Saudi Arabia’s Preparedness for Implementing Six-Sigma Quality Program: A Competency Based Analysis
The world of business and management has changed dramatically over the years, especially in the last two decades. Markets have become global, to compete in this global marketplace companies in developed as well as in developing economies must focus on quality management practices. Saudi Arabia is at the crossroads of such a transition. With the announcement of Vision 2030 by the Saudi Government to rejuvenate the private sector for economic development of the country vis-à-vis reduce the country’s dependence on oil revenue, adoption of world class business practices such as six-sigma will become important for Saudi Arabia for the public sector to compete in a global marketplace.The advantage of six-sigma is that it not a pervasive system, it can be tailored to the extent of the company’s competitive capability. Multiple six-sigma projects can be implemented simultaneously that may involve a small section of the company, a certain process or department, or even a nested sub-process. Six-sigma has common themes with TQM but is structurally different. Dahlgaard-Park (2011) categorizes it as more mechanistic and rational in its approach that invites only competent people in the organization to get involved. It is a big convenience of six-sigma in terms of participatory management that management does not need to get involved with the entire workforce. Its deployment can be rapid because only a small section of the workforce needs to get six-sigma trained. Most businesses in Saudi Arabia are family owned (Najeh& Kara-zaitri, 2007), decision making processes in such businesses are rigidly top down, participative management or horizontal organizations are not part of the management culture of Saudi Arabia. The good thing about six-sigma is that Top management in Saudi Arabia should love it because it is more focused on technology, measurements, and results as opposed to culture and people building approach taken by other quality management techniques. Although six-sigma also focuses on building workforce culture, but that culture is not a pervasive culture, it does not require conformance by the entire workforce, rather it is rooted in process innovation through careful study by an elite sub-group. Itshould appeal to Saudi business leaders because it is a top-down approach that involves only technically savvy process leaders in the company who can be given a clear charter and be held accountable to fulfil that charter. From management point of view it is an easier control mechanism than holding everyone responsible. Unlike other quality approaches, i. e., TQM, etc., six-sigma does not try to improve everything simultaneously, selected projects need to target only few key processes and few selected employees. In case of failure, management can easily drop the project – without widespread damage – and move on to more profitable projects. Another advantage of six-sigma over other quality management practices lies in its limited training requirements, six-sigma does not require training for all employees in the company, it needs to train only 1-5 percent of the employees in six-sigma concepts. Although the training for black belts and green belts in six-sigma is more rigorous than training requirements for other quality approaches, deployment of six-sigma is more rapid because only few people need to be trained. For Saudi Arabia it is particularly important because a major part of the technocrats who work here are expatriate workers who can be given a clear charter and held accountable for project success. Companies planning six-sigma adoption can initially hire technically savvy and six-sigma trained expatriate workers to launch the program and eventually build local expertise through the expatriate workers. With the governments focus on improving the private sector in its Vision 2030 plan, there will be new impetus to adopt the best-of-breed management practices in the private sector. To implement six-sigma, privately held companies will most likely prefer expatriate technocrat workers, which would be consistent with the management culture in Saudi Arabia. As opposed to many industrialized nations labor management does not pose to be a challenging issue in Saudi Arabia as there is no union and the bargaining process is biased in favor management because of the contractual agreement with the expatriate workers (Najeh& Kara-zaitri, 2007). Ever since Saudi Arabia became a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2002, Saudi companies had to take quality seriously because of increased international competition. In recent years six-sigma approach is being gradually adopted in some companies to improve quality and competitiveness. In this paper we develop a model that addresses the organizational and workforce competency of the six-sigma adopters in Saudi Arabia and provide a roadmap for its successful adoption. Our qualitative study reveals that leadership support for strategy and sustainable promotion of six-sigma implementation in Saudi Arabia is lacking, expatriate quality professionals have to convince management about any six-sigma project they want to initiate. From design perspective management needs to focus on SIPOC, training programs, reward system, internal marketing, and building the IT infrastructure for six-sigma. However, there are many positives in support six-sigma in Saudi Arabia, such as, Saudi government’s Vision 2030 for general economic development, availability of trained expatriate quality professionals, Saudi managements proclivity for immediate results which is a hallmark of six-sigma, strong national IT infrastructure, just to name a few. The paper concludes with a prescription on building competency for six-sigma in Saudi Arabia.