Six Sigma–How to Organize the Breakthrough Strategy

In the ninth 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 finally get around to telling us how to implement the strategy, after spending the earlier chapters describing what Six Sigma is and what the Breakthrough Management Strategy consists of.

In the last posts, I have summarized what choices the authors have given on how to focus the implementation (they prefer a focus on processes) and what strategic goal to use (they prefer an emphasis on design processes which correlate highly with customer satisfaction).

The next question is:  how will a company organize the people working on Six Sigma projects.   Of course, a lot of the answer to this question will depend on the focus and strategic goal (which were covered in the last two posts).   Before launching the Six Sigma Breakthrough Strategy, here are the three largest groups of questions to be considered, based on the question words “who”, “what”, and “how”.


  1. Who will oversee the selection of Black Belts (those who run the Six Sigma projects)?   What selection criteria will be used, and once they are selected, what will the company do to retain them in terms of pay, recognition, and other rewards?
  2. Who in the company will sign off on (or sponsor) the projects?   This person will have to know what the guidelines will be to decide how each project is judged to be successful or not based on the strategic goals of the company?
  3. Who will be the ultimate champion of the Breakthrough Strategy itself?    This person will have to get the concurrence of senior management regarding what the focus and strategic goal of the Breakthrough Strategy will be.


  1. What will be the project selection process?
  2. What will be the quality metrics used as a standard across the country?
  3. What will be the savings tracking process used, and what categories of savings will be used in that process?


  1. How will the budget for the strategy be handled, including the question of whether salaries for Black Belts will be categorized as direct or indirect costs?    Direct costs are costs that are billed to a specific Six Sigma project, indirect costs are not billed to a specific project, but to the Six Sigma Breakthrough Strategy as a whole.
  2. How will the Six Sigma Breakthrough Strategy be aligned with other quality initiatives and systems, such as just-in-time inventory planning (JIT)?
  3. How will the company train its Master Black Belts, the people that will train the Black Belts (those who run the projects) and Green Belts (those who are on project teams)?

All of this has to go into the initiating process for implementing the Six Sigma Breakthrough Project, and should be done when creating the Program Charter for implementing it.

In the next post, we discuss the various roles and responsibilities for those implementing the strategy, from the “general”(Senior Champion) to the “ground troops” (Green Belts, Yellow Belts).


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