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Developing the Deployment Plan

While there is usually a strong desire to launch Six Sigma as quickly as possible once the decision to deploy has been made, there is significant risk in taking a ready, fire, aim approach if proper planning is not done up front. Our experience is that one truly needs to begin with the end in mind when deploying Six Sigma. In other words, before you launch you should have a good idea of the long-term direction. Once the long-term strategy is set, it will be much easier to develop a short-term implementation process that will take you in the right direction. The long-term strategy is referred to as the deployment plan. Of course, this does not need to be developed in minute detail. You will simply need enough specificity to guide implementation. You will continually reevaluate, update, and add detail to this deployment plan as you move through the four phases of Six Sigma deployment.

The deployment plan should cover, at a minimum, all the elements listed on the following page. A real example of a typical (not necessarily best practice) deployment plan is given in the appendix. As noted, these elements are implemented not all at once, but rather in a phased approach. Think of the deployment plan as a work in progress. The key elements of the deployment plan during the launch phase are:

  • Executive and Business Leadership workshops

  • Champion workshop

  • Selection of initial projects

  • Selection of initial Black Belts and other key roles

  • Finance personnel training

  • Black Belt and Green Belt training

We consider these elements of the deployment plan to comprise an implementation or launch process, which is the focus of this chapter. Other elements of the deployment plan will be documented at a strategic level now, but details and actual implementation will come during the subsequent phases of deployment.

Our experience has been that most organizations are not ready to develop a proper deployment plan without more detailed understanding of Six Sigma, and facilitation from someone experienced in Six Sigma. For this reason we strongly recommend leadership workshops to develop this more detailed understanding, and to begin development of the deployment plan. Interestingly, the first draft of the deployment plan will be developed during the Executive and Business Leadership workshops, and then be used to guide development of the other elements of the implementation process. So there is somewhat of a chicken and egg relationship between the implementation process and the deployment plan. The implementation process is needed to develop the deployment plan, but in reality the implementation process is a subset of the deployment plan.

Required Deployment Plan Elements

  • Strategy and Goals for Six Sigma

  • Process Performance Measures

  • Project Selection Criteria

  • Project Identification/Prioritization System

  • Deployment Processes for Champions, MBBs, BBs, etc.

  • Roles of Management, Champions, MBBs, BBs and Functional Groups

  • Curricula and Training System

  • Project and Six Sigma Initiative Review Schedule

  • Project Reporting and Tracking System

  • Audit System for Previously Closed Projects

  • Reward and Recognition Plan

  • Communication Plan

This chapter will focus on how to organize and conduct the workshops that develop the first draft of the deployment plan with emphasis on elements that are critical to the initial launch of Six Sigma. The other aspects of this plan will be discussed in detail in Chapters 5 and 6, since they become critical in the later stages of Six Sigma deployment.

The Executive workshop should include all members of the executive team since they all have a role to play in Six Sigma deployment. This holds even if the initiative will involve manufacturing or operations only in the beginning of a partial deployment. All parties are needed to make Six Sigma successful regardless of the initial focus of the effort. In particular it is important that the heads of the finance, human resources (HR), and information technology (IT) organizations participate in the Executive workshop and subsequent Six Sigma deployment.

These are three new players not typically involved in previous improvement approaches, such as TQM or quality circles. Finance has the responsibility for determining the bottom line impact of the projects and creating the project tracking system that will be used to monitor the tangible results of the effort. HR is responsible for the career development paths of the Champions, Master Black Belts (MBBs), Black Belts, and Green Belts, as well as reward and recognition systems, communication vehicles, and performance management systems. IT will be needed to develop computer systems that collect key process measurement data identified by the Black Belt projects, to improve the cycle time and accuracy of manual systems through digitization, or to automate improvements as part of the project control plan.

While some data acquisition systems may already be in place, Six Sigma projects often uncover other process measurements that are needed to improve and effectively control the process. Quite frequently information systems have been put in place for financial (accounting) purposes, rather than to aid continuous improvement. Achieving this new purpose often requires new data acquisition systems.

The Executive workshop is typically two days in length and has as its products:

  • More in-depth understanding of Six Sigma

  • Defined roles of the members of the management team

  • Identification of targeted areas for improvement

  • Champions for these targeted areas

  • A draft deployment plan

The first version of the deployment plan is finalized in the following weeks by the management team as a regular part of their management meetings. A key part of this work is the refinement of the list of project areas and associated Champions. In large organizations it is often appropriate to give the two-day Executive workshop not only for the corporate executives, but also for the leaders of the different strategic business units (SBUs). In such cases the focus of these additional workshops is on the Six Sigma deployment plan within each SBU.

The SBU leaders often attend the original Executive workshop to learn about the process, and then assume leadership roles in the SBU-specific workshops. Similarly, it is important to do Site or Functional Leadership training for the management teams in the areas (plant site, functional group, etc.) that are targeted for the initial projects. This ensures that the Black Belts get the support that they need to complete their projects in a timely fashion. The Site or Functional Leadership training should be completed prior to the first week of Black Belt training.

The Executive workshop is followed in approximately one month by a three-to-five day Champion workshop for the Champions identified during the Executive workshop. This workshop uses as input the initial deployment plan and the project areas that were outputs of the Executive workshop, and refined in subsequent weeks. The outputs of the Champion workshop include deeper understanding of Six Sigma and the roles of the players, a list of chartered projects, and assigned Black Belts. Special attention is focused on the role of the Champion and the way the Champion interfaces with the Black Belts and Green Belts.

This workshop is particularly important because inactive or ineffective Champions are often identified as the root cause of project failures. If this role is not taken seriously, or not properly understood, the Champions can become the weak link in the Six Sigma organization, with devastating consequences.

After their Champion workshop, the Champions meet with the Black Belts to discuss the projects and make any needed refinements. Such refinements are often needed because the Black Belts have detailed data and insights that were not available when the project charters were developed. Project charters will be discussed in greater detail shortly. The Black Belts are now ready to attend their training, which usually follows the Champion workshop by approximately one month. The Black Belts are expected to bring their project charters to the training, and work on their actual projects as part of the training. They will learn and deliver results at the same time. Such an approach is consistent with the principles of adult learning. We will now take a short detour to look at the elements of the deployment plan, and then come back to Black Belt training and the rest of the implementation process.

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