The Six Sigma Primer

Communications consultant Stephen Manallack* looks at the technique and philosophy of the Six Sigma process to build a customer focused culture…

Stephen ManallackSince the first step of Six Sigma is to identify what is value for customers, implementing it should take emotion and guesswork out of your decision making.

This view is reflected by Glenn Abercrombie, an Australian who has become a Six Sigma leader at global financial services giant, AXA. "By eliminating all the emotive statements people tend to attach to problems, you can create a statistical solution and turn that into a practical reality," he says.

Abercrombie is a "master black belt" and his aim is to do himself out of a job; his view is that your Six Sigma specialist should identify the problem, design and implement a solution and then get out.

How do you implement Six Sigma?
Step one is getting the Six Sigma expertise right at the top of the enterprise, and you will need access to pretty substantial budgets to follow this process. For example, it seems that everywhere the Six Sigma process really begins with the hiring of consultants. Either that, or a combination of consultants and training of your senior people, but both ways involve high costs, at least initially.

The most famous advocate of this approach is Jack Welch, The legendary former CEO of GE. The first step at GE was to train executives to "master black belt" stage. In the second year, GE trained lots of "green belts" people at the workplace level who carried process change through. Interestingly, GE proved that Six Sigma was not just for manufacturing, also applying it with success to GE Capital.