Six Sigma is one of many approaches towards enhances efficiency that companies consider when they are looking for tools that can aid them in achieving their goals. However, is Six Sigma the right tools for you? Are the compromises worth the results? Can this be a blanket strategy that works in every sector, or should instead be considered something that may only be used for specific industries and markets?
In today’s article here at David Kiger’s Blog, we want to take a closer look at the specifics of Six Sigma, it’s different uses and how to determine whether or not it is the right answer for your company’s needs.
In order to understand the benefits of Six Sigma, we have to start from the beginning and understand how it got started and what it really means.
It is a known fact that companies list as one of their main goals finding ways to streamline their processes, which means they want to find ways to maximize the utilization of their resources and get the most “bang for their buck”. These processes are not simply steps in which ways are done, they also refer to personnel and internal procedures that may or may not have anything to do with the company’s main area of development and business.
Six Sigma focuses on a very specific need that arises when one thinks about optimization and that is the reduction of errors and waste. When waste is reduced or eliminated, then we can safely say that resources are being utilized in the best possible way. The method was born and used first and foremost in manufacturing environments when defects can actually be systematically identified and accounted for. The problem arises when we try to apply that logic to other aspects of the industry, since defects are not so easily identifiable in other types of services in products like customer relations and services rendered for example; however early proponents of the system have found ways to adjust Six Sigma to areas where its implementation is not as clear-cut. In these instances, processes are treated as if they were products and their “defective” nature is measured according to how likely their outcome would go against a customer’s wishes or their general satisfaction. Defects in Six Sigma are treated as variations of the outcome of processes themselves and the nature of Six Sigma lies on the adherence to those guidelines while staying within a permitted amount of standard deviations from said guidelines.
The application of Six Sigma occurs following some methodologies that are usually identified by the use of acronyms like DMAIC and DMADV that help in the design phase of those processes.
DMAIC for example, can be broken down as follows:
First, we DEFINE the customer’s needs, clearly outline what the main goals of the project are what the final experience or product should look like.
Secondly, you must MEASURE all the constraints and limitations of those processes in question so that the data can be collected and analyzed in order to continue the Six Sigma implementation.
The obvious third step has to do with the ANALYSIS of all pertinent data that was previously collected; an extremely important step that must be done carefully in order to avoid serious implementation mistakes later on.
In number four we have the IMPROVEMENT of processes according to the data that was analyzed. This particular step comes in many forms and it is obviously easier to be said than done. Improvement is complex because it has to do with the identification of potential solutions and the adjustment of current practices that while may not work correctly, only need to be adjusted in order to suffice. The selection of possible solutions to implement is quite important because there is a strict and meticulous process that must be followed.
Lastly, we have the CONTROL step in which the cycle starts over but already counting with all the data and observing how the improvements that were gained can be further adjusted.
Six Sigma is a system that allows companies to operate at a very high level of efficiency, something that certainly comes at a price that involves a possible sacrifice when it comes to growth and innovation. This is an expected side-effect of a system that looks to stay within set boundaries in a search for consistency and repetition of processes and products that must obey to a predetermined standard.
Evolution is the result of a process that involves trial and error. Mistakes and defects are as important as getting it right when it comes to finding the best ways to accomplish goals. Companies that value innovation encourages employees and leaders to make mistakes while attempting to change the status quo of the industry and reach for goals that are away from their grasp. Company cultures that are created based upon the elimination of variance can seriously hinder creativity and the birth of fresh ideas.
* Featured Image courtesy of Burak Kebapci at Pexels.com