Six Sigma is a business management strategy conceived by Motorola and popularized by General Electric and other leading firms. As of 2010, it enjoys widespread application in many sectors of industry, including manufacturing, legal and business services, health care, and non-profit organizations. Six Sigma seeks to improve the quality of process outputs by identifying and removing the causes of defects (errors) and reducing variability in manufacturing and business processes.
Six Sigma projects follow methodologies inspired by W. Edwards Deming’s Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle. Each Six Sigma project carried out within an organization follows a defined sequence of steps (known by the acronym DMAIC), and has quantified customer satisfaction and financial (cost reduction or profit increase) targets.
Used for projects aimed at improving an existing business process, the DMAIC project methodology has five phases:
Define high-level project goals and the current process.
In health care and service support organizations, the focus on defining internal supplier and customer requirements often results in significant gains in cross-functional effectiveness, and removal of barriers to success.
Measure key aspects of the current process and collect relevant data.
Law firms in particular benefit by measuring the output of support personnel to identify opportunities for increasing billable time, by reducing or reassigning “non-value added” activities.
Analyze the data to determine root causes of preventable waste, defects and errors.
Organizations in all industries benefit when they analyze the relationships between cause and effect, then work to institute corrective action and risk prevention measures.
Innovate or improve the process based upon data and process analysis.
Information Technology organizations in particular need to ensure careful planning, budgeting and status reporting utilizing time tested project management techniques.
Control to ensure that excessive variation is corrected which leads to defects.
Critical for manufacturing organizations, process control starts by setting up pilot runs to establish process capability, set up control mechanisms and monitor the production process via regular sampling.
Practitioners of Six Sigma use a set of quality management methods, including statistical methods. They are part of a special infrastructure of people within the organization, designated as certified White Belts, Yellow Belts, Green Belts, and Black Belts, with gradually increased levels of expertise in these methods.
Several of our case studies illustrate examples of how Six Sigma projects bring significant return on investment (ROI) to our clients. A link to our case studies is provided here:
All you’ve got to lose are your costs.