An exploratory case study analysis of implementation of six sigma in a New Zealand organisation.
Thesis DisciplineBusiness Administration
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Commerce
Since its inception at Motorola during the late 1980s Six Sigma has steadily risen in popularity and reputation as a worldwide standard for manufacturing quality through its objective of increasing quality through the decrease of variance. Six Sigma now boasts a wide variety of tools and processes that seek to improve quality, increase financial returns, improve customer satisfaction rates, reduce rework and waste. At its core Six Sigma follows the stepwise procedure of the DMAIC (Design, Measure, Analyse, Improve and Control) methodology.
This research sought to investigate and identify the success factors that are present during a Six Sigma project, for the reason that identifying and understanding these factors will provide practitioners with the knowledge to ensure that their Six Sigma Project has a higher chance of success. To achieve this a two stage approach was adopted. Stage One consisted of a systematic literature review of current and relevant literature in the Six Sigma and Business Improvement field. A systematic review was chosen for its ability to condense large amounts of information allowing the researcher to establish and recognise consistent information across sources of literature. Stage Two of this research consisted of an empirical analysis to identify success factors by conducting a single case study in an organisation applying Six Sigma through a series of semi-structured interviews. This approach is classified as an embedded single case design as it involves multiple units of analysis.
The framework applied to the Systematic Literature review was the Preferred Reporting Items of Systematic Reviews (PRISMA) and Meta-Analyses. This was to ensure a systematic and recordable process of literature search, exclusion and analysis. In Stage Two of the research, the semi-structured interviews (N=10) were transcribed then hand coded for analysis. Semi structured interviews were chosen for their capacity to allow the researcher to prepare questions in advance, while still allowing the conversation to flow naturally and in a relaxed setting. Subsequently the findings from both stages of the study were collated and compared. This provided a series of success factors which have both real world and literature evidence to corroborate and support their existence.
Success factors identified from the systematic literature review included the importance of project structure, efficient resource allocation, importance of accurate measurement systems, levels of knowledge/experience, levels of training provided to project members and the commitment level of senior managers and project members. Analysis of the semi-structured interviews provided real world evidence that substantiated the theories and claims uncovered during the systematic literature review.
The major finding from the analysis was the discovery of a success factor that was not described or discovered during the systematic literature review. This success factor is termed acceptance and refers to how the level employee ‘acceptance’ for Six Sigma projects had a strong effect on the success of the project.
To the extent of the researcher’s knowledge this is the first investigation into success factors of a Six Sigma project within a New Zealand organisation/business. The findings from this study contribute to both the academic literature and managerial practices (i.e. operations management), by providing empirical evidence supporting theories surrounding project successes that were identified during the systematic literature review.
The findings suggest a series of success factors. These success factors are commitment of senior management, measurement accuracy, importance of project structure, knowledge/experience, resource allocation, and training for the employee’s level. In addition to these success factors found in both the systematic literature review and in the interviews, there was a significant finding from the Case Study Organisation that was not found in the literature. This finding is new success factor - ‘employee acceptance’. All of these success factors Business Improvement specialists can focus on and cultivate within their organisations, with the aim of increasing project success rates and, moreover, creating increased business growth.