Understanding The True Meaning of Six Sigma

Let’s say you want to improve your business and have better results and let’s suppose you have heard about something called Six Sigma that can help you. But you really don’t know how it works and if it really is for you.

To see if this option could really work for you, first, you need to know what Six Sigma is, then you need to understand its principles, and unveil the mysteries behind the DMAIC problem-solving method. David Kiger knows that it is probable that after getting to know all these concepts and internalize them, you will find out that they will help you keep your data reusable and dependable.

First, what is Six Sigma?

The first thing you need to know is to understand the true meaning of Six Sigma. It can be defined as a disciple that strives for perfection (or the next best thing) by solving problems. In other words, Six Sigma can be understood as a methodology that aims to eliminate defects while it improves an organization’s operations.

It has a set of standard deviations between the goal and the nearest specification limit for almost any process. Meaning that in a manufacturing process, the quality level must be 3,4 defects per one million units. This is translated in a rate of improvement of a minimum of 70 percent.

Six Sigma is based on the data it defines, measures, analyzes, improves and control. All this bearing in mind that organizations can achieve a breakthrough change and considerably improve their manufacturing and transactional processes in order to offer better products and services and be more competitive.

What are the main principles of Six Sigma?

Six Sigma is based on the set of six basic principles key to success in any organization:

  1.    Customer Focus: The main purpose of Six Sigma is to improve quality. First, organizations need to define what quality is based on their customer’s needs. A simple way to explain it is that businesses need to speak the same language their customers do and measure quality like they would do. By focusing on this, a business can start improving its products.

  2.    Identify Root Causes or variations: A full understanding of the process is necessary in order to identify the root causes. This means acknowledging how the current process is actually working and what kind of results it should accomplish. It is necessary to define goals, the type of data that will need to be collected and what will be expected from that data in order to be able to standardize processes.

  3.    Eliminating Root Causes: After identifying what may be affecting your company, it is time to eliminate that root cause. This will lead to the perfecting of each process and the elimination of unnecessary steps that don’t add value to the customer.

  4.    Being Proactive: The work is never done or finished. You need to keep identifying unnecessary steps and root causes. This is the only way you have to keep on with the perfecting process.

  5.    Count on every member of your team: Teamwork is essential in Six Sigma. Teams and leaders need to take responsibility for the process. Everyone in the organization must be trained in the Six Sigma method and start using it. Even the Six Sigma measurement tools should be taught to every member of the organization. Communication in this principle is essential between coworkers and customers.

Something that may be useful here is to group team members with similar backgrounds and skills related to and specific process. This way they will easily spot the root causes, helping you to accelerate the Six Sigma process.

office_six-sigma
Image courtesy of Jesús Corrius at Flickr.com
  1.    Always Be Flexible: During the entire process, you will need to accept that there are things that will have to be changed. Sometimes the acceptance process may be a little bit difficult but as the manager, you will need to keep an open mind and motivate your team to embrace change. Communicating about change with the workers and solving doubts is a good way to speed the acceptance process.

When change aims to improve the work environment conditions, workers should rapidly accept it.

The DMAIC Problem-Solving Method

The DMAIC is meant to help any business improve its effectiveness. Six Sigma defines DMAIC with the following acronym:

Define: you need to define the problem setting a context for it and the kind of outcome your desire.

Measure: you must identify the ability of the process or system you are improving.

Analyze: data will be analyzed as well as the root causes.

Improve: Things that are not working or root causes that affect your business will need to be modified and improved.

Control: during the entire process you will need to be in charge of everything, preventing and correcting variation even before they become defects. Control will help you sustain improvement within time.

* Featured Image courtesy of hokiecsgrad at Flickr.com

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