7 reasons why Six Sigma will fail in Small & Medium Enterprises (SMEs)

There is a need for small & medium size companies to recognize the benefits of Six Sigma rather than being suspicious of a buyer’s motives, if they ask them to use Six Sigma tools! A buying firm also needs to ensure strong commitment to Six Sigma training programmes that develop the SME’s long-term capability rather than as a means of immediate results to strengthen the relationship between the SME and the large counterpart.

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Six Sigma in Small Companies

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Research suggests that key elements for successful deployment of Six Sigma tools in SMEs are: proactive customers and suppliers, commitment to long-term relationships, continuous improvement mentality, creating learning opportunities that are appropriate to the smaller organisations and a win-win philosophy.

The common critical success factors (CSFs) for both Lean and Six Sigma implementation in SMEs outlined in research articles by Kumar (2007) and Achanga et al. (2006) are: leadership commitment and management involvement, organisational culture and resource, in terms of education and training. I thought it would be good idea to list the main issues I have identified as barriers for Six Sigma deployment in SMEs in my 10 years Supply Chain and Supplier Development experience along with these CSF:

Barriers to Six Sigma Deployment in SMEs:

  1. Limited financial resources/High Cost
  2. Limited people resources & talent pool
  3. Lack of Management experience/ Leadership engagement
  4. Lack of systematic training & development/ non-recognition of training needs
  5. Multi-hat roles/lack of time
  6. Possible resistance to change
  7. Less exposure of management innovators in other industries / Lack of knowledge about six sigma

Since adding more resources won’t be a practical answer in current business for business owners, what would be your suggestion to overcome these barriers? Please do write me 1 or 2 to carry the debate further and help the supply chain and procurement community


  • 5 Critical Success Factors of Lean and Six Sigma in SMEs

    […] early July I wrote a blog on “7 reasons why Six Sigma will fail in Small & Medium Enterprises (SMEs)” which has gathered some interest and couple of readers have asked me what are the success […]

  • Adrian Flores

    SixSigma as originally laid out by Mr. Harry is less complicated as it is portrayed today by many organizations
    Unexplained or unwanted variation is found in SME processes as much as in big enterprises.
    A back to basics approach can be cost efficient at a small organization using Mr. Harry’s principles as laid out on his white book.
    Look into your Six sigma setup with Lean mentality
    Best Regards

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