Authored By: Mikel J. Harry, Ph.D.
As most of us know, Six Sigma is a fact-driven system of business management that is aimed at the realization of breakthrough performance. Historically speaking, Six Sigma has been a top-down initiative, usually organized and led by a very special group of people – Six Sigma Champions, Master Black Belts, and Black Belts.
However, times have changed. Today, there are few large-scale top-down deployments of Six Sigma – most being driven from the bottom-up (organizationally speaking). As one might expect, such an inverted deployment strategy translates to new roles and responsibilities, especially for those that must govern a Six Sigma initiative and its many activities.
So as to bring the best out of people and teams, a grass-roots implementation of Six Sigma must be flexible and adaptive to ever-changing circumstances. This is especially true when it comes to how the Six Sigma initiative is governed. Of course, the form of governance is quite often highly dependent upon such things as, cultural diversity, prevailing competencies, resource constraints, and the goals to be achieved, just to mention a few of the many considerations. In this context, perhaps its now time to switch our thinking to the development of Six Sigma Stewards since bottom-up deployments are becoming the rule and not the exception.
To illustrate the driving need for the stewardship role, we must consider the course of a bottom-up deployment of Six Sigma. At the onset, Six Sigma Stewards must serve as advocates to keep the idea alive. Following this, they may find themselves in a coaching role, involved in the transfer of critical knowledge followed by the mentoring of high-potential players. After this, it is likely the Six Sigma Stewards will be called upon to lead the charge, personally demonstrating many of the principles and practices associated with the Six Sigma Body-of-Knowledge.
The Stewards of Six Sigma must also be enablers and know how to improvise, adapt and exploit opportunities, therein driving meaningful and productive applications of Six Sigma. Along these lines, the stewards might often be expected to facilitate, manage and lead the activities of various Six Sigma teams and projects. Very often, stewards will either directly or indirectly provide management and executive consulting along the way. Thus, it is easy to understand why it is so essential that the stewards of Six Sigma be able to quickly adapt or shift their style of governance.
In summary, a Six Sigma Steward must serve as an advocate, coach, mentor, leader, enabler, facilitator, manager and consultant (see graphic above). As the success of Six Sigma grows within an organization, the multifaceted role of a Six Sigma Steward will likely be decomposed and subsequently delegated, especially as the infrastructure grows to support the continuance of success on a larger scale.
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