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Leading the Future in Product Development

Six Sigma for Growth - PDSS' Philosophy

Growth is the new frontier for Six Sigma.  The word "growth" needs to be joined with innovation to truly direct where Six Sigma is going to add value to your business processes.  The following questions and answers will discuss some of PDSSí philosophy about the future of Six Sigma for Growth.

Question: How hard is it to deploy and integrate Six Sigma for Growth across my strategic, tactical and operational business processes? Can this even be done?

Answer: It is not easy but it can and must be done if you hope to sustain growth in any credible and measurable way as a Six Sigma-enabled business.  If you have no faith in Six Sigma as a means to sustaining growth then it won't work because you won't have the discipline to see it through to active use.  If you value Six Sigma and see the vision of how it migrates from DMAIC to integrated use within your day-to-day business processes and work flow, then you have a very aggressive goal to reach.  To date, very few have even come close.  Many are on their way.

Six Sigma almost always starts as a cost initiative in the production and supply chain processes.  Then DMAIC methods migrate to the transactional side of the business where waste and cost exist in measurable losses.  Wall Street initially loves to see cost control results and will reward those who show discipline and results on the "bottom line."

Wall Street is a tough crew to convince when it comes to sustainable growth and certainly they don't view cost reductions as a complete strategy to growth.  Anyone who wants to complete the picture on a credible growth strategy has to hold the bottom-line gains while moving up to the top-line arena where organic growth though the design and deployment of your product-line strategy exists.

Top-line growth is where Six Sigma for Growth is used.  The key ingredients for top-line growth are rigor and discipline in mastering product portfolio design and development, technology development and transfer, product commercialization and post-launch product-line management and sales.  It is an integrated systems approach to sustaining growth.  Miss on any one of them and sustainability is likely to be diminished.

PDSS breaks these processes into three arenas where Six Sigma can be applied:

  • Strategic (portfolio and technology development),
  • Tactical (product and service commercialization) and
  • Operational (post-launch product-line management and sales)

It will take on the order of four to five years to really transition to a Six Sigma-enabled flow of coordinated work within and across these three arenas to measurably sustain growth.  Six Sigma tools, methods and best practices, linked to key tasks within these arenas will help you produce the data and summary results needed to enable growth.  The growth comes from well-trained teams that know what to do and when to do it to fulfill requirements that are clear and derivative of the true needs and dynamics out in your customerís environment.

Question: How will we measure the value that Six Sigma for Growth delivers to our company?

Answer: In the long term, the dollars will be counted in the format and tracking of your business cases that make up the overall growth potential resident in the activated and launched portion of your product portfolio.  These are lagging indicators of success.

In the short term, the metrics are not financial, but rather in the form of summary data that arrives at and is consumed during your gate reviews.  How well your teams are meeting clear requirements from you, how clearly you understand your accrued risks and how decisive you can be at any form of gate review are the measures that will make you happy you took this approach.  These are leading indicators of future financial success.

Question: Will DFSS shorten my cycle time for launching a new product into the marketplace?

Answer: Not initially.  Any DFSS provider who tells you otherwise is just trying to get your business at any cost (to you).  Just as a new musician must practice to gain poise and speed, your product commercialization teams must first become repeatable and predictable in tool use to complete key design tasks.  Once they are predictable, they can begin to get clever, gain speed, take reasonable shortcuts and ultimately shorten how long it takes to design a product to properly meet its requirements that underwrite the business case for the product.

Question: Does anything relating to the use of Six Sigma have to be based upon the steps of DMAIC or DMADV or DMEDI?

Answer: No.  These series of steps were created to outline a method to solve cost problems (DMAIC) or to design a new business or service process (DMADV or DMEDI).  DMADV & DMEDI (essentially the same thing) were originally derived from DMAIC methodology in an attempt to re-use the "Six Sigma" approach to create a new process when the old one was incapable of meeting requirements.  Some have claimed, wrongly in our opinion, that DMADV and DMEDI are models that should be used to develop new technologies and technical products.  We have yet to find one company, who of their own natural tendencies, discovered that the DMADV model is a credible model for designing a complex technical system.  It is unnatural and forced to use DMADV as a product development process.  Many of our clients have tried it and abandoned it.  Don't make everything you do with regard to Six Sigma automatically follow DMAIC or any derivative of it.  People will think you are biased towards an artificial construct that must be used at any cost if you are doing "Six Sigma."

We don't use DMADV or DMEDI at PDSS because we find these steps tend to confuse people when it comes to what technical DFSS means vs.  non-technical business process innovation.  For business process innovation we use a "double II form of DMAIIC" to show clients how to either solve a problem in an existing process (the Improve fork in the road) or to innovate a creative, new process to meet critical customer requirements (the Innovate fork in the road).  DMAIIC is a wholly satisfying, natural and credible set of steps to design a new transactional or business process.  It is not a proper set of steps to design an automobile, a pharmaceutical or a new laptop computer.

The first model for Six Sigma was built upon the simple DMAIC steps.  It works great and is worth doing when you want to solve a problem and reduce costs.  The new model for Six Sigma for Growth has nothing to do with the DMAIC steps and is not a derivative of it.  Its focus is on using your existing business processes as a basis for doing work that is enhanced by selected sets of Six Sigma tools, methods and best practices.  Every set of phases and gates that can be used to develop your product portfolio architecture, new technologies, new products and new production systems can be fitted with a designed and flexible set of Six Sigma tools.  They enable key tasks within your product development processes whether they are strategic (portfolio and technology development) or tactical (product and production system design).  This approach to Six Sigma-enabled work is focused on organic growth, not cost.

Every company we have ever worked with uses a designed set of phases and gates to govern the process of product development.  This is natural and an unforced use of a series of steps (phases) to control how risk accrues and is managed during product development.

To summarize: Six Sigma for Growth is not intrinsically dependent on, or linked to, the DMAIC, DMADV or DMEDI models.  To the contrary, use of your natural phase-gate processes is the best way to deploy a well-defined and integrated set of Six Sigma tools to get the right (lean) tasks done at the right time.