Best Practices -- ITT Champions Six Sigma

The multi-industry company outlines what makes its Six Sigma initiative tick.

Every day in more than two dozen countries from the U.S. to the People's Republic of China, ITT Industries Inc. is fielding teams of champions. They are black belts and other employees who are making a comprehensive performance-improvement initiative known as Value-Based Six Sigma (VBSS) work. In 2001 alone, the program produced about $135 million in cost savings for the $4.7 billion White Plains, N.Y.-based engineering and diversified manufacturing firm. Louis J. Giuliano, the company's chairman, president and CEO, believes VBSS, with its emphasis on projects that add actual economic value, is key to achieving his goal of ITT being "a premier multi-industry company." ITT's four lines of business are fluid technology, defense electronics and services, motion and flow controls, and electronic components. But, as with baseball, football, soccer and basketball teams in the sports world, world-class achievements by Six Sigma teams don't just happen. They require training and discipline and several key practices, practices that include not only the acquisition of tools and techniques but also the building of leadership skills, emphasizes Giuliano. Vince Fayad, ITT's director of VBSS, is the head coach. His play-book contains six best practices that he believes make ITT's Six Sigma program successful.

  • Link to the strategic plan. Figure out where you want your part of the business to be in the future, and pick projects that will help you get there. If there's "a strong correlation" between projects and the strategic plan, "you're going to get the results," says Fayad.
  • Go for quick wins. Put projects together so that quick successes are possible. "That excites people," stresses Fayad. Seeing things happen and being part of the process "energizes people."
  • Match projects and resources. There's a tendency to try to work on all projects all at one time, notes Fayad. "We've learned that you can't do that," he confesses. "You've got to release projects based on the available resources" to ensure projects get done and are successful.
  • Have management support. Senior management must be committed to the cause and willing to remove red tape, barriers, roadblocks and "political" problems. Assuring that the owners of the business processes that the VBSS teams are addressing are part of the solution and not part of the problem has "significantly improved our rate of change," relates Fayad.
  • Provide executive training. To increase their understanding of what the black belts and other VBSS agents of change are up to, ITT has trained key managers in its purpose and concepts. One result: executives are "perpetuating the approach," says Fayad. Indeed, as they travel to the company's various locations, ITT's general managers, unit managers, and division presidents, ask about performance improvement projects.
  • Recognize, reward and share success. Local recognition programs, a best practice symposium and a software tracking tool are three of the ways that ITT seeks to recognize and reward team accomplishments and share information. "It's kind of knowledge management, knowledge sharing, so that people are all of a sudden realizing that these improvements can be made elsewhere in the organization." Send submissions for Best Practices to Editorial Research Director David Drickhamer at [email protected].
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