The 5 Six Sigma implementation mistakes

(and how to avoid them)

Effective Six Sigma implementation leads to positive results for an organisation and good experiences enjoyed by its employees. However, incorrect implementation of Six Sigma can yield disappointing results and cause wastes. When applying Six Sigma to an organisation, five problems can occur and can discourage employees if they are not solved. By learning how to recognise and prevent these problems, a Six Sigma team can perform well.

Problem 1: The wrong leadership

Support and dedication from management are essential for success. Managers must demonstrate how Six Sigma works and must constantly emphasise its importance at all levels. Support should not only come from the managers of the Six Sigma team. Instead, the managers of other organisation departments must also emphasise this importance to the rest of the employees.


Because supporting Six Sigma is so important, extra attention will have to be paid to all members of management in the organisation. Higher management will therefore have to communicate with the entire organisation in order to emphasise the importance of Six Sigma and how it matches the objectives of the organisation. Besides this, management will have to take time to provide all involved employees with feedback on their progress, and will have to use this to potentially adjust the objectives.

Problem 2: Wrong strategy

The deployment of an implementation strategy is helpful when it comes to directing the objectives of the organisation, achieving results and preserving Six Sigma within the organisation. A lack of direction can cause confusion among the employees involved, something that delays implementation among many organisations.


To avoid this, the implementation of a Six Sigma strategy must be in line with the goals of the organisation in order to achieve the right results. This strategy must fully involve the organisation’s schedule, its Six Sigma tools and its plotted course. Teams must frequently evaluate their progress and link this to changes in the results of the organisation. Once this has been done, they can simply monitor the progress and make adjustments when necessary. Visible changes in the results of the organisation will give employees more confidence in Six Sigma and will encourage more effort.

Problem 3: Focus on training and certification

Training and earning certificates are important to employees within a Six Sigma team, since this aspect creates a certain amount of competition in the organisation. However, teams are sometimes too focused on training and certification, so the execution of projects subsequently fails. Without the right support and coaching, the Belts might only select and carry out projects for the sake of certification. And that is absolutely not the intention.


Teams should always aim to achieve the goals of the organisation and should focus on selecting the right Six Sigma projects. To make this possible, management must regularly monitor changes in results and make adjustments when a lack of progress is noted.

Problem 4: Wrong project selection

Insufficient focus on the selection of projects and on prioritising can lead to projects that lack data or do not suit the organisation. Focus might also be placed on processes beyond the reach of Green and Black Belts. This can result in delayed or scrapped projects and can cause great confusion among employees.


Teams must be certain that the chosen Six Sigma improvement projects are based on data, and that focus is placed on the goals of the organisation, on finances, on the process and on the customer. Goals can otherwise not be achieved.

Problem 5: Lack of responsibility

Every employee has an interest in his or her own development and progress within the organisation. Everyone is therefore responsible for successful implementation. However, teams sometimes do not succeed in communicating the benefits of Six Sigma implementation to the most important stakeholders. As a result, they do not get a good impression of the implementation and there is a greater chance of resistance than there would have been, had communication been effective.


The teams must combine the goals of the organisation with the Six Sigma goals and their own goals to demonstrate the interconnections to the organisation. In this way, they can gain support from all the employees in the organisation – something that is necessary in order to achieve the Six Sigma goals. Management will therefore be required to often emphasise the importance of Six Sigma implementation and how the results can benefit employees’ own careers. Besides this, management and other organisation employees – on whom Six Sigma success depends – should also set implementation goals.

Prevent problems in good time

Successfully preventing these mistakes will be beneficial in the long term and will speed up the improvement process. The key to success is in identifying these challenges in good time and taking the measures necessary in order to avoid problems. What is most important during the implementation of Six Sigma is support from everyone within the organisation to thereby achieve the best results.

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