Six Sigma–Five Ways to Prioritize Projects


In the last post, I described how the authors Mikel Harry, Ph.D., and Richard Schroeder of the book Six Sigma:  The Breakthrough Strategy Revolutionizing the World’s Top Corporations choose describe four ways to focus an organization’s Six Sigma projects:

  1. Focus on project cost savings
  2. Focus on deliverables
  3. Focus on processes
  4. Focus on problems

Of these four, the authors clearly prefer focus #3 rather than #1, #2, or even #4.

But once you have chosen your focus, there are five ways to prioritize the possible Six Sigma projects your organization has decided to focus on.   That is the subject of this post.

  1. Focus on geographical location–this will depend on the number of employees or facilities within a specific site or division, the point being that you want to focus on a set of operations that can support a Six Sigma initiative, and you also want to focus on an area that will be able to replicate successful results in other parts of the corporation.
  2. Focus on design–you need to characterize processes in the Measure and Analyze phases, and then optimize them in the Improve and Control phases.  If you want to redesign a product to go beyond the Five Sigma wall, then focusing on the design phase of the product will be the best focus for your organization.
  3. Focus on internal processes–if a company feels that its managerial processes are in need of improvement before its operational processes, then a company may choose to focus here.
  4. Focus on supplier processes–once a company has improved its own processes, then a company may choose to focus on its supplier chain and making sure they launch their own Six Sigma initiatives.
  5. Focus on customers–this is an excellent place for a company to start focusing on that makes products for customers.  Translating customer satisfaction studies into critical-to-quality characteristics of one’s products, and then focusing on Six Sigma initiatives that improve those characteristics, is a surefire way to produce positive bottom-line business results.

The first focus is the choice of the geographical location of the facilities within the company, the other choices for focus are where to start focusing within the organization of the company.   In my opinion the authors tend to prefer the focus on #5 (customers) and #2 (design), followed by #3 (internal) and #4 (supplier).

Now that the question of where to focus has been considered, the next question is “who will spearhead the effort?”  What personnel resources will a company commit to Six Sigma initiatives?   That is the subject of the next post…

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