Featured Case Study

Launching Six Sigma to Drive a Common Culture and Improve Productivity for a Global Defense Provider

A major aerospace and defence provider headquartered in the U.S., with 80,000 employees located around the world

Business need
As a result of several major mergers and acquisitions in the late 1990s, the client was transformed into one of the largest multi-business aerospace and defence firms in the world, with a combined workforce of more than 80,000 employees. The resulting cultural, financial and operational issues were significant.


  • Culturally, the client’s newly combined workforce came from several major legacy organisations that who brought with them deeply embedded work cultures, different ways of talking about similar concepts and experience with various operating models and organisational structures.
  • Financially, generating sufficient cash flow to service the sizable debt generated through the client’s acquisitions posed a significant challenges.
  • Operationally, the client’s declining programme performance and resulting client satisfaction issues caused the client’s stock price to plummet.

The client’s long-term success would largely depend on how well the newly acquired businesses could be integrated and predictability of performance could be improved.

In 1999, the client’s leaders and their teams addressed these challenges by benchmarking other companies and leveraging internal best practices to help them design a unique approach to Six Sigma and lean manufacturing. The result was a Six Sigma process designed to create a common customer-focused culture, improve productivity, integrate operations, reduce debt and unite the company. These objectives would only be realised if Six Sigma were supported by a learning solution that was equally encompassing, powerful and ambitious.

How we helped
To implement Six Sigma, the client employed a multi-phased approach. In the first phase, the client relied on a consortium of Six Sigma, lean and change management experts to roll out its Six Sigma initiative among leaders and to train a select group of Six Sigma Black Belt experts. In the second phase, the client employed RPS to:


  • Design and deploy a Six Sigma Green Belt programme that would to deliver training to all of the client’s employees; and
  • Assume responsibility for further customizing and evolving the Black Belt expert training.

RPS collaborated with the client to create a Six Sigma learning solution that blended web-based and classroom learning. To enhance the relevancy of the learning experience, RPS ensured that the curriculum drew upon real-life issues and lessons learned within the client’s organisation. The curriculum was also supported a full complement of electronic performance support tools.

RPS has integrated a variety of dynamic, discovery-based learning strategies in the Six Sigma training, which are aimed at fully immersing participants in the process, including applied and interactive experiential learning, simulations, case studies, and follow-up projects to immediately apply and hone new competencies and knowledge in a particular area. This layered learning has built on the discovery process in order to help employees think differently about solving complex business problems and creating innovative solutions by using traditional Six Sigma tools and principles in a non-traditional ways. Through these interactions, participants have formed stronger social networks crossing business boundaries, and they have become part of the largest community of practice in the client’s organisation.

Business results
Recognition of Six Sigma as a powerful tool for improvement has grown along with its impact on the client’s organisation. RPS has played a key role in establishing Six Sigma as an important competency within the client’s organisation. Since 1999, more than 1,300 Black Belt experts and 57,000 Green Belt specialists have been trained. These practitioners now readily apply this knowledge to improve programme performance, generate value for customers and accelerate growth. Six Sigma provided the foundation for creating a common culture within the client’s organisation.

Between 1999 and 2004, the client’s net debt dropped from almost US$13 billion to US$4 billion, and its sales per employee increased from US$175,000 to nearly US$250,000. During that period, the client’s stock price increased nearly 40%. Many of the client’s customers have seen dramatic improvements in both schedule and quality of products and services delivered. And the client now uses its Six Sigma approach as a discriminator in the marketplace, attracting students from partnering organisations, customers, and external businesses. From 2004 to 2006, more than 25 of the client’s customers have sought the client’s Black Belt certification.

In 2004 the client received awards from Chief Learning Officer magazine and Brandon Hall recognizing the impact its Six Sigma approach has had on the organisation’s performance.