Business associates reviewing notes together in a meeting.

Six Sigma’s Biggest Surprise

October 3, 2016

A company began deploying Six Sigma for all of the standard reasons:

  • Six Sigma projects produce real results measured in real money to the bottom line.
  • Six Sigma was used by other companies with startling results.
  • Six Sigma tackles the most difficult problems and solves them.
  • Six Sigma is a key element is company cultural transformation.

The company found all of these to be true launching the company on a growth trajectory that had not been experienced before, setting the stage for ever-expanding applications of the processes and tools of Six Sigma.  But, there was one totally unexpected benefit from the deployment of Six Sigma that supplemented all of the very positive customer and business benefits; individual development accelerated across the company.

The company had struggled for years to develop an effective process for developing its people, preparing them for increasing responsibility over a person’s career.  They had tried leadership training, management training, and several approaches to manager-led individual development.  None of them were bad or wrong in and of themselves.  However, none of the different approaches that the company tried really made a lasting difference, either.  Making individual development even more difficult was the fact that the company had people and locations all over the world.  Creating a consistent and actionable global approach was a complex undertaking.

The big surprise came during reviews of Six Sigma projects.  The CEO and senior company leaders began to see some unexpected results:

  • Outstanding young people were being given the chance to demonstrate what they could do years earlier than traditional approaches.
  • Not only were project leaders, Belts, becoming visible to the senior leaders, they were working on important projects with significant, tangible benefit.
  • Belts were learning the importance of measuring work done in terms of ROI.
  • Belts were learning how to lead diverse teams, often virtually, to solve complex problems using standard approaches.
  • Belts were learning how to perform and meet deadlines.
  • Belts were learning real time how the company worked through their projects.
  • Belts were learning how to present complex information clearly and concisely to many different audiences up to and including the most senior leaders of the company.
  • Finally, a shared common language enabled people across the company to work together in ways that were impossible prior to deployment of Six Sigma.

Because of these successes, and others, the company’s leadership decided to require Six Sigma certification for its future leaders.  As leadership ranks began to fill with people who understood and practiced Six Sigma the company’s results continued to improve.  The comprehensive value of Six Sigma to the company being solidified, it continues to be a key element of the company’s future to this day.

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