The Low Rates of “True” Six Sigma Implementation

When it comes to Six Sigma, talk is cheap, according to the Aberdeen Group. In other words, lots of companies claim to be doing Six Sigma, but few really are.

            I previously wrote about Aberdeen’s reports on Low Rates of Lean Implementation and on Lean Supply Chain. Their latest report, called The Lean Six Sigma Benchmark Report, is based on a study of 418 companies.

            Aberdeen states that, while more than half of respondents in this and other surveys said they had implemented Six Sigma programs, “we found less than 16 percent of “Six Sigma” companies and less than 8 percent of all respondents are holding true” to a genuine Six Sigma program.

            The consulting firm defines a “true” Six Sigma company as one that:

  • Must have a formal Six Sigma program
  • Must have adopted DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) methodology
  • Must require black belts to produce results for certification. Simply demonstrating a body of knowledge was not sufficient without having completed business impact projects that generated real savings to the company (specifically, two projects, or one with a total impact of at least $500,000).
  • Must require business impact projects to be formally validated by finance

            Aberdeen further says industry “is missing out on billions of dollars in potential savings, sales and profits each year through ineffective application of Six Sigma tools and methodologies.”

            On average, the study said, the companies with “true” Six Sigma programs produced 40 percent more savings than those without such programs.

            Resistance to change (and failure to overcome it through proper training) are on the list of factors undermining Six Sigma programs. Other factors mentioned include using the wrong metrics (or not enough of the right ones) and not using technology effectively to gather and track the data needed for Six Sigma analysis.

            But when you boil it all down, it amounts to this: Continuous improvement, whether lean of Six Sigma, isn’t easy. It takes dedication, structure, constant monitoring and measurement, and champions at high levels. Improvement is not for wimps.

            Does your company have what it takes?