December 27, 2015

Six Sigma and Organisational Learning – relationship

The elements of Six Sigma and organisational learning can be found in Deming's SOPK that has four parts (appreciation for a system, knowledge about variation, theory of knowledge, psychology), all related to each other.

Six Sigma can contribute to organisational learning as a mechanism if Black Belts and Master Black Belts have clear understanding about the theory of knowledge and psychology of Deming's SOPK approach. Six Sigma has the potential to contribute to organisational learning that can be seen in Dixon's organisational learning cycle (widespread generation of information; integration of new/local information into the organisational context; collectively interpreting the information; authority to take responsible action based on the interpreted meaning). We can see that they are all related to each other.

Six Sigma is a learning process by incorporating the goal's of the company into its system, by sharing new ideas and experiences, by involving statistical knowledge and analysis. Six Sigma is a useful tool to encourage learning so as to achieve competitive advantage. The right training of Black Belts and Master Black Belts is vital in a successful Six Sigma implementation. According to Sony and Naik (2012), Six Sigma can promote organisational learning by boosting all the company members' commitment to learning, shared vision and open-mindedness. Gutierrez et al (2012) state that Six Sigma contains teamwork which is one of its major characteristics. The absorptive capacity of the organisation with teamwork and process management through shared vision, mission, goals and common language between the participants can be resulted in organisational learning. Consequently, the implementation of Six Sigma may provide a mechanism to support organisational learning.

Although, there are some counter-arguments against the potential of Six Sigma to contribute to organisational learning. For example, the 'Belt' system can ignore all the members of the organisation, the 'human' issues can be ignored as well that can obstruct learning. The goal of the managers tend to focus more on gaining profit rather than organisational learning. The cultural change, the lack of manager's ownership, the low motivational level of the members, poor leadership and so on can all hinder the effective implemetation of organisational learning, respectively, organisational learning. What's more, Six Sigma can be a very expensive investment of an organisation. Therefore, it is more popular amongst multinational companies rather than SMEs.

To sum up, the opinions of different authors about Six Sigma and organisational lerning is contradictory, therefore we cannot clearly state that the implementation of Six Sigma either support or obstruct as a mechanism for organisational learning. In order to make sure that it works as a mechanism, all the critical success factors of six sigma must be met.


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