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Six Sigma 101: Challenges & Considerations (Part 5 of 5)

written by: Heidi Wiesenfelder • edited by: Marlene Gundlach • updated: 3/23/2013

While Six Sigma project management is a very valuable methodology for organizations, there are potential challenges. They include issues of scaling, resources, time frame, and leadership support.

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    Scaling: Traditionally Six Sigma is implemented in large corporate environments, with substantial financial resources for training and sufficient human resources for full-time project management roles. In smaller organizations and nonprofits, it can be difficult to do a full Six Sigma roll-out due to limitations in both budget and personnel.

    Small companies can still benefit from Six Sigma by using a scaled-down version of Six Sigma, focusing on the use of data for decision making and implementing a business process management framework. A consultant with experience assisting such organizations can help establish the best means of scaling Six Sigma for a particular company.

    Leadership Support: Six Sigma is only as effective as its champions. To have a successful ongoing Six Sigma program, an organization must have leaders who are committed to its principles and methodology, at all levels of the company. Without leadership support, Six Sigma becomes merely one of the philosophies du jour that come and go based on who is in charge.

    Image by user resignent via stock.xchng Timeframe: The benefits of Six Sigma are clear, yet it can be difficult for many business leaders to truly embrace it because it requires a substantial investment of time in both training employees and conducting effective process improvement projects. Six Sigma is not something that can be implemented overnight, even if an outside consultant is brought in to manage projects, and managers often become impatient with the systematic process required for completing DMAIC projects. It is usually necessary to continually communicate the benefits of Six Sigma to maintain focus on the reasoning behind the techniques, and of course to ensure that business leaders are not penalized for taking the time to find the right solutions.

    Personnel: Just as managers may resist the need to commit what they view as excessive time to Six Sigma projects and to process management, they may resist committing the human resources necessary for successful implementation. This is why establishing proper metrics for balanced scorecards at all levels of an organization is critical, so that managers will not feel they need to sacrifice long-term success and sustainability to meet short-term goals.