The Legend of Motorola: Embracing the Next Generation of Process Improvement

Tina Huesing

In the 1980s, Motorola made waves in the business world with the development of its process improvement strategy Six Sigma. Today Six Sigma and Lean Six Sigma are widely-upheld methodologies and tools used to reduce variation in a business process by using a statistical process control to measure variance and standard deviation. Tina Huesing, Director of Six Sigma at Motorola, speaks with the Process Excellence Network to illuminate Six Sigma and Lean Six Sigma as defined today by Motorola and explains why companies are looking to Six Sigma and Lean management to remain sustainable, cut costs and increase productivity.

Motorola was the preeminent organization leveraging Six Sigma to improve performance. Could you give me a brief run down of your current Lean Six Sigma program?

What began as "Six Sigma" in 1986 has evolved at Motorola today into "Digital Six Sigma." Digital Six Sigma (DSS) is a management system with a business improvement methodology that focuses on customer requirements, process alignment, timely execution, etc. using applied statistical tools derived from Six Sigma. The current DSS program integrates principles of traditional "Six Sigma" with "Lean Tools."

There are two main branches of DSS at Motorola today, namely, Six Sigma Process Improvement (SSPI) and Six Sigma Product Development (SSPD). SSPI’s focus is on eliminating waste and variation in business processes, while SSPD’s focus is on robust new product development utilizing the Voice of the Customer.

Motorola’s DSS program encompasses all Motorola and is driven by the company’s businesses. Basic training is available to all Motorola employees via Quality IQ classes administered through Motorola University, while Green Belt and Black Belt certification programs involve a rigorous nomination and review process. Our DSS program enjoys total commitment from Motorola senior management.


What is your training program currently like?

The training program is administered through Motorola University and includes companywide Quality IQ enhancement and DSS education for practitioners. Any Motorola employee can register for class and achieve basic Quality IQ to earn first a White and then a Yellow Badge. To continue learning beyond the Yellow Badge, employees have to be nominated and register for certification programs that take them through rigorous Green, Black and Master Black Belt certifications. In SSPI the focus is on DMAIC, while in SSPD we use methodologies appropriate for the various development situations like hardware or software. The certification programs include intensive classroom education in Six Sigma tools and methodologies followed by applied projects with demonstrated beneficial results for Motorola.

What have been the biggest changes, developments and improvement to your Lean Six Sigma training and program over the last six to nine months?

The biggest recent change is the integration of Lean into the Green Belt program. The Lean Green Belt program is now being offered to employees, as well as to external participants. At Motorola, we are using Six Sigma in innovation and have achieved excellent results. The integration of Lean and Six Sigma with other ongoing improvement efforts is an ongoing concern.

Over the next six months to a year, what are you expecting to evolve in your Lean training program and your Lean Six Sigma orientation culture?

We have integrated Lean training and are now developing Lean Six Sigma tools courses for specific applications. We are also refreshing our leadership and change management classes, as well as making more training available externally. Together with our customers we address opportunities that can only be tackled together. We are also refining our Master Black Belt curriculum to balance the various needs that a Master Black Belt has to master.

The economy is currently in peril. It is more urgent now than ever to cut costs, improve processes and increase productivity. How can companies put Lean Six Sigma to work so they might remain sustainable?

Six Sigma was born in a time when American companies were struggling because of increased international competition. Today, companies are placing an emphasis on increasing productivity, streamlining processes, timely execution and eliminating waste, so those investing in Six Sigma training for staff will surely benefit from this investment.

Most companies are being forced to do more with fewer resources. Product development methodologies such as SSPD and variation reduction methodologies such as SSPI will allow companies to get new products to market sooner, with less manufacturing variation, at lowest cost (to the company), while delighting the customer. We use Six Sigma to better understand what customers value and to better serve our customers’ needs.

Where do you think the future of Lean Six Sigma lies for 2010 and beyond? What are your ultimate training goals and how do you hope to get there?

Quality has to be ingrained as part of the company’s culture for all business processes. The ultimate goal of Lean Six Sigma is a business that delivers value for its customers and shareholders in a perfect value stream that delivers what is needed, when it is needed, at the lowest cost possible. We reach this goal through continuous improvement in everything we do, from strategic planning to product and service delivery. In training, we ensure that every employee has the tools necessary to do the best job possible. We also extend our training to suppliers and customers so that the entire value chain can benefit from Six Sigma and Lean.

Interview by Blake Landau, editor