Based on the introduction of the case study, it seems that Miyashita is having some problems with the issues that are related to Six Sigma, which had launched a year ago in MLF. Based on the conclusion, MLF has achieved in implementing Six Sigma to some extend and MLF is trying very hard to improve and be successful in practicing Six Sigma. From the follow up title, “Maple Leaf Foods (B): Six Sigma in 2002” and the heading, one can assume that the case study is about the challenges and the progress of Six Sigma of MLF in 2002.
Based on the introduction of the case study, one can see that MLF achieved a huge improvement in implementing Six Sigma. For example, there is 293% increase in the number of Black Belts and MLF have done a lot of projects that are related to Six Sigma. In the case of Maple Leaf Foods, the key decision maker is ultimately Michael McCain, president and CEO of the company. His decision involved finding areas within the production of the company’s products where improvements could be made through executing changes.
McCain’s objectives were to implement a reorganization of the corporate structure to ensure a culture of continuous improvement. The other actor in this particular case is Bruce Miyashita, a well-established manager who was also Six Sigma trained. His objectives for assisting Maple Leaf Foods included informing the employees about Six Sigma and introducing the practice into everyday functions as a means to improve production and quality among their processes. Miyashita’s plan was to train current employees and change their ways of thinking in order to have a lasting effect even after he was gone.
Both McCain and Miyashita took time to plan out and test the changes within three of the 11 independent operating companies that make Maple Leaf Foods. They were careful to educate the employees and show them the benefits of using Six Sigma to improve business. Through careful planning and implementation, they were successful in creating a better, higher-skilled workforce and redefined the corporate structure for better quality and more effective processes for production. MLF encountered many problems with implementing Six Sigma. The main problem was resistance to Six Sigma.
The resistance took on many forms. One was statistical illiteracy among employees, lack of understanding of Six Sigma, another was fear of Six Sigma getting all the credit for fixing problems, or political opposition by employees based solely on misconceptions and bad past experiences. The company had to convert the resistors by selling Six Sigma. The first step they took was by bringing in an outsider, Bruce Miyashita, who had a black belt in Six Sigma and many years at other companies implementing Six Sigma, such as IBM and Bombardier.
Miyashita took to implementing Six Sigma at MLF at slow, methodical pace. The first training sessions did not start until six months after he was hired. He did this because he felt that if Six Sigma had been announced and defined immediately, there would not have been enough substance to their program to hold the employees attention. The six months leading up to the initial training of Six Sigma Miyashita went on an internal selling campaign. This was to build curiosity into what Six Sigma actually was.
After six months of selling Six Sigma Miyashita started training programs for green and black belt. This educated employees on what Six Sigma actually is, how to use, and how it helps them perform their job at a higher level. This eased a lot of the resistance that was felt among many employees. Once Six Sigma began to be implemented other problems arose. Such as the rapid demand for Six Sigma to solve complex issues. The challenges were not only executing Six Sigma in an effective way to solve such complex problems, but also cocoordinating them with other projects and tasks through out the company.
In order to solve these issues teams of black belts set out not just to solve one problem, and then have another problem arise because of the quick fix. In order to solve these problems they had to change other processes of the company to adjust to the fix. These black belt teams did things such as mapping, baseline improvement, and work data collection to solve such complex problems. Michael McCain’s early adoption of Six Sigma was a course of action that had very positive short-term consequences. The program was labeled what it was, Six Sigma, not some other arbitrary dull-sounding quality initiative name.
He was wise enough to realize that for a quality control initiative to actually be effective at MLF he was going to have to understand and back the system 100% from the very onset, before demanding cooperation from his employees. In this manner, before the program was even rolled-out to the employees; the Board adopted it. The message was clear; this was a quality improvement initiative the company was going to follow through on. The lack of aggressiveness during the rollout of Six Sigma at MLF was later viewed with mixed results. It is still pondered whether the slow rollout of the program was the better choice.
They could have rolled the program out all at once or nearly all at once across the IOCs. Based upon the overwhelming demand from employees to learn Six Sigma skills, it appears that the slow rollout seemed to have worked well in this organization. As employees saw their colleagues’ success with the program, they then wanted to learn more about Six Sigma and get involved too. A significant process led to the effective execution of the Six Sigma program. The program was sold before implementation was demanded from associates. This course of action really proved to be effective.
McCain and Miyashita enlisted volunteers and mandated that once they were approved they remain in the program for a specified period of time; and they followed the shared-objectives mentality. In this manner, IOC Presidents remained the decision-makers of their firm, highly accountable for results, but with assistance from their Black Belt associates. These Black Belts were consultants from within the firm, not external forces with a separate agenda. This allowed the IOC President the time to continue with his/her job, while allowing the Black Belt the time to follow Six Sigma 100%.
This process of first selling the program enlisted the trust and cooperation of the IOC Presidents. Finally, Miyashita was wise enough to realize from the onset that Six Sigma at MLF was not his; rather it was the associates’. All improvements that would be achieved would be the fruits of their labor. As he states, “I was sensitive to the fact that their previous quality person inflated the earlier program’s success, took credit for it and irritated people. I don’t want to have Six Sigma associated with me. ”