By Alex Pejak

Nothing stands still in the world of business. Technology, globalization and the free flowing nature of knowledge and information (thanks to the Internet) means that we live in a constantly changing business environment. Business practices and methodologies that may have been efficient and profitable in earlier years, may not be working in your best interests of moving forward today.

That’s why your business needs to be comfortable with change: sooner or later, your business will inevitably need to transition into a better version of itself, and when that happens, you’ll need to ensure that the transition goes as smoothly as possible. A change management tool – such as Six Sigma – can help your business get to that profitable future state sooner, rather than later, with minimal frustrations along the way.

Let’s have a look at how businesses can utilize Six Sigma as a change management tool and take their businesses to the next level. But first, let’s go over what Change Management and Six Sigma are, and the relationship between these two important principles.

Change Management

You can’t run away from change. As a business owner, you need to respond to developments in your environment and make adjustments to stay competitive. Failing that, you risk being left behind, condemned to a smaller market share and reports of dwindling profits.

Change Management is the process of ensuring that changes to your business occur with minimal downtime and frustrations, whilst still ensuring optimal efficiency, production and profit. This includes making sure your staff are onboard with the new changes. There are a number of different philosophical approaches you, as a business owner or member of a management team, can take towards transitioning your business into a more streamlined and better version of itself — each with their own pros and cons.

Six Sigma

Developed by Motorola in the 1980s, Six Sigma is a business and management philosophy that focuses on minimizing expenditures and maximising profits. It encourages business owners to examine how they are currently running their business, hopefully helping them identify areas of their operation where they can cut waste and increase their bottom line.

Six Sigma is one of the best ways business owners can significantly improve the way their business operates, satisfying both the customer (at their end) and the books (at your end). By applying Six Sigma methodologies such as Design For Six Sigma (DFSS), businesses can reduce their production costs by as much as 50 per cent – the intent is to bring new products or services to the market with a high process performance, intended for every customer requirement. This means that they would have the ability to understand the customers’ needs and then design the new offering with the reliability of delivery before its launch, rather than after it. They can also reduce the number of defects to no more than 3.4 defects per million opportunities – resulting in a more consistent and higher quality end product for consumers.

Why use Six Sigma as a Change Management tool?

At its heart, Six Sigma is a methodology and philosophy of change. It can completely transform a business and drive change in an organization, helping businesses trim the fat of excess waste, inefficiency and defects, and promote greater profits and better customer satisfaction.

Six Sigma tools – on their own – are all about solving problems in your business and giving you guidance along the way. After identifying a problem, it will then need to be solved, and this will no doubt require some change into how your staff currently go about their work. However, identifying a problem, and then solving it, is one thing. Getting your staff to actually get onboard with the changes is quite another. If the people you need to follow these new processes don’t, then you’ve lost your entire investment.

Six Sigma recognizes the difficulties inherent in ushering change into a business. By training your staff in the Six Sigma improvement methodologies, not only can you implement positive reform in your business, but you can also ensure your staff are with you every step of the way. Training programs can last anywhere from 2 to 8 days, and include Introductory, Champion, Yellow, Green, Black and Design (DFSS) courses. By offering Six Sigma training to staff across different departments, your business can also enjoy the fruits of cross-disciplinary expertise.

It should be of no surprise, then, to learn that some of the largest corporations around the world have decided to use Six Sigma. Xerox, a world leader in document technology and services, have been using Six Sigma in projects that focus on reducing waste and increasing effectiveness. They have recorded measurable improvements in results for customers and the company, alike.

Using Six Sigma as a Change Management tool will give your business the guidance it needs to respond appropriately to changes in your business environment. Make sure your staff are well-trained in Six Sigma and give your business a competitive advantage moving forward.

Alex Pejak is an economist currently working on a few projects in Australia. She is interested in topics related to market research and project management. You can follow her at @AlexPejak.