- Business Coaching
- Become a Coach
- Executive Coaching
- Products & Services
- Find a Coach
- Business Tools
- Coaching Blog
“Perhaps the greatest single problem that people have today is ‘time poverty.’”
This week’s FocalPoint Business Coaching Challenge, "How I integrate Six Sigma when coaching my clients" is being led by Steve Rosebaugh of FocalPoint Coaching of Central Texas.
Steve has been involved in business coaching in various aspects of business for over 25 years. With a strong diversity of business experience, Steve’s background includes engineering, manufacturing, quality, product management, and marketing. Now, as a Brian Tracy Certified business coach, Steve is pursuing his passion.
The Six Sigma program, developed originally by Motorola, is one of the best known and widely implemented quality improvement methodologies in business today. It’s premise lies in the notion that any manufacturing or business process which can be measured, can be continuously improved by reducing normal process variation.
Having actually worked for Motorola for over twenty years, it’s safe to say I was heavily indoctrinated with the Six Sigma concepts early in my career. Additionally, I spent many years supporting automotive accounts where we shipped many millions of units every year. Statistically accurate quality measures were an every-day focus. One of my primary customers in Detroit had a plaque in their lobby, which read, “In God we trust. All others bring data.”
The name Six Sigma comes from the fact that when you have a normally distributed process variation whose mean is six sigma away from the specification limits, there will be 3.4 defects found for every one million produced by the process. You can improve the quality by either reducing variation or widening the specifications. But in order to accurately determine this level of quality in Parts Per Million (PPM), there needs to be a good volume of data.
So when I bring these concepts into my coaching relationships, I can still see many opportunities for application, even when the data sets do not support statistically valid PPM calculations. There are many quality improvement techniques that can be applied to bring real results and continuous improvement, but not all of them will be candidates for Six Sigma improvement programs.
For clients, I look for any business activity that is vital to customer satisfaction or business performance. This also needs to be something that occurs frequently. This might be delivery dates, defects or returns, on-time completions, order errors, billing errors, RFQ cycle time, material costs, attendance, sick leave, etc. Use your imagination! If it’s important and can be measured, it’s a candidate for a Six Sigma improvement program.
So the first and most important application for coaches is to help their clients determine what is most important to measure and improve. Improving something dramatically which has no impact on the customer is a huge waste of time and money. Once a metric is chosen, set a quality goal and then work with them to implement a system for tracking, analyzing, and improving the results over a planned period of time. This is a great opportunity for them to engage a team in problem solving!
If there is a Six Sigma metric chosen, direct them toward setting up a control chart on the metric. Make sure it is posted in full view of the employees and encourage everyone to participate in the continuous improvements. They may not realize all the sources for variation at first, so changes may be needed until the right data is being collected and analyzed. Once an improvement is put in place, the data will reveal how much impact this improvement provided. If it still needs improvement, repeat the adjust-measure-analyze-implement process until the desired results are seen.
A metric with as few as twenty data points per week can generate statistically valid quality and trend analysis within weeks. Rolling averages over months or years can reveal true progress even when “events” or “outliers” occur. Tying process changes to the metric timeline can provide insight over time on what changes are having the most impact. It also allows the business to remove process changes that had no impact but did add to their cost or cycle time.
For coaches to apply the concept to their own business is also great, but I would add a note of caution. Most business coaches don’t have a high volume of activity to drive large data sets. While they can borrow the concept of “black belt” from the Six Sigma methodology, and help clients bring this focused expert into existence within their business, they should exercise care in diluting the true meaning of Six Sigma by applying it to more subjective criteria or small data sets which lack the data for Six Sigma analysis.
In simpler words, track and improve any business metric you choose, but don’t just label it “Six Sigma” because you want to claim understanding of it’s methodology. Some people have spent years gaining experience and accreditation in it’s application. Don’t undermine your credibility by claiming Six Sigma quality when it can’t actually be measured. Rather, show you understand the strengths and weaknesses of your own metrics as an example to your clients. When applicable, lead them to understand Six Sigma’s proper application and the need to develop expertise within their own team.
Thanks for this Steve, I think you hit the nail on the head with that last bit - let's not just be using a term to sound good, because you end up not sounding so good.
What about the rest of you? Any experience with Six Sigma? Would you consider even using the term? Where would you bring it into a coaching situation?
Looking forward to reading your comments on this one!