Six Sigma projects

Once the Six Sigma projects are chosen based on the criteria listed above in paragraph 2 (under DEFINE), the company’s progress metrics must be established, so that once the Six Sigma projects are initiated, data regarding their performance can be gathered.

4.  ANALYZE … project performance in relation to operational goals

Of course, monitoring the actual savings of a Black Belt Six Sigma project with its projected savings is important, but the performance of the  projects have to be measured against the larger operational goals of the business.

5.  IMPROVE … Six Sigma project management system

Once the operational issues recognized above are defined into Six Sigma projects, and these projects are then measured and analyzed, this tracking system needs to be improved and refined.   Maybe a business needs to track new variables (net savings, project scope, project completion time, etc.).   Maybe it has to track a different set of data.

6.  CONTROL … inputs to project management system

Once several iterations of improvement have gone forward, there should be a regular system audit to sustain the improvement.

7.  STANDARDIZE … best in-class management system practices

Once a Six Sigma project management system has achieved best-in-class status, the company should standardize it and replicate it throughout all relevant sectors within the business.   This is done by reward and recognition systems that give everyone incentives to keep up their “same old” ways of doing things to adopt the practices that have been proven to work.

8.  INTEGRATE … standardized Six Sigma practices into policies and procedures

Once the best-in-class management system practices have been standardized, then need to be integrated into operations of the business by creating policies and procedures that become the new fabric of operations for the business.



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