21. Managing Change: Leadership and Teams – Six Sigma for Business Excellence: Approach, Tools and Applications


Managing Change: Leadership and Teams

Change Management

Change always requires efforts. Try writing with your left hand (or right hand if you are left-handed), or think about speaking in a different language. How do you find it? Can you get it right, the first time? Similarly, any change in an organization can happen only with commitment and perseverance, especially on the part of the top management. Six Sigma is no exception. Six Sigma is about making a cultural change in the company. It involves changing human beings. Six Sigma is about motivating people to use innovation and creativity to make things better and to enable them to take decisions based on facts. Six Sigma leaders, champions, sponsors and belts should nurture these values in the organization. Six Sigma is an internal school for leadership development. Obviously, the change cannot happen overnight. Moving from taking decisions by “gut feeling” or “hit and miss approach” to taking decisions based on “facts and data” is a cultural change and requires complete change of mindsets.

Change management requires strong leadership. I was impressed by one of the change management theories that I learned in the Cummins Leadership Development System (CLDS). The training modules were developed by AchieveGlobal (US). According to this theory:


Motivation to Change M = Dc × Vf × P


                           M = DVP


where Dc is dissatisfaction at current level, Vf is (clarity) of vision of future state and P is plan to achieve the vision.

One of my close friends, Achyut Medhekar, after having a close look at this equation, asked: “Why does this equation contain MD and VP?” It was an interesting observation. The equation includes the top and senior management. Indeed, it is the responsibility of the top management to create a strong vision of the future state that will make us feel dissatisfied about the current state. Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, the great former President of India created an inspiring “Vision 2020” for his country. His vision inspired and motivated thousands of talented people of India, especially the younger generation. The equation M = DVP is simple but an ingenious expression for principles of change management. I don't believe that there is a mathematical proof of the relation and it is merely an empirical formula!

People are the most important aspects of change management. According to Stephen Covey, there are three types of assets: physical, financial and human (Covey 1990). Human assets are the most valuable of these because they are capable of creating the other two types of assets. Pooling the right people when initiating a program is extremely important and critical for the success of the program. While working to bring about any change, the following points should be borne in mind.

  • There will be very few people who would actually innovate and initiate a change.
  • Some people may get excited and want to get involved when they hear about the change initiative.
  • Many people would prefer to remain on the fence, and wait and watch for a while. Once it becomes apparent that the change is working well, they may decide to get involved.
  • There will always be a few skeptics who would oppose any change. They may sometimes even create “evidence” that would discourage others who may like to be part of the change.

Right from day one, the leadership must recognize who is excited about the change and would like to get involved in the transition process. Selection of wrong people can kill the initiative in its early stage itself. The leaders must demonstrate their commitment towards the cause not by words and slogans but through their actions. Some things that the leadership should do to manage the human aspect of change are listed here.

  • Communicate the objectives of the Six Sigma program.
  • Create a clear vision and a ‘big picture’. The big picture must include customer perceptions and expectations, sore areas in the current system, pressures of competition, technology, supply chain, people skills and aspirations, etc. Each employee would like to know how the program will benefit them, and where do they fit in the program.
  • Communicate to the employees and stakeholders, why the program has been taken up. Create a vision of the future state and dissatisfaction at the current level, and share the plan to achieve the vision.
  • Set up a steering committee and involve the senior management including all functional heads.
  • Take up Six Sigma Project in the first wave.
  • Sponsor important projects.
  • Regularly review the progress towards the vision, recognizing and rewarding those who demonstrate and contribute to build a Six Sigma culture.
  • Update the employees and stakeholders about the progress towards the vision and motivate them in the journey. Deming called this “constancy of purpose”.
  • Ask questions about the rationale of decisions made in the company.
  • Share the reality of customer experiences.
  • Share success stories.
  • Recognize and appreciate efforts made and success achieved.
Six Sigma Training and Certification

One of the essential elements of bringing about any change is training. This is critically important in the case of Six Sigma implementation. Six Sigma tools are more complicated to learn and apply as compared to most other approaches. Most belts are initially worried about the statistical tools. It is therefore necessary that comprehensive training is organized for the champions, sponsors and belts.

Training Structure

The structure and duration of Six Sigma training varies at different levels. The duration of the training for champions and sponsors is 1 to 2 days, whereas the duration of black belt training takes about 3 to 4 weeks. The structure for the black belt training program is given below.

Week 0 Duration 2 days:

  • Introduction: History, Evolution and Value of Six Sigma
  • Basic Concepts: Six Sigma Metrics, DPMO, Rolled Throughput Yield
  • Define: Selecting and Defining Six Sigma Projects
  • Measure: Process Mapping

Week 1:

  • Lean Principles and Value Stream Mapping
  • Measure: Cause and Effects Matrix
  • Measure: FMEA
  • Introduction to Software
  • Measure: Basic Probability and Statistics,
  • Measure: Measurement Systems Analysis,
  • Measure: Process Capability—Normal and Non-normal
  • Project Reviews

Week 2:

  • Analyze: Multi-Vari Study and Analysis
  • Analyze: Confidence Intervals
  • Analyze: Inferential Statistics and Confidence Intervals
  • Analyze: Correlation and Regression (including Logistic Regression)
  • Analyze: Analysis of Variance(ANOVA)
  • Analyze: Power and Sample Size
  • Improve: Introduction to Design of Experiments
  • Project Reviews

Week 3:

  • Improve: Design of Experiments–Full and Fractional Factorial
  • Improve: Response Surface Methodology
  • Control: SPC and Process Performance
  • Control Plans
  • Control: Poka Yoke
  • Control: PreControl
  • Control: Evolutionary Operation
  • Project Planning and Discussions
  • Closing Remarks and Wrap Up

After every week of the training, the participants go back to their work and apply the tools to their own projects for 3 weeks. The application experience, learning and progress in the projects are discussed in the subsequent week of training.

The training is conducted by a master black belt (MBB).

For green belts, the training duration is 6 to 10 days. The topics are more or less the same as those in black belt training. However, the depth of coverage is less. In most companies, each participant in the green and black belt training must have at least one approved Six Sigma project.

Many training gadgets such as catapults, golfer and toy airplanes are used to make the training effective and interesting.

Six Sigma Certification

Unlike ISO 9000 or ISO/TS16949, there is no external certification agency who can certify a company for achieving a specific level in Six Sigma implementation. Thus motivation for Six Sigma implementation is from ‘withinthe company. In some cases, customers impose this as an additional requirement or expectation.

Certification is therefore limited to individuals. A survey was conducted by www.isixsigma.com in 2008 (Marx 2008). Here is a list of their observations.

  • About 77% respondents were certified as either black belt, green belt or master black belt.
  • About half of these were certified internally by their own company.
  • The number of projects to be completed for black belt certification is 2 (median).
  • The number of projects to be completed for green belt certification is 1 (median).
  • The number of projects to be completed for master black belt certification is 4 (median).
  • ASQ was the largest single independent body with 9% of the black belt certifications.

Certification provides evidence that the belt has achieved a certain level of capability and competence to understand and implement Six Sigma. According to the survey, about 28% of the belts were promoted within one year of getting the certification. Thus Six Sigma certification is considered by the belts as a means to enhance career prospects.

Typical criteria for black belt certification include completion of 2 or more projects and passing an examination. ASQ conducts a four-hour open book examination with 150 multiple choice questions. Applicants are required to submit an affidavit of completion of two projects. One project is acceptable if the applicant has more than 3 years experience pertaining to the body of knowledge. Interestingly, green belt certification from ASQ does not require the applicant to complete a Six Sigma project. Recently, ASQ has also introduced a Master Black Belt certification. For more details about the certification requirements, visit www.asq.org.

Based on my experience, I feel that getting certified is a good personal achievement for career enhancement and an evidence of your knowledge and competence. The process of getting certified is a learning and satisfying experience. I have experienced this while getting four certifications from ASQ: Quality Engineer, Quality Manager, Six Sigma Black Belt and Reliability Engineer. I have also realized that we must apply what we learn and strive for continuous improvement. A typical cycle is Learn-Apply-Teach-Reinforce (LATR). Employers, obviously, would expect a better contribution to process improvement than just certification.

Six Sigma Teams

Success of any improvement project depends heavily on the performance of the team. This is obviously true for Six Sigma as well. Teamwork must be strong at the management level as well as in case of each project. It is quite usual that the black and green belts get recognized, rewarded and/or promoted when they successfully complete Six Sigma projects. However, rewards and recognition of the team members are sometimes forgotten. This can create serious problems in getting sustained support for Six Sigma projects. Six Sigma projects not only need strong leadership of black or green belts, but also significant commitment and contribution from each member of the team. It is the team members who take the project through different stages. These can be

  • understanding and mapping the current process
  • brainstorming
  • identifying the key process operating variables (KPOVs) and key process input variables (KPIVs)
  • data collection
  • suggesting alternatives for improvement
  • proposing creative solutions
  • carrying out experiments
  • trying out better solutions

The contribution of the team members is significant and it must be acknowledged. They should be made to feel involved and be given a pat on the back when the organization reaps benefits of Six Sigma.

Creating a Team for a Project

A team can be defined as a group of individuals working together to achieve a certain common objective or goal (Besterfield et al, 2003). Creating a team for a Six Sigma project should be a structured process involving different stages. These stages should follow the order given below.

  1. Define an objective (goal).
  2. Select team members and assign responsibilities.
  3. Create a team charter.
  4. Empower the team with authority to do the job.
  5. Chart out a schedule for meetings, reviews, milestones, etc.
  6. Provide training, if required.
  7. After the goal has been achieved, conduct a review.
  8. Recognize and reward performers.

The process of creating a charter was discussed in detail in Chapter 2. The team members must have appropriate skills and knowledge. They should be given training if required.

Six Sigma Teams: Organization of the Team

Six Sigma teams are formal and cross-functional teams with deliverables clearly defined and documented in the form of a project charter. The belts should clearly explain to each team member their respective roles and expectations from them. Channels and frequency of communication should also be decided at the beginning of project. If there are any concerns to any member about their availability for the expected role, they must be promptly addressed and resolved. Often, support from the sponsor is also required. The team should include some members who have some knowledge or experience of the process being improved. It is also desirable that a few team members are not made part of the process. This helps to look at the process from inside as well as outside. Team diversity can improve the quality of solutions being evolved.

Some important points that should be considered while selecting the team members are listed here.

  • Willingness to contribute and motivation levels
  • Knowledge of the current process
  • Availability of time, considering their current responsibilities and the possible impact on their responsibilities
  • Skill sets required for the success of the project
  • Team size; this is usually 4 to 6 members.

Team Evolution

When a team is launched, senior management and the project sponsor must communicate the importance, objectives and deliverables of the project. The sponsor must also seek the commitment of team members and their support to the project leader. In the absence of communication from the sponsor, the project may appear like an “individual” responsibility of the belt. This could be frustrating for him/her.

The classic Bruce W. Tuckman model describes the development stages of teams (Tuckman 1965). It is widely considered to have four basic stages. Figure 21.1 illustrates the four stages.



Figure 21.1 Team stages

  1. Forming: In the beginning, the team members come from different backgrounds and have their own biases. Some of them are also not very clear about the goal(s). The processes, leadership, and relationships are unclear to the members. The team members often wait for things to become somewhat clear. The Six Sigma team leader must allow the members to “settle down”, know each other and understand the objectives, challenges and benefits clearly. All necessary and relevant information must be shared with the members to establish confidence in the leader and the team.
  2. Storming: This is a turbulent phase where members are presented with the problem and they propose diverse solutions. Since there is no specific direction to the team, differences can arise and members question each other. They often stick to their own views and try to safeguard their own interests rather than think about the team goal. Characteristics of this stage are hostility, infighting, blaming each other and poor communication. The project leader's role is to motivate the team members for a common goal, share the charter, and understand what they think about the problem and possible solutions. It is necessary that team members get aligned with the goal. It is also essential that the belt respects the members’ views and does not impose his/her biases on the members.
  3. Norming: Gradually, members sort out their differences and start thinking about common objectives. They begin to understand each other better and appreciate other members’ views and opinions. At this point, they now start thinking about the project goal and start working together. Belts can channelize the energy to brainstorm for potential causes and solutions, develop causal models that depict potential relationships, perform FMEA, collect data, perform MSA and evaluate process capability. This will help all team members understand the current status and the possible solutions to improvement. Not every team reaches this stage.
  4. Performing: By this stage, the team structure and purpose has developed. Informal relations develop amongst members. The team performs to the best of its abilities, and tackles tasks at hand effectively and cohesively. It focuses fully on the process to achieve their goals. Team members are now willing to contribute and are charged to face the challenges. This is the best opportunity for the leader to analyze and interpret the data, develop and generate creative and innovative solutions.

Tuckman later added a fifth stage adjourning. This phase refers to the separating of team members after the completion of the project. The team is “adjourned” or disassembled when the project is completed. The team stages are similar to passengers traveling in a train! When the passengers board, they try to safeguard their own interests. As the train starts, the conversation starts, the passengers start knowing each other. By the end of journey, they, start helping each other. The great Hindi movie ‘Chuck De India’ depicts the team stages vividly.

Obstacles to Team Building

It is important to identify the obstacles that may hinder the building of an effective team and overcome them. There are certain types of behaviors or characteristics that are detrimental to the progress of teams. The team leader should be able to recognize such behaviors and take actions to ensure continual effectiveness of the team. Here, we discuss some such traits and ways to deal with them.

Overbearingness: Some members may tend to be overbearing. This usually happens with participants who have higher authority and/or expertise. Their authority and expertise is useful to the team. However, it could become detrimental when they discourage ideas from other members. They also tend to influence others, consume more time than is appropriate, inhibit the group from building a functional team, and hinder participation by other members. This can be dealt with by the leader by engaging others and refocusing the discussion so that moderate time is available to each participant. Belts can reinforce the ground rules, speak to the person off-line and seek cooperation for following the Six Sigma roadmap.

Reluctance: Some members rarely speak or take part in activities. This can be due to lack of interest, biases, lack of knowledge, etc. Solutions to this problem include inviting such members to contribute by asking an open-ended question such as ‘what do you think?’ Creating group activities that are based on participation (like training games) could be useful.

Opinions vs Facts: Some members express beliefs or assumptions with such confidence and convictions that others may take them to be facts. In such cases, the concerned member should be asked questions regarding facts or data on the subject. Besides, discussions can be held to ensure proper comprehension of the team members and to invite suggestions.

Groupthink: There can be a tendency among the members to go with the crowd even if they have a different opinion on a particular issue. Some members may choose not to speak against the majority and silence can become a passive agreement. This can occur when the group is under pressure to make a quality decision. Solutions for such instances are taking guidance from the steering committee that reports to the larger group, encourage impartial leadership, divide the groups to break down false unanimity, etc.

Feuding: Members sometimes use the meeting as a field to settle their own differences. Instead of discussing the task at hand, they often start quarreling. Other members may become spectators fearing involvement in the feud. Project leaders should be careful and keep adversaries in different teams. They can attempt reconciliation (in or outside the meeting), and remove passive and aggressive people. A simple and effective method is to call for a short coffee break.

Floundering: Usually members resort to this behavior when the task is done incorrectly or left incomplete. This happens when the task is unclear or too large. It may also happen when there is lack of consensus. Such events can be prevented by clarifying the goals and time frames to all, right at the beginning or by revisiting the mission and objectives. Conclusions should be offered at the end of the task, pulling related ideas together to reach a conclusion or consensus.

Rushing to accomplishment: An impatient member or a member sensitive to job pressures can lead the team to take hasty decisions by discouraging efforts to analyze the decision. Leaders should remind the team members that raising quality levels requires patience and time. He should make them realize that reviewing tasks, ensuring that decisions are data-driven and that they follow the Six Sigma roadmap are critical to the success of the project.

Wanderlust (Digressions/Tangents): Unwanted topics may be discussed at the meeting, leaving people wondering how time slipped away. Such situations can be dealt with by making a conscious effort to focus on the topic of the discussion, keeping track of the agenda and by using a timekeeper. This can also happen when a coffee break is overdue.

Diversions: A team member with a hidden agenda distracts the team frequently from the assigned task. This problem may require a facilitator.

Team Tools

The teams need to generate new ideas, make decisions to solve problems, resolve conflicts, implement changes, take actions and track progress. There are certain techniques or tools that can help team members to achieve their goal/s.

Brainstorming: All the team members are encouraged to express their views without any inhibitions. Their view is respected and not debated. Freewheeling of the brain is encouraged. All the ideas are noted and listed. This method can also held in a silent mode as participants note their ideas on a piece of paper and these papers are then collected. Sometimes, this is called brainwriting.

Nominal group technique: In this technique, items of concern are selected from a brainstorming exercise (or any other source). These concerns or ideas are noted on 3 × 5 cards or white boards. While doing so, duplication is eliminated. A final list of items is announced. Each member ranks these ideas on a paper. All rankings are combined and a priority is democratically established. This method helps build consensus and also encourages ‘buy-in’.

Multivoting: Brainstorming often results into a pool of ideas or items. It is important to arrive at priority items. These items are selected from a brainstorming exercise (or any other source). Each member is allowed to vote for limited number of items, often five. These five (or the number of choices decided) are then ranked by the member. The individual choices are then rolled up and combined scores are calculated to prepare the final prioritized list.

Force field analysis: In force field analysis, the team evaluates the forces or factors in favour of a change and forces or factors opposing the change. For example, if management wants to implement Six Sigma, there will be factors in favour such as already trained personnel, capable machines, etc. the following figure shows an example of FFA for introducing computerization in banking processes.



Figure 21.2 Force field analysis


The six thinking hats: The ‘six thinking hats’ is a quick, simple and powerful technique to improve your thinking (Bono 1999). This technique encourages you to recognize what type of thought you have in mind about a particular idea and, further, to apply different types of thoughts to the subject. We all use different types of thinking, usually without realizing it. For example, if we are feeling pessimistic about a situation, we tend to apply just that type of thinking. This limits our ability to see the issues objectively and from any other perspective. Edward de Bono devised a concept of six distinct colour hats, each hat representing a strong thought pattern. The different thought patterns assigned to those colour hats are as given below.

The White Hat represents cold, neutral, and objective thought pattern. Take time to look at the facts and figures.

The Red Hat represents feelings. Take time to listen to your emotions, your intuition.

The Black Hat is gloomy and negative. Take time to look at why this will fail.

The Yellow Hat is sunny and positive. Take time to be hopeful and optimistic.

The Green Hat is grass, fertile and growing. Take time to be creative and cultivate new ideas.

The Blue Hat is the colour of the sky, high above us all. Take time to look from a higher and wider perspective to see whether you are addressing the right issue.

The concept is used in team meetings and discussions to improve effectiveness avoid typical team dynamics problems and minimize unproductive time. Meetings are conducted systematically by an expert facilitator. At a time, only “one colour thinking” is allowed. For example, the white hat is a symbol of facts and information. When the facilitator invites everybody to “wear” a white hat, members start putting up/examining facts and figures. During this time, no one is allowed to criticize the topic under discussion. The facilitator simply says that the team can consider the criticism during the “black hat discussion”. As this is a ground rule of the meeting, problems such as overbearing, negative thinking, jumping to conclusions, etc. can be handled without hurting anyone's feelings. This technique enables the group to collectively have different angles/perspectives to look at the topic or idea. Belts need to be trained to conduct meetings using Six Thinking Hats.

Management and Planning Tools

As a part of Japanese Society of Quality Control Technique Development meetings, formal research on seven new quality tools began in 1972. It took several years of research before the new seven tools were formalized. The original seven tools of quality (scatter diagrams, flow charts, histogram, etc.) were adequate for data collection and analysis, but the new tools allow for more identification, planning and coordination in solving complex problems.

The seven new management tools are as follows:

  1. Affinity Diagrams
  2. Interrelationship Digraphs
  3. Tree Diagrams
  4. Prioritization Matrices
  5. Matrix Diagrams
  6. Process Decision Program Charts
  7. Activity Network Diagrams

1. Affinity Diagrams

Affinity diagrams are also known as “KJ” diagrams named after Kawakita Jiro, a noted Japanese anthropologist. He used the method as a means of summarizing and characterizing large quantities of anthropological data which he gathered during his expeditions. After recognizing the potential application of his technique in hypothesis formulation, Kawakita refined the process and developed what is known today as the KJ method. KJ method is commonly used to group and organize customer expectations, usually termed as “what's in Quality Function Deployment (QFD). Figure 21.3 shows the process of grouping customers” needs.

Affinity diagrams are recommended by Ishikawa to organize thoughts when we are uncertain or wish to challenge the current mindsets. First, we brainstorm and collect all possible responses from the team on the issue and write these on small post-it notes. The notes are moved around till they form five to ten natural groups. Then each group is named. This process is repeated till the team reaches a consensus. Finally, we draw lines containing all notes in a group with the group name. An example of affinity diagram for reducing traffic problem is shown in Figure 21.4.

2. Interrelationship Digraphs (Relation Diagrams)

This tool is used to identify cause-and-effect relationships for complex issues faced by the management. The issue is clearly defined. All concerns are listed and noted on pieces of paper. These are arranged in a random order on a large sheet of paper or whiteboard. An arrow is drawn from the most influential to the next in. This process is repeated until all pairs of notes have been compared. This digraph can be copied and distributed to team members for study, for any revision. The note having the maximum number of outgoing arrows is the key issue or the “driver”. A final draft of the digraph is created for analysis. Thus, we can have an overview of the issue and its causes/effects.



Figure 21.3 Organizing customer needs using the KJ method



Figure 21.4 Affinity diagram illustration for reducing traffic congestion


An example of interrelationship digraph to improve overall performance of a company is shown in Figure 21.5.

Low employee morale and poor supplier performance has the most arrows. These are the major areas of improvement. Interrelationship digraphs can be used to identify the focus areas for deploying Six Sigma.

3. Tree Diagrams

The tree diagram is one of the seven management and planning tools described by Shigeru Mizuno. It is used to figure out all the various tasks that must be undertaken to achieve a given objective. If we use it carefully and thoroughly, it gives us a better understanding of the true scope of a project, and will help our team focus on specific tasks needed to get something done.

These can break a general topic into a number of activities that contribute to it. This is achieved by several steps each asking “how” or means contributing to the effect. The general issue is noted and placed at the top of chart to be generated. The team can suggest two to five specific topics contributing to the general issue. These are noted and placed in a row beneath the general topic. Each of these is again broken down into contributing factors. The process is continued as far as it is practical. We draw appropriate connecting lines and a tree is formed. Figure 21.6 shows a tree diagram for reducing traffic congestion in the city.



Figure 21.5 Interrelationship digraph to improve the performance of a company



Figure 21.6 Tree diagram illustration to reduce traffic congestion

4. Prioritization Matrices

Prioritization matrices are useful for organizing projects to maximize benefits to the company. This is quite frequently used to prioritize Six Sigma Projects. Prioritization Matrix can also be effectively used to organize causes by rating their relative importance.

In the original tool, a large array of numbers and matrices would be generated. To simplify the analysis, the prioritization matrices approach has been developed. Each item affecting the selection is given a weightage according to their importance in solving the issue. Then each option value is multiplied by the weightage factor assigned and the cell is filled with this product. The option with the highest total will be the most appropriate one to be selected.

An application example of prioritization matrix was discussed in the chapter on setting priorities for Six Sigma (Chapter 2).


Table 21.1 Example of a matrix diagram

5. Matrix Diagram

Relationships between two groups of items are illustrated by forming a matrix classified as strong, moderate and weak relations. All items in one group are listed on the top of the chart while those in the other group are on one side of the chart. Each square in the matrix is assigned a symbol according to the strength of the relationship or is left blank. The team then examines the completed matrix to arrive at conclusions. An example of a matrix diagram applied to identify the importance of quality tools in various processes of a company is shown in Table 21.1.

6. The Process Decision Program Chart (PDPC)

The Process Decision Program Chart (PDPC) is a tool used to outline the course of events that can take us from the start to the end to achieve a certain goal or objective. Various events are charted sequentially from the start, and contingencies are planned for. A kind of tree diagram is developed with the events. At the lowest level, contingency plans are developed by questioning “what-if?”. It can be used to solve unique or complex issues having difficult or challenging steps.

An application example of PDPC for Six Sigma implementation in a company is shown in Figure 21.7.



Figure 21.7 A PDPC example

7. Activity Network Diagrams

Activity Network diagrams include the Program Evaluation and Review Techniques (PERT), Critical Path Method (CPM) and other network diagrams. Activities are denoted by arrows and events are denoted as circles. For example, Figure 21.8 shows that Event 10 precedes Activity A and Event 20 happens at the end of Activity A. The duration of Activity A is 10 days. Activities, milestones and durations must be identified along with dependence of events. An example of a network diagram for construction of a house is shown in Figure 21.9. We can see that excavation work cannot begin unless the plan is finalized and approved. Similarly, the foundation can be constructed only after the excavation is completed and steel and cement are procured. This is shown in the column of dependence. A network diagram can be prepared using this information. Event numbers are assigned in such a way that any of the event number must be larger than any of the events at the beginning of the arrows merging in that event. Dotted lines are used for “dummy” activities just to show dependences. After completing the network diagram, we should identify the critical path. We need to calculate the total project durations by all alternate paths and compare these. The path having the longest duration is the critical path.

See in Figure 21.10 that the path ACEFHIJ has the longest duration of 190 days. This is the critical path. A delay in any of these activities will result in the delay of the entire project. We must therefore monitor these activities closely so that the total project duration is not affected.

In the above example, the activity durations were point estimates. Our primary objective is to find out the activities on the critical path. Thus technique is called critical path method (CPM). However, in real life, especially in the new projects, the durations will vary. The programme evaluation and review technique (PERT) is used in such cases. PERT is similar to the CPM but it is probabilistic.



Figure 21.8 Representing Events and activities



Figure 21.9 Network diagram for construction of a house



Figure 21.10 Identifying the critical path in the house construction project


  • te = (to + 4tm + tp)/6
  • Where te is expected time, to is optimistic time, tp is pessimistic time and tm is most likely time
    • Example: to = 10 days, tp = 16 days, tm = 12 days, then
    • te = (10 + 4 × 12 + 12)/6 = 74/6 = 12.33 days

The project duration will also have point and interval estimates with a given confidence level.

Team performance evaluation and Reward

Performance Evaltuation

The project team's progress in relation to the charter must be measured. Effective project closure reviews is a good alternative. When the senior management participates in closure reviews, it is a strong motivator and a control mechanism to assure sustainability and visibility of Six Sigma. Project closure review meetings can be scheduled periodically (such as every week) and attended by the champion, sponsor, financial controller, master black belt, quality leader, head of the human resource function, other black belts, process owners and team members. The belt submits project completion summary to the review committee members in advance. The project presentation is usually organized by the quality leader or the master black belt. Review committee members assess:

  • the effectiveness of improvements and achievements
  • whether the root cause analysis is systematic and logical
  • the confirmation of financial savings as per the charter
  • the statistical validation of results using control charts, capability indices, hypothesis tests etc
  • whether appropriate Six Sigma tools are used and understood
  • the possibility of sharing the success story in other plants or functions
  • whether the documentation is complete in terms of quality procedures
  • the process owners agreement and sign-off to the changes
  • any possible risks due to changes
  • the updating of the Six Sigma databases where applicable
  • the effectiveness of Six Sigma training
  • the future projects for the belt
  • the contribution of belt and team members considering the difficulty level

Individual contribution and performance of team members is sometimes assessed by the belt himself/herself. The feedback of team members’ contribution is given to the immediate superiors and the human resource department. In some companies, this is rolled up in the performance appraisals of the employees.

Performance of the belt is evaluated by the sponsor and the master black belt. Sometimes, the team members are requested to give feedback of the belt's performance and leadership.

Team Recognition

The contribution of people from the organization is critical for the success of Six Sigma or any other improvement initiative. The success of Six Sigma requires effective management of change. Those who gave their best effort to achieve the change must be recognized and rewarded. Six sigma team members can be recognized at the closing meetings in many different ways. Some examples from the industry are:

  • recognizing the contribution in company newsletters, staff meetings, and/or internal communication network.
  • awarding a certificate of appreciation
  • giving token gifts such as t-shirts, special pens, coffee mugs with Six Sigma and company logo.
  • celebrating with families
  • team picnic with a day off
Risk Analysis and Mitigation

Six sigma projects will always mean some change in the system, process, method, setting, measurement, etc. Any change involves a risk in various ways. Risks could be in any of the following terms:

  • Human— from individuals or organizations, unions, illness, death, etc.
  • Operational—from disruption of supplies and operations, or a loss of access to essential assets, failures in distribution, etc.
  • Reputational—from the loss of a business partner or employee confidence, or damage to the reputation in the market.
  • Procedural—from failures of accountability, internal systems and controls, organization, fraud, etc.
  • Project—risks of cost over-runs, jobs taking too long, insufficient product or service quality, etc.
  • Financial—from business failure, stock market, interest rates, unemployment, etc.
  • Technical—from advances in technology, technical failure, etc.
  • Natural—threats from weather, natural disaster, accident, disease, etc.
  • Political—from changes in tax regimes, public opinion, government policy, foreign influence, etc.

Some tools for risk analysis include SWOT (Strength-Weaknesses Opportunities and Threats), PEST (Political, Environmental, Social and Technological), Consequential Metrics, Porter's 5 Force Analysis. A detailed discussion on these is beyond the scope of this text. Visit http://www.businessballs.com/freematerialsinword/ for useful information and templates for risk management.

Critical Success Factors for Six Sigma Implementation

As has happened with other improvement approaches, there are some companies that have benefited immensely by deploying Six Sigma and there are others who were not very excited with Six Sigma implementation. What are the factors that make a difference? Here is a summary of the factors that decide the success (or failure) of Six Sigma implementation.

1. Commitment and Involvement of the Top-Management

The first and perhaps the most important factor is the commitment and involvement of the management in driving the Six Sigma project. While managements claim that they are fully committed, there are some clear indicators that show whether the management is truly committed. Some indicators for judging the management's commitment are:

  • The time that the top-management spends for the steering committee to drive implementation, review projects selection and closures, and extend help when there is a need.
  • Interest that the top-management takes in leading and or sponsoring Six Sigma projects. This is a very strong message to the organization that the management means Six Sigma.
  • The manner in which Six Sigma projects are aligned to strategic goals/objectives of the company. This is important to get advantage in business by implementing Six Sigma.

2. Existence of a Basic Quality System

It is sometimes forgotten that a company must have done the basic groundwork by implementing quality system such as QS-9000 or ISO TS 16949 or at least ISO 9000. One can't move to graduation without getting through the secondary school exam. Six Sigma methodology helps in the identification of the cause and effects relationships between results (‘Y's) and factors (‘X's). Some of these relationships are already known through documented wisdom (quality assurance standards). It is expensive to reinvent these using Six Sigma. For example, a company obviously needs to have a system for drawing and specification control, calibration of measuring and test equipment, training people, adequate work instructions etc. If Six Sigma is deployed to prove that these affect quality, we will be wasting time and money.

3. Selection of the Implementation Partner

A company initiating a Six Sigma programme usually requires an implementation partner to train and guide the team. This is necessary to upgrade skills and knowledge about Six Sigma tools and methodology. An assessment of the capability of the potential implementation partner needs to be done carefully. There are many consultants who claim to be “experts”. Consider the previous assignments and achievements, certifications, type of industry, energy level, training skills, quality and authenticity of training material, etc.

4. The Number of Black and Green Belts

A thumb rule is 1 belt per 100 employees. However, this may vary significantly across industries depending upon the nature of industry, degree of automation, etc. A typical norm for a black belt project saving is approximately Rs. 100,00,000. In a developing country like India, this can be different (lower) due to factors such as lower salaries, lower scale of production, etc. The cost of black belt training in the US could be as high as or more than US$10,000 and the salary of a black belt could be US$75,000 per year. If one black belt completes 4 projects in 2 years, the total expense in the US is $160,000 or approximately Rs.72,00,000 for 4 projects. This means US$40,000 per project or about Rs. 18,00,000 per project. To justify such a precious competent resource, savings must be sufficiently large to justify. The salary and training costs in India are significantly lower and therefore lower savings may be acceptable although not necessarily desirable. Savings in green belt projects could be about 25% of the black belt projects. The acceptable saving could be calculated with a different logic. Let us assume that the black belt was doing some other important assignment instead. What savings/benefits the company would get? Savings and or benefits through Six Sigma projects must be more. Another important consideration is the type of savings. These must be systemic or structural improvements that will improve the level or efficiency of operations rather than one time saving.

The number of belts must be enough to change the culture of the company. This number is called the “critical mass”. Also, belts should be from various functions so that all areas of business operations gradually move to the Six Sigma culture.

The number of belts must be manageable. Belt being a valuable resource must be fed with projects that are worth their time. This is the responsibility of the champion and sponsors. A trained belt without a project is waste of talent and potential. Belts without a challenging assignment or without any project can feel frustrated, and this may also lead to attrition.

5. Project Selection, Definition, Scoping and Closure Mechanism

Project selection is easier said than done. Although it may appear that there are many improvement opportunities, identifying and defining the metrics and the process requires critical thinking. This was discussed in Chapter 2. Project closures should be approved after careful evaluation of the robustness of improvement actions and control plans. It is essential that the same problems do not recur after the closure of projects. The system of auditing the effectiveness of control plans of closed projects could be very useful.

6. Recognition and Reward System

Six Sigma project benefits can be significantly large and are quantified. It is necessary to give appropriate consideration to the Six Sigma project leadership and benefits in recognition, reward and promotion of employees. It is essential that the system is formal, structured, transparent and as objective as is possible. Many companies that successfully implemented Six Sigma have performance appraisals, promotions and recognitions linked to its implementation and success. Some companies make the completion of Six Sigma project mandatory for growth in the organization. Recognition needs to be for the leaders, sponsors as well as for the team members. Forms of recognitions can vary significantly in various companies depending on the company culture. The primary intention of recognition is to make the belts and team members “feel good” and also create a healthy competition. It also helps in making visible the improvements brought about through Six Sigma projects. Promotion of belts after completion of a significant number of projects, typically 3 or more, is essential. Black belts are usually high potential managers. Companies need to make conscious efforts to retain them.

7. Accountability of Sponsors and Champions

Sponsors are usually from the senior management. They own the projects. They must be made accountable for the failure or delay of projects. They should report the progress and the status of projects sponsored by them in top management reviews. This forces them to schedule reviews with belts periodically. Sponsors can also share the best practices in appropriate forums. Some companies get feedback on support by sponsors. There are a number of situations that require intervention by the project sponsor. These may be the (non)availability of team members for project work, financial approvals, resources, etc. Last but not the least, sponsors also must be recognized for successful Six Sigma projects.


Leadership is the driving force for effective and successful implementation of Six Sigma. Managing change requires clear vision which should also be shared with the organization. Leadership commitment must be visible through actions and the amount of time spent on Six Sigma and improvement projects.

Comprehensive training for executives, sponsors, champions, belts and team members is essential and an integral part of Six Sigma implementation. There is no external Six Sigma certification for companies. Individuals can get certified internally or externally.

Teams are part of the cultural change. Team members should be knowledgeable or trained in team management and tools. Recognition and reward system should be linked to the success of Six Sigma projects in terms of timely completion, benefits and savings.


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Covey, Stephen (1990) The Seven Habits of the Highly Effective People. New York, NY: Fireside (Simon and Schuster Inc).

De Bono, Edward (1999). Six Thinking Hats. New York, NY: Back Bay Books.

Marx, Michael (2008). “Six Sigma Certification”. isixsigma.com magazine, May. http://www.isixsigma-magazine.com.

Tuckman, Bruce (1965). “Developmental sequence in small groups”. Psychological Bulletin, 63, 384–399.

http://www.businessballs.com/freematerialsinword/. Accessed on 14 January 2010.