Since Jack Welch, the former CEO of GE, popularized Six Sigma in the late 1990s, the business-management methodology has had a profound impact. Yet, amazingly, the majority of all corporate Six Sigma initiatives -- 60% -- fail. Amid rising concern regarding these failures, more corporations -- across multiple industry sectors -- are now pulling back on their Six Sigma initiatives, realizing that the methodology by itself is not the cure-all for corporate ills. People often note a behavior-change gap within companies that devote significant resources to the Six Sigma philosophies. Implementing the Six Sigma methodology can still be a very successful approach to process improvement. A behavior-focused approach makes change sustainable.
THE TIPPING POINT BY CRISTOPHER DEL ANGEL AND JOE FROELICH Six Sigma: What Went Wrong? A 60 percent failure rate suggests process change requires behavior change S I N C E JAC K W E LC H , the former of the process. Much less specific and robust, chief execuive officer of GE, popular- however, are their efforts regarding the work- ized Six Sigma in the late 1990s, the ers upon whom the company depends. With business-management methodology any significant change in internal processes, has had a profound impact. Yet, amazingly, just the initial talk of the intended change the majority of all corporate Six Sigma initia- can be unsettling to a workforce comfortable tives—60 percent—fail to yield the desired in its current routine. The situation is exacer- results, according to Praveen Gupta, a noted bated if management fails to communicate author who has been involved with the the reasons behind the change and fails to methodology since its origin in the 1980s. demonstrate strong, visible support for it. Amid rising concern regarding these failures, more Thus, at Six Sigma locations, a sizable gap may exist: corporations—across multiple industry sectors—are While it might be clear what type of change is needed to now pulling back on their Six Sigma initiatives, realizing technically enhance throughput, the success of that that the methodology by itself is not the cure-all for effort hinges on whether that behavior is modified per- corporate ills. manently. Process improvements may perfectly achieve At Home Depot, for example, former CEO Robert their objectives, but the workforce may not be prepared Nardelli was ousted after his strict focus on Six Sigma to accept them as part of their daily routines. negatively affected worker Some of the aspects that make Six Sigma powerful may COMPANIES OFTEN FAIL TO GAUGE morale and consumer in fact reduce its overall effectiveness. The methodology THE FACTORS THAT IMPACT THE sentiment. In the Ameri- employs rigorous statistical analysis to identify defect LONG-TERM SUSTAINABILITY OF can Customer Satisfac- areas, the correction of which produces better quality, tion Index rankings, the lower costs, and increased efficiency. But while Six Sigma SIX SIGMA IMPROVEMENTS. company dropped from a may be very effective at controlling processes, elements
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