Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 9


Six sigma for small and

Quality management (QM) in general deals with
medium-sized permanently redirecting a company’s macro and
micro operations towards the needs of internal and
enterprises external customers. To maintain and extend
competitive advantages in all dimensions and
Godecke Wessel and markets, companies shift increasingly from
defining quality as a task that can be run by a
Peter Burcher quality department, to seeing it as the overall
long-term umbrella objective of their business.
The “Panorama of EU Industry” (n.d., cited by
Ghobadian and Gallear, 1997) reports that
“between 1980 and 1990 US companies with
TQM achieved a compound annual growth of 16.9
per cent compared with 10.9 per cent achieved by
other companies.” This argument puts forward the
competitive importance of relative superior quality
The authors and the significance of a well-designed QM
Godecke Wessel was an MBA student at Aston Business
School, Birmingham, UK and is a black belt project leader at ITT
The British Quality Association (n.d. cited
Industries Cannon, Waiblingen-Beinstein, Germany. Burcher, 2002, p. 20) defines TQM as an
Peter Burcher is a Senior Lecturer in Operations Management all-embracing business management philosophy
and Director of the DBA Programme at Aston University, Aston focusing on completely fulfilling customer
Business School, Birmingham, UK. requirements with a maximum of effectiveness and
efficiency. In contrast, six sigma strives for a
Keywords complete and profitable fulfilment of customer
Quality programmes, Small to medium-sized enterprises, requirements. By only performing projects which
Quality management, Total quality management support the core company value drivers, six sigma
explicitly considers a second main receiver of a
Abstract company’s performance – the capital provider.
Having arisen in large corporations, six sigma is surely one of the Therefore, six sigma is characterized as a profit
most comprehensive approaches for company development and centre, not a cost centre, which has a major impact
performance improvement of products and processes. on the QM approach, while still based in the
Nevertheless, it appears that the majority of small and medium- fundamental methods and tools of traditional QM.
sized enterprises (SMEs) either do not know the six sigma For many large corporations like General
approach, or find its organisation not suitable to meet their Electric, six sigma has become the centre of nearly
specific requirements. This study identifies the specific
every business activity, and a very important step
requirements based on a sample of SMEs in Germany and
examines how six sigma has to be modified to be applicable and to ensure long-term competitiveness. In today’s
valuable in an SME environment. The overall results are reflected highly competitive environment, it is also
in ten imperative functional requirements for an adjusted becoming increasingly important for SMEs.
approach. According to EUROSTAT (Statistical Office of
the European Commission, personal
Electronic access communication, July 15, 2002), there are about
The Emerald Research Register for this journal is 1.2m SMEs in Germany employing 8.6m people,
available at underlining the importance of SMEs for the
www.emeraldinsight.com/researchregister German economy. These numbers still do not
include those from the housing, energy and traffic
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is
available at industries. Furthermore, the success of large
www.emeraldinsight.com/0954-478X.htm corporations’ quality programmes is critically
dependent on the supply of high quality goods and
services from suppliers, which are most likely to be
SMEs. Thus, a logical consequence is that large
organisations encourage the application of
well-proven QM approaches among their
The TQM Magazine
Volume 16 · Number 4 · 2004 · pp. 264-272 suppliers, underlining the fact that modern
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited · ISSN 0954-478X economies operate as complex networks of firms.
DOI 10.1108/09544780410541918 Consequently, the competitiveness of SMEs affect
Six sigma for small and medium-sized enterprises The TQM Magazine
Godecke Wessel and Peter Burcher Volume 16 · Number 4 · 2004 · 264-272

the competitive position of an economy as a whole. sheet total lower than e43m (European
As Drihlon and Estime (1993) cited by Ghobadian Commission, 2001). As neither the annual
and Gallear (1997) point out: “In today’s crowded turnover, nor the balance sheet total can be
markets, firms cannot afford to stand still, waste identified as high-impact factors on the
resources by adopting a trial-and-error approach organization of a company’s management system,
to formulating a strategic direction, and deliver an SME in the study context just has between 10
poor quality products or services.” However, Yusof and 249 employees. Its management is, to a large
and Aspinwall (2000) state that many small extent, free in terms of its decision making,
companies have stopped their quality journey especially with regard to the internal structures.
rather than pursuing further continuous Targeting an a-risk of 50 per cent, a b-risk of 20
improvement efforts. They argue: “Small per cent, and a granularity at 10 per cent the “one
businesses must understand the need to go beyond proportion test” suggests a sample size of at least
the quality system stage and work towards a total 45 companies. It can be argued that higher
approach for quality.” Nevertheless, the adoption significance levels often are too ambitious, which is
of six sigma is not restricted to their relationship supported by the view of Chmielewicz (1994). In
with larger firms. It is rather an opportunity for a total, 1,988 SMEs from Germany were written to
development towards a stronger focus on customer via e-mail, combined with a request to participate
requirements and higher profitability. in the survey by filling out the Web-based
Ghobadian and Gallear (1997) argue, that “the questionnaire. After five days, all recipients were
published work of the gurus of quality, such as reminded again to answer the questions; after ten
Crosby, Juran, Deming and Feigenbaum, reflect days the survey was closed. The survey outcomes
their experiences at large multinationals”. They were grouped into inherent needs which then were
summarise the discussion of Price and Chen translated into critical-to-quality-requirements,
(1993) cited by Ghobadian and Gallear (1997), which are “requirements that are most important
that the QM systems of large corporations have to to the customers” (George, 2002), employing
go through certain changes to be well-suited for affinity techniques followed by two stages of the
small companies. Unfortunately, there is no quality-function-deployment tool.
research on six sigma available specifically focusing
on SMEs, making it necessary to perform primary
research. This study provides general suggestions
for a six sigma design adjusted to SME General model of six sigma in large
requirements. corporations
Harry and Schroeder (1999) argue that the main
weakness of traditional TQM concepts is the
Methodology of the study exclusive focus on customer requirements. Six
sigma in contrast focuses on quality from both the
After the TQM hype of the early 1980s, six sigma, customer’s and the investor’s perspectives with the
building on well-proven elements of TQM, can be aim to meet customer requirements fully and
seen as the current stage of evolution. As profitably. Therefore, six sigma considers the
elementary methods and tools of TQM build a provider of capital as the main receiver of the
basis for any six sigma design and cultural company’s outcome (Pande et al., 2000). By
elements have their foundation in general change striving for 6s quality under the normal
management theories, the major difference distribution in all products, services and processes,
between six sigma and TQM has to be seen in the corresponding to only 3.4 defects per million
direction of the programme. Therefore, the opportunities (dpmo) or virtually error-free
published research on TQM has been carefully processes, TQM still is the overall umbrella
used in the context of this study. philosophy, but adjusted by a strong focus on
Subsequently, an online questionnaire profitability improvement. Nevertheless, like
employing free e-mail address databases has been TQM, six sigma requires a strong incorporation of
employed to gain access to a broad sample of the corporate control system to enable companies to
companies, filling the information gap to develop a objectively measure and monitor their long-term
broad six sigma concept for SMEs. The definition development within, and monetary outcome of,
adopted by the European Commission for SMEs QM using statistical techniques. By this, the
from the year 1996 defines SMEs as those control system is a key function between strategy
companies which have between 10 and 249 and the operational level. At the operational level,
occupied persons (European Commission, 1996). six sigma builds on a set of well-established
The second criterion is that the annual turnover traditional methods and tools, as well as new
should be less than e50m or an annual balance techniques for setting priorities on improvement
Six sigma for small and medium-sized enterprises The TQM Magazine
Godecke Wessel and Peter Burcher Volume 16 · Number 4 · 2004 · 264-272

projects and for measuring the monetary benefits disadvantages in the continuous search for the
(“net-benefit” calculation). These new tools have improvement of the business with quality,
to ensure that the additional objective of productivity and cost reductions as indivisible
profitability improvement can be achieved (Wessel, elements, as well as process orientation, spending
2002) (See Figure 1). on training, and discipline about goals and
For example Magnusson et al. (1999), Pande standards. Other authors support the findings of
et al. (2000), and Eckes (2000) described the core Ghobadian and Gallear (1997). For instance,
elements of a six sigma organisation as follows: Gunasekaran et al. (1996) argue that strategy
process improvement represented by the formulation and linkage to operations is a very
DMAIC method (define, measure, analyse, dynamic process in SMEs. A further point is
improvement, control); supported by Van Der Wiele and Brown (1998),
product and process design represented by the who argue that a potential advantage for SMEs in
DMADV method (define, measure, analyse, applying TQM is the natural visibility and
design, verify); and involvement of managers. According to them, it is
. an underlying process management. easier for employees to become clear about the
importance of TQM, if the management is
In addition, to achieve a successful cultural committed and drives the initiative. Yusof and
implementation in a client organisation, six sigma Aspinwall (2000) declare, that “management
suggests powerful tools, such as the well-described leadership is probably the most important factor of
roles of the six sigma profession: the green belt, TQM success”. Shea and Gobeli (1995) argue on
black belt, and champion roles. the experience of ten small US businesses, that it is
easier to implement TQM in SMEs because the
power of decision making does not depend on
extensive hierarchies but lies within the owner
SME requirements, limitations and managers. This factor can also be taken for granted
circumstances in terms of six sigma and underlines the view of
many six sigma authors, who point out the
To understand the specific needs of SMES, an importance of top management commitment and
important study was undertaken by Ghobadian a top-down approach for implementation (e.g.
and Gallear (1997), who assessed the Magnusson et al., 1999; Pande et al., 2000; Eckes,
requirements and characteristics of large 2001).
corporations versus SMEs in the UK with regard A factor which contradicts the view of
to their advantages and disadvantages in terms of Ghobadian and Gallear is that SMEs have a much
TQM. The identified factors are the result of an “closer proximity to the customers” (Barrier,
intensive literature review based on the work of 1994, cited by McAdam, 2000). This proximity is
Welsh and White (1981), d’Amboise and coupled with a larger number of SME employees
Muldowney (1988), MacMillan (1975) and Deeks having direct customer contact and knowledge
(1976), all cited by Ghobadian and Gallear (Hale and Cragg, 1996, cited by McAdam, 2000).
(1997). Ghobadian and Gallear see unique McAdam (2000), who examined the application of
advantages of SMEs in effective and open TQM-related models in an SME context in 20
communication channels, low resistance to company case studies, adds that “therefore, the
change, people orientation, employees employing customer voice can be incorporated within SME
a natural responsibility for quality, company-wide operations without prolonged and formalised
awareness, functional integration, and approaches”. This view is supported by Haksever
innovativeness. However, SMEs face (1996) who reviewed TQM principles from a small

Figure 1 General elements of six sigma

Six sigma for small and medium-sized enterprises The TQM Magazine
Godecke Wessel and Peter Burcher Volume 16 · Number 4 · 2004 · 264-272

business perspective. McAdam (2000) refers to McAdam (2000), demonstrated that processes in
Raymond et al. (1998) arguing that the SMEs’ SMEs are much more temporary and less defined
traditional loyalty to specific customers supports than in large organisations. Additionally, Van Der
improvement efforts, which are visible to the Wiele and Brown (1998) argue that processes and
customer. Six sigma depends on reliable ways of measures do often not keep pace with the rapidly
collecting the voices of the customer and changing environment. However, convincing
translating these into critical-to-quality- measures are a key element of six sigma and Yusof
requirements of products and services. This close and Aspinwall (2000) highlight that “small firms
relationship and the high degree of with no customer data collection system will face
communication with key customers appear to be difficulties, as most of the information will be lost
significant advantages of SMEs in opposition to along the way, or will remain in the minds of the
large corporations. owner-manager”. McTeer and Dale (1996) cited
A potential problem appears to be that SMEs in Yusof and Aspinwall (2000) described two
seem to have less financial, as well as people important drawbacks of TQM, especially in an
resources (Ryans, 1995, cited by McAdam, 2000). SME context, namely the elapsed time and the
Ryans (1995) argues: “In the SME environment, amount of paperwork caused by the
there is little spare resource; every employee has a implementation of a quality system. Isenberg
key role and usually several”. In addition, Lee and (2000) points out that a realistic understanding of
Oakes (1995) reported financial and technical process variation, first time yield and the cost of
constraints as the main problem of small poor quality are essential for six sigma success, but
businesses in terms of QM, as well as Haksever concluded on the specific advantages of SMEs,
(1996) who added a lack of management that at least the project tracking and the reporting
experience. Based on a study of 44 small Spanish can be simplified. This is supported by Yeb-Yun
manufacturers examining the responsible factors Lin (1999) who suggests that highly formalised
for successful TQM, Moreno-Luzon (1993) models do not fit into an SME environment and
reported difficulties of SMEs to develop a quality could result in bureaucracy. He argues that
culture due to both experience and resource employee involvement and communication are
limitations. As McAdam (2000) reiterates, a lack natural processes in these companies. Therefore,
of systematic training and development of given that SMEs are likely to have good “team
employees is a typical weakness of SMEs, which players”, project teams could be very successful if
can be seen as the result of a strong constraint of common methods and tools are provided.
In conclusion, there is a significant agreement
people, limitations in the financial resources, as
on the discussed factors within the reviewed
well as the non-recognition of the training needs,
sources. Many size-specific characteristics from
which he supports with the findings of Raymond
TQM can be used in a six sigma context and the
et al. (1998), cited by McAdam (2000).
advantages and disadvantages of SMEs in terms of
Furthermore, Lee and Oakes (1995) state that
TQM are also valid for six sigma.
companies which recognised the need for training
often did not have a clear vision of what was
required. Isenberg (2000) concludes that the
challenges of smaller companies are “funding and Ten imperatives towards a general SME
logistics”, a “limited talent pool”, “multi-hat six sigma concept
roles”, and “less exposure to management
innovations in other industries”. Moreno-Luzon In total 70 completed questionnaires were
(1993) points to a possible resistance to change, an received, of which 47 were from the target group.
emphasis on short-term objectives, as well as a lack An analysis of the distribution of people employed
of overall objectives and strategy. Comparing this demonstrated that there is a strong correlation
to the view of Ghobadian and Gallear (1997), it between the represented company sizes of the
becomes clear that there is no agreement in the sample group and the entirety of German SMEs. A
literature on whether SMEs are more likely to be closer examination of these 47 firms showed that
resistant or open towards change. However, the 57.4 per cent of the firms do not have a QM system
dominant view appears to be that SMEs in place and 40.4 per cent state that their
experience only low resistance to change. structures are not sufficient to achieve their
A characteristic of six sigma is that it involves objectives. Only 14.9 per cent (7 firms) know
thinking in processes. To which extent these have about the six sigma approach, but do not use it.
to be described is an issue of process management, However, from these seven firms only two agreed
which, for instance, suggests a process ownership that their structures are sufficient to achieve their
responsibility to certain members of staff. quality objectives; 66 per cent experience QM as
However, Raymond et al. (1998) cited by too slow to permanently readapt a company to its
Six sigma for small and medium-sized enterprises The TQM Magazine
Godecke Wessel and Peter Burcher Volume 16 · Number 4 · 2004 · 264-272

rapidly changing environment; 31.9 per cent are tracking methodology should reduce the amount
certified by ISO 9000, but only 46.6 per cent of of effort required for the tracking.
these find this sufficient to achieve their objectives. SMEs tend to minimize tracking efforts yet they
The review of published literature on general demand proven project results demonstrating the
QM and the cultural requirements that build the self-financing ability of an approach. From the
basis for any six sigma programme, combined with survey, only 29.8 per cent of firms were willing and
the survey responses, suggest that several factors able to track projects over a 12-month time period.
have to be represented in a six sigma initiative A further 29.8 per cent were willing and able to
within an SME context. track for only six months. Short tracking periods
mean that the verification of the economic benefits
becomes significantly more difficult, yet, tracking
Factor 1
periods exceeding 12 months include the risk of
Every single project has to contribute positively
decreased visibility of results due to results
and directly to the company’s bottom line,
levelling out or becoming superimposed by other
calculated through full costing. In fact, this
influences. Therefore, establishing a 12-month
requirement reflects the most substantial
tracking period provides a solution to both
difference to six sigma programmes in large
requirements: enough time to demonstrate
corporations, as these usually calculate
self-financing, as well as minimising tracking
net-benefits from six sigma projects by subtracting
effort, and is therefore an acceptable compromise.
the costs which directly evolve through a project
To avoid escalating bureaucracy it is suggested that
from its financial benefits. These “net-benefits”
SMEs track only the core essential project results
still need to cover the overheads of the six sigma
within this period until the expected benefits are
sufficiently verified. One opportunity could be to
The questionnaire responses demonstrate that
increase the control intervals within this period
profitability improvement is the most important
and to disable check points after the results are
issue for the target group (85.1 per cent).
seen as sufficiently verified. This, combined with
Furthermore, the measurability of a QM
simplified projection methods to the 12-month
contribution to the company’s bottom line is
time-frame, would reduce the resource
highly important (70.2 per cent), underlining that
requirements for tracking.
a traditional TQM approach cannot completely
fulfil the target group requirements with its
exclusive focus on the customer and efficiency. Factor 3
The answers show that only if the financial benefits Six sigma programmes for SMEs should strictly
are verifiably higher than the cost, would three out focus on those projects which fulfil the first two
of four participants provide additional personnel factors to ensure optimum value levelling and
for QM. This indicates that a speedy amortisation resource allocation to projects in line with
of investments is required. Nearly half of the company strategy. This is extremely important as
participants also require an improvement in the survey results demonstrated that this direction
cash-flow, thus the self-financing ability of the is implicitly demanded, but not realised in many
company or an initiative plays an important role. firms, and is the most significant reason for not
Nearly all participants reported, either implicitly providing the necessary resources to enable the
or explicitly, financial constraints, also supported company objectives to be achieved.
by authors in the field of TQM. However, to
ensure self-financing of a six sigma programme
Factor 4
from the beginning, the payback period of initial
A training programme has to be employed which is
investments will have to take place within a
significantly shorter than in large corporations, but
common budgeting period, usually one year. This
is still based in the well-proven methods and tools
can only be ensured if full costing elements are
of QM adjusted to specific SME needs. The
implemented in the project calculation and
appointed quality leaders should undergo this
selection methodology, resulting in the
training, but in contrast to large corporations
requirement of an adjustment of the net-benefit
which usually install a significant green belt base, it
calculation which is usually practised in large
is not necessary to train the rest of the workforce in
six sigma methods and tools.
Nearly two out of three participants in the
Factor 2 survey were willing and able to put the complete
Large corporations routinely track project results workforce through a one-day training programme.
for 12 months – this should be maintained in an However, 72 per cent of these firms claimed not to
SME environment. An exclusive focus on core have the sufficient financial resources. Of those
processes and an adjustment in the project firms who claim not to have enough staff capacity
Six sigma for small and medium-sized enterprises The TQM Magazine
Godecke Wessel and Peter Burcher Volume 16 · Number 4 · 2004 · 264-272

to generally exempt personnel for training 75 per programme which could incorporate
cent were willing to provide additional personnel organisational awareness to promote the change
for QM, but only if the benefits are verifiably efforts. In addition, there was little concern
higher than the cost. This emphasises that expressed about the difficulty of putting new
financial and time constraints play a significant initiatives into practice; 68.1 per cent stated that it
role for the readiness for sending staff to training. would be less or the same effort to implement QM
No company which would not send the complete into the “daily work”.
workforce to training had neither financial nor Based on common literature on organisational
time constraints. However, 91.7 per cent of those culture, the content of an awareness training
who claimed not to have the sufficient should include the “why”, the general “how”, as
management know-how to design, implement, and well as the opportunities and benefits of
run QM successfully, do require a process “participation” in QM, dependent on the
improvement methodology. In addition, based on individual needs of the target group. While a
the expressed requirements of speed, it can be “why” would target a development of
argued that one relatively strict and systematic understanding and support for QM, a “how”
methodology with a set of well-proven tools is would target a very broad introduction of how
better than just a general roadmap for problems look and how projects are identified.
improvement efforts. Therefore, the training for Furthermore, to support the cultural
the full-time staff needs to be significantly shorter implementation as well as individual effectiveness,
than that used by large corporations and a quick an objective of the training efforts could be a
payoff of the training investment is required. A provision of stand-alone tools for everybody’s daily
typical green belt training in large corporations work. A crucial issue, underlining the importance
requires between one and two complete weeks; of this training programme, is the question of
black belt training between three and five weeks. It participation. A quality leader in an organisation is
can be argued that the structures and problems in dependent on input from other employees: where
smaller companies are usually not as complex and things go wrong and in which processes there is
difficult as those in larger firms – this view is potential for improvement and cost reduction.
supported by other authors in the field of Therefore, this training programme has to be a
traditional TQM. These problems might often be substantial part of any six sigma implementation,
solvable in projects with only the quality manager independent of the size of the organisation.
himself, or one or two further participants.
Nevertheless, the reasons for and outcomes of
problem-solving projects still have important Factor 6
influences on the financial situation of an SME. The six sigma roles should be restricted to the
Therefore, the training content should be tailored project leaders in the SME organisation (e.g. an
to the specific requirements of the target group. It “SME black belt”). The rest of the workforce and
is suggested that all tools are checked for management staff should only participate in the
usefulness and redundancies for the target group. awareness training.
Furthermore, the use of statistical methods should Closely following the preceding discussion on
be kept but minimised. problem complexity and resource limitations,
Based on the above discussion it is suggested SMEs do not require such an extensive role system
that complete training be provided for the six as is applied in large-scale organisations. For
sigma project managers in the target group, but an example, 78.7 per cent of the respondents claimed
adjusted awareness training programme be that QM must be significantly simpler; 61.7 per
delivered to the rest of the organisation. cent stated that it should be less formal than in
large corporations. Given that it does not make
sense to establish an extensive role system in very
Factor 5 small firms, they should be reduced to an absolute
SMEs should carry out a one-day awareness minimum. Nevertheless, to support awareness and
raising programme to facilitate the cultural promote cultural implementation, it is suggested
implementation element of a six sigma programme to keep the well-known nomenclature of six sigma.
and to encourage active support of, and The language used within a six sigma programme
participation in, organisational improvement. is positively perceived worldwide and could
Basic change management principles build on the therefore support the desire of participation in a six
creation of a common sense of urgency to enable sigma initiative. A trained “SME black belt”
successful cultural installation of new initiatives. should be able to identify, select, lead and
From the survey results, an encouraging 63.8 per moderate projects within the SME organisation.
cent of SMEs were willing and able to send their Further project members could be introduced into
complete workforce to a one-day training the tools during the project work.
Six sigma for small and medium-sized enterprises The TQM Magazine
Godecke Wessel and Peter Burcher Volume 16 · Number 4 · 2004 · 264-272

Factor 7 wanted to reduce the number of failures in meeting

Elements should be designed to support the customer requirements. Market share increase
cultural implementation in a detailed six sigma through QM was desired by 44.7 per cent.
strategy, incorporating well-proven change Conversely, it can be argued that the improvement
management methods and tools, tailored to the of customer satisfaction can be seen as an umbrella
specific needs of SMEs. objective which can be achieved by failure
Culture can be defined as the “taken for granted reduction. Incorporating both internal and
assumptions, or paradigm, of an organisation.” external customers, a reduction of failures
(e.g. Johnson and Scholes, 1999). According to the additionally supports higher profitability and
cultural web, a representation of organisational market share improvements. Nevertheless,
culture and its physical manifestation, it is customer satisfaction incorporates the knowledge
composed of stories, symbols, power structures, about what the customer wants – a deep customer
rituals and routines, control systems, and the understanding – as well as verification on the
organisational structures around the overall current levels of satisfaction. Process management
paradigm (Johnson and Scholes, 1999). is essential to identify fields of required action, but
Therefore, a willingness to change the based on the need for simplicity, process
organisational culture is essential for the documentation, and minimal tracking
implementation of a new quality system or the requirements the process management should be
adjustment of the existing one. However, the tailored to SME needs and limited to core
survey results indicate that the awareness of such processes.
an issue is too low with 75 per cent, and 11.1 per
cent of those who did not find their current
structures sufficient were not willing to Factor 9
significantly change the thinking and procedures of SMEs require consulting services which differ
their organisation. Consequently, a low rate for the significantly from those usually found in the
achievability of absolute management marketplace working for larger corporations. The
commitment of 59.6 per cent highlights the need survey demonstrates: SMEs require consultants
for action in this area. One opportunity lies in the and trainers offering modular services, which allow
employment of variable payment systems for six the addition or subtraction of elements without
sigma contribution: 40.4 per cent of the firms compromising the entirety of the concept and
surveyed already have the ability to incorporate a without risking the success for their target group.
variable payment system and would be willing to There were 44.7 per cent of respondents who
use this to promote cultural change. were willing to fall back on external consultants; if
the consultants would be cheaper than their own
management time, 63.8 per cent would be willing
Factor 8 to consult them. Nevertheless, SMEs tend to
Fundamental elements of process management prefer internal sources than consulting external
should be incorporated into the six sigma help. Many participants expressed a deep mistrust
programme, tailored to the specific needs of the in external consultants in free text answers,
target groups. This is usually part of the process especially in their knowledge of SME needs. Even
improvement environment in most large if they were verifiably cheaper than their own
corporations where it plays a significant role in management, only 63.8 per cent of the firms would
project identification, company controlling, and employ them. Nevertheless, the results
result tracking. demonstrate that due to the low awareness of
However, many SMEs claiming to have a QM in important QM and implementation issues, as well
place, e.g. being certified by ISO 9000, do not have as a lack of management experience and
sufficient process management elements in place, knowledge, external help is required for most
as the survey results demonstrate: A clear majority SMEs. Furthermore, 29.8 per cent would require
of 74.5 per cent desired improved control of the help to develop a training and development vision
company through QM. Surprisingly, no and plan; 25.5 per cent would require help to
participant stated that there is no need for process individually adjust, implement and run QM; 27.7
documentation, but 57.4 per cent preferred to per cent stated that consultants have to provide a
document all core processes. Furthermore, 51.1 concept for cultural change. Due to the low
per cent wished that all performed projects were awareness of cultural change issues identified in
documented to sustain improvements and, even if the responses, there is a strong probability that this
the objective is not better control of the company, number is in fact significantly higher.
45.5 per cent wished to document and sustain Comparing the single participants, the
improvement efforts; 95.7 per cent wanted to consulting needs are highly different. Therefore,
increase customer satisfaction and 97.9 per cent consultants must be willing and able to offer
Six sigma for small and medium-sized enterprises The TQM Magazine
Godecke Wessel and Peter Burcher Volume 16 · Number 4 · 2004 · 264-272

modular services to enable a client’s management requirements towards a general concept have been
team to implement and run QM successfully – this identified. Through an extensive literature
will inevitably impact the way consultants and research it has been shown that all important areas
trainers work since they will need to cover a very of a comprehensive QM approach were considered
broad knowledge base. in the questionnaire development and are covered
in the outcome suggestions of this study. The study
Factor 10 outcomes, therefore, are a dependable basis for a
A general six sigma concept for SMEs needs to be general six sigma concept fulfilling the
adjusted to the core requirements of ISO 9000 to requirements of SMEs in Germany.
enable a certification, which represents a major
difference to six sigma programmes in large
corporations. Surprisingly, 42.6 per cent of the References
respondents required the potential to certify by the
ISO 9000 norms. Therefore, given that this is not a Burcher, P. (2002), “Quality Management Resource Pack (by
common approach in large corporations, to video)/postgraduate programme”, Aston Business School,
combine six sigma and ISO 9000 would be a Birmingham (unpublished).
challenge. As the literature review and the survey Chmielewicz, K. (1994), Forschungskonzeptionen der
responses reinforce, the documentation effort is a Wirtschaftswissenschaft, 3rd ed., Schäffer-Poeschel,
substantial drawback of ISO 9000 for SMEs.
Eckes, G. (2000), The Six Sigma Revolution: How General Electric
A quality system which is capable of ISO 9000 and Others Turned Process into Profits, John Wiley & Sons,
certification has to fulfil the regulations of these New York, NY.
norms. However, as elements of process Eckes, G. (2001), Making Six Sigma Last: Managing Cultural and
management are required for both ISO 9000 and Technical Change, John Wiley & Sons, New York, NY.
six sigma for SMEs, a combination of effort is European Commission (1996), “Commission recommendation of
suggested. Furthermore, within a six sigma 3 April 1996 concerning the definition of small and
medium-sized enterprises. 96/280/EC, final, Official
framework, an adjusted documentation approach Journal L 107 of 30/04/1996”.
could be capable of fulfilling both the requirements European Commission (2001), “Draft Commission
of ISO 9000 as well as the evidence of profitable Recommendation amending Recommendation 96/280/EC
working. First, the current version ISO 9000:2000 concerning the definition of small and medium-sized
is a norm which can be applied to firms of every enterprises”, Com (2001).
industry or size. Second, the norm defines definite George, M.L. (2002), Lean Six Sigma: Combining Six Sigma
Quality with Lean Speed, McGraw-Hill, New York, NY.
requirements towards a QM system, but does not
Ghobadian, A. and Gallear, D. (1997), “TQM and organization
describe methods or tools for their realisation. size”, International Journal of Operations & Production
Third, the norm prefers a process-oriented Management, Vol. 17 No. 2, pp. 121-63.
approach for the management and improvement of Gunasekaran, A., Okko, P., Martikainen, T. and Yli-Olli, P. (1996),
organisations. As the norm is mainly targeting the “Improving productivity and quality in small and medium
internal QM organisation, documentation, and enterprises: cases and analysis”, International Small
general regulations rules for quality testing, six Business Journal, Vol. 15 No. 1, pp. 59-72.
Haksever, C. (1996), “Total quality management in a small
sigma in SMEs is capable of being adapted to
business environment”, Business Horizons, Vol. 39 No. 2,
incorporate the required features. Therefore, in its pp. 33-40.
core, ISO 9000 is often already fulfilled by six Harry, M.J. and Schroeder, R. (1999), Six Sigma. The
sigma, although the process documentation in Breakthrough Management Strategy Revolutionizing the
particular has to be adjusted to fulfil the norms. World’s Top Corporations, CD Audio Book, Bantam Books
Audio, New York, NY.
Isenberg, D. (2000), “Implementing six sigma in small and
medium-sized corporations”, IQPC Conference: Best
Summary and conclusion Practice in Six Sigma, San Francisco, CA, 31 July-2 August,
Johnson, G. and Scholes, K. (1999), Exploring Corporate Strategy,
In summary, six sigma can be seen as the current
5th ed., Pearson Education, Harlow.
stage of evolution in the field of QM with a core Lee, G.L. and Oakes, L. (1995), “The ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ of total
focus on profitability improvement and strategic quality management for small firms in manufacturing:
value levelling, but still based in the fundamentals some experiences down the supply chain”, Total Quality
of traditional TQM. The survey provided a Management, Vol. 6 No. 4, pp. 39-43.
reasonable number of returns which are sufficient McAdam, R. (2000), “Quality models in an SME context: a
for predictions within the significance levels of critical perspective using a grounded approach”,
International Journal of Quality & Reliability Management,
common management research. It has been Vol. 17 No. 3, pp. 305-23.
possible to identify 14 inherent needs and to Magnusson, K., Kroslid, D. and Bergman, B. (1999), Six Sigma
deduce eight critical-to-quality-requirements of umsetzen. Die neue Qualitätsstrategie für Unternehmen,
the target group. Subsequently, ten functional Hanser Fachbluch, München.
Six sigma for small and medium-sized enterprises The TQM Magazine
Godecke Wessel and Peter Burcher Volume 16 · Number 4 · 2004 · 264-272

Moreno-Luzon, M.D. (1993), “Can total quality management SSQ2_Difference_TQM_SixSigma.pdf (accessed 15 April
make small firms competitive?”, Total Quality 2003).
Management, Vol. 4 No. 2, pp. 165-81. Yeb-Yun Lin, C. (1999), “Success factors of small and medium-
Pande, P.S., Neuman, R. and Cavanagh, R.R. (2000), The Six sized enterprises in Taiwan: an analysis of cases”, Journal
Sigma Way. How GE, Motorola, and Other Top Companies of Small Business Management, Vol. 36 No. 4, pp. 43-56.
Are Honing Their Performance, McGraw-Hill, New York, Yusof, S.M. and Aspinwall, E. (2000), “TQM implementation
NY. issues: review and case study”, International Journal of
Shea, J. and Gobeli, D. (1995), “TQM: the experiences of ten Operations & Production Management, Vol. 20 No. 6,
small businesses”, Business Horizons, Vol. 38 No. 1, pp. 634-55.
pp. 71-8.
Van Der Wiele, T. and Brown, A. (1998), “Venturing down the
TQM path for SMEs”, International Small Business
Journal, Vol. 9 No. 8, pp. 731-40.
Wessel, G. (2002), A Comparison of Traditional TQM Further reading
Methodologies with the Six Sigma Approach for Quality
Management, Six-Sigma-Quality.de, Hamburg, available Fehr, B. (1999), “Das Geheimnis Six Sigma”, Manager Magazin,
at: www.wesselgo.de/sixsigma/reference/ No. 11/99, pp. 277-85.