Updated date:

Six Sigma: Embedded Experts Vs. Separate Organizations

Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, industrial engineer, mother of two, and published sci-fi and horror author.

Explore two different ways of deploying Six Sigma experts in your organization.

Explore two different ways of deploying Six Sigma experts in your organization.

You've decided to roll out Six Sigma across your organization. How do you deploy your experts? What are the advantages of embedded experts in each department compared to separate Six Sigma organizations within the company?

Should your six sigma experts be embedded within your different functional groups or exist as a separate, stand alone department?

Should your six sigma experts be embedded within your different functional groups or exist as a separate, stand alone department?

Separate Six Sigma Organizations

A separate or stand-alone Six Sigma organization can be part of the quality department or a dedicated core of experts. When a company has a separate organization within the company, they work on whichever projects and at whatever locations they are assigned.

Companies that set up experts within their own organization garner a number of benefits from this structure as well as take on a few risks.

Advantages

  • Each Six Sigma expert gains a breadth of experience. Their experience spans multiple product lines and functional areas. This diverse experience creates a cross-pollination of ideas that can lead to significant breakthroughs.
  • A small set of Black Belts can service a very large number of projects or products.
  • Experts can devote themselves to training others, completing advanced training themselves and honing skills.
  • Experts within a separate organization naturally bring lessons learned from other departments, sites and projects to the next project - without violating company proprietary information agreements.
  • It is easier to bring in a Six Sigma expert on overhead to a problem area than it is to find the budget to hire an outside consultant. It is usually cheaper, too, to bring in an internal expert than an external consultant.

Disadvantages

  • Travel costs are high when experts visit different locations, especially for companies with sites dispersed around the country.
  • Six Sigma experts who work on an as-needed basis around the company may not be available to troubleshoot operational problems brought on by their recommendations.
  • Experts must be brought up to speed on the product or job function while mapping the current state of operations.
  • If process improvement efforts hit a point of diminishing returns, the organization may shed experts as a cost-cutting measure. The expertise, once lost, is difficult to recover. If experts are needed later, the consulting fees are costly.
  • When greater credence is given to experts brought in from outside the organization over local talent, employees are reluctant to contribute.
  • Six Sigma experts working for a short term can discourage buy-in for long term changes by employees. When the expert is gone, it is more difficult to sustain the gain.
  • When an expert is brought in, the focus often shifts to very large projects to justify their presence. A coordinated group of related process changes with the same benefits may be ignored in favor of sweeping changes and serious disruption just because an expert is involved.

Embedded Six Sigma Experts

Embedded experts are embedded in the organization in which they work. Six Sigma experts in this model are local to the operation, continuously present through all phases of a project, and thoroughly familiar with the group they support.

Advantages

  • Experts are local. Tighter travel budgets do not prevent cost-saving projects from being implemented properly.
  • Six Sigma experts are available whenever ideas for projects arise. There is no need to schedule projects upon the availability of experts.
  • Embedded experts can listen to a potential project that might not be taken seriously by a manager. This prevents ideas being lost pending management review and approval.
  • When work loads are light, experts can focus their time on smaller projects with quick turnaround. The organization gains higher productivity from these individuals as a result.
  • Embedded experts can act as local Six Sigma champions within their division or functional area.

Disadvantages

  • Six Sigma training takes time away from someone's official job duties, if the expert does not work on process improvement initiatives full time.
  • If job demands are too high, the individual trained in Six Sigma may not have the time to utilize them. The training costs are then wasted.
  • When an expert is part of an organization or division, they can reach a point of diminishing returns with projects within that group. Once this point is reached, they either perform their original job or are loaned out as six sigma experts to other groups.
  • Experts embedded in an organization without any other type of responsibility may push further quality improvement projects despite diminishing ROI.
  • When a manager or team lead is trained in Six Sigma, any changes in process or equipment change can evolve into a Six Sigma project. This is especially true when performance reviews for trained staff are rated on both their full time jobs and Six Sigma performance. Their basic job is performed but performance can actually be hindered by additional meetings and project management.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Comments

Tamara Wilhite (author) from Fort Worth, Texas on October 21, 2011:

My personal experience has been that many good ideas originate from within but are not implemented due to internal bias against ideas coming from "below".

Tony from At the Gemba on October 21, 2011:

In my experience it is always far better to bring in someone from outside your company or even your industry if you are looking to make breakthrough improvements. If you continue to use people from your own industry you tend to just improve what you have; people from other industries are more likely to say, "what the hell are you doing, what about...." and the revolution begins!