Hello . .

BLUF: I'm looking for advice from those who've implemented six sigma within their own organizations, especially finance/accounting folks.

I'm working my way through 'The Six Sigma Way', and have already determined (decided) that my company desperately needs something like this . . . My plan is to implement this in my own dept (finance/accounting) first, and then utilize that as a springboard to launch an initiative company-wide.

data points:
- we're a small company (<50 employees)
- we're in a rapidly changing space (print fulfillment, ie. warehousing, rapidly morphing to be more of a broker of print and other promotional items)
- At the moment we hardly measure anything (someone splash some water on Horstman . . . I'm sure that last stmt made his head explode)
- the culture has always been one of individual accountability. We have good ppl, so that's worked in the past, but in the current environment folks don't have time to figure out their own best practices, and the stress/errors are piling up . .. we need a new paradigm. An additional side effect is that folks play 'hot-potato' (ie. worrying more about not being the one that drops the ball, with a lot of finger-pointing at whoever does drop the ball, rather than working as a team to meet the customer's needs). The culture of accountability feels more like a culture of blame at times.

Some of my specific concerns:
- what are some key metrics that finance/acctg depts have focused upon? I have some ideas of my own, natch, but am always open to the 'oh yeah I should have thought of that!' factor
- how can I go about 'silo-busting' in an effective manner? Our turf is carved up by function (ie. sales, order processing, ops, dp, finance), with pretty deep trenches between functions. I'm pretty sure a radical shakeup is necessary (ie. a focus upon accountability for end-to-end process, rather than the game of hot-potato that's created by no one function/dept 'owning' the entire process)

Any advice / warnings / plans greatly appreciated. Special bonus points for 'MT style' practical applications, rather than theory.


cwcollin's picture

Could you recruit someone from each Line of Business to help you drive this change and then see if you could tackle a "pilot" project together using Six Sigma before formally rolling it out to the rest of the organization.

I know that my organization rolled it out training wise, then began using it. Now the cycle has come back around where I will probably need to begin following the methodology as a manager, but my training is over 18 months old.

James Gutherson's picture

Arrgh - Just lost 1 hour's worth of response to this post :x

Anyway - I'll try to BLUF it now and clarify if needed later.

From all the points you mention I agree that you need to change the view from functional silo's to a processed based approach. This is a general trend in Quality Management and not just six sigma.

(re you six sigma: How deep do are you looking at going - Black belts, green belts, dedicated teams etc - or some DMAIC training to a few people and then having them teach other teams?)

How to: (IMO)

I agree with cwcollin - A pilot program would be the best way to start. Focus on a product line or service rather than your department - that will only reinforce the silo view.

Get top level approval/drive. This will not work without it.

Put together a project team that involves all functional groups involved with the pilot product line including back office areas (Finance/HR/IT etc).

Map the process addressing the existing constraints from all the functions.

Review the process from the customer POV to determine their value points.

Determine metrics based on the whole process. Trying to optimise individual functions within the process will not (cannot) optimise the whole process. Refer to Goldratt's Theory of Constraints and 'The Goal'. In essence the major metric is to maximise the profits from that product/service process, all other metrics within the process are subservient to the major goal. (The example from the goal is that increasing machine utilisation does not necessarily improve overall profitability and may be a burden)

Rework bonus/incentive schemes to reflect the performance of the process related to the major goal.

Follow the six sigma DMAIC methodology to make improvements, but be aware of making changes within the system and how they affect the major measurement (overall profitability).

As the system matures and rolls out across the organisation - the metrics need to change to reflect those of the organisation rather than individual processes.