Can you apply six sigma to small businesses?

Smaller businesses are recognising all the time the value of implementing effective methodologies and Six Sigma offers a host of benefits if applied appropriately.

Many small companies find it difficult to imagine themselves utilising the same level of organisation and strategy as larger companies with employees in the hundreds. However, while management methods in smaller businesses need not be as thorough as bigger ones, having a plan makes a difference and every project is capable of being improved. Smaller businesses are recognising all the time the value of implementing effective methodologies and Six Sigma offers a host of benefits if applied appropriately.

Small business owners need to be aware before they begin any kind of training that there is some expense involved and not every business would be likely able to afford the costs of using Six Sigma effectively. However, it is a highly valuable methodology and, for a business that can afford it, it can grow your business’s wealth and become a valuable tool. With the right kind of quality assurances management, you can turn your small business into one with a big influence.

Why you should apply six sigma

One issue that small yet successful companies have is that they bring in more business than they can handle. While this might sound like something that definitely should not be a problem, working intensely and consistently to keep up with demands can have some detrimental effects. Companies like this burn from both ends have neither the time nor the resources to look internally and improve their own working method.

As a result, they tend to get stuck in a routine and find it difficult to implement change without their work being disrupted. This is something that Six Sigma is capable of changing.

Six Sigma is designed in such a way that it can become the core of a company’s culture and grow its roots into all of the different processes. It has relevance to so many areas of work that hiring a Six Sigma Master Black Belt or enrolling one or two of your employees in training courses can have a domino effect throughout your company, improving practically all operations and processes.

Six Sigma processes rarely involve stopping after you have crossed the finish line: they’re cyclical and one is never finished when there is still so much to be improved. The DMAIC cycle – define, measure, analyse, improve, control – is a process that ensures that you and your business continue to improve and many small companies don’t have anything similar to this cycle put in place to reduce errors and ensure quality.

The requirements

One of the most important requirements if you intend to apply Six Sigma to a small company is commitment and support. It’s very possible for employees of all levels to learn Six Sigma, but due to the limited budgets of small businesses, employees would need to want to learn. This is in order to avoid having to repeatedly enrol employees in courses – which can become expensive – or to avoid wasting time and resources by giving your employees extensive time off work in order to sit their exams.

However, it’s not just the employees undergoing training that need to support Six Sigma: the only way it can be effectively applied is if the company owner supports it as well. If the owner is not open to change and isn’t willing to actively support the application of Six Sigma – taking time out to ensure its success – then Six Sigma likely won’t work.

Six Sigma is not about fixing a company’s wounds: it’s about completely reworking the way that a company functions to improve processes both current and future. That means that there may be some failure due in the future as the company adjusts and adapts to the new core framework, and resources will need to be spared to be dedicated to change related activities. Understandably, this is a lot to ask of a small business, but it is very possible.

Six Sigma doesn’t require a business to scrap their current framework and perfect a new one overnight. In order to bring Six Sigma into a small business, the process needs to be worked slowly. As the business grows and adapts to the new methods, measures can be taken to increase the reach of Six Sigma within the company. This can be done by training more staff in Six Sigma or training current employees in the next belt level.

By gradually applying Six Sigma to your small business, you can reduce the risk of disruptions and failures and give your business time to recover in between implementing phases to make up for any profits or resources sacrificed for the cause.

If you’re interested in applying this to your business, consider enrolling in the Six Sigma courses by The Knowledge Academy and transforming the way you work for the better.

Further reading on Six Sigma

Owen Gough, SmallBusiness UK

Owen Gough

Owen was a reporter for Bonhill Group plc writing across the and titles before moving on to be a Digital Technology reporter for the

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