What is Six Sigma? It is a methodology that has been adopted by organizations all over the world so that they can increase their revenue and have happier customers. Elimination of defects and improving business processes is what Six Sigma (some use 6-Sigma too) does. Think about it – when a business process is supposed to have achieved 6-Sigma levels, it has 3.4 defects in a million occurrences. This is the kind of perfection this methodology brings in.
6-Sigma was conceptualized in Motorola in 1986. It became more popular when it was adopted by Jack Welch in General Electric in 1995. For someone who is new to the concept, it is safe to summarize this methodology in the following manner - when a business process is not producing the outcome it is supposed to, 6-Sigma can identify where things are going wrong, eliminate the errors using quality management tools and improve it till it produces the desired outcome. This is not where the 6-Sigma process ends because a control mechanism is also put in to ensure that the errors don't creep in again in future.
At the core of 6-Sigma is DMAIC. This is a tool that is used to improve any business process that needs improvement. DMAIC can be explained as it has been below.
Define – this is the first stage in the DMAIC process where a business problem is identified, the project scope and timeline are defined, the resources for the project are selected and a goal is set.
Measure – This is where the measurement of the improvement is arrived at. A lot of data is collected at this stage so that the performance baselines are set. This is the stage where the performance metrics are put in place so that they can be measured at the end of the project.
Analyze – During this stage, the root cause analysis is done. This is an extensive phase where from the multiple causes of process failure, the most critical ones are selected. Analysis is done on how the root causes are tampering with the process output.
Improve – Here a solution to the problem is identified. It is then implemented and tested. Simple and complex tools are put to use depending on the criticality of the problem. Here is where you will come to know about tools like DOE (Design of Experiments) and Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA).
Control – The control stage is supposed to sustain whatever gains have been achieved in the previous stage. Typically, a control chart is created to ensure that the control plan is not compromised. This stage is more of a cycle that is closely monitored.
So, if you want to know what is Six Sigma, this is what it is. For the Fortune 500 companies of the world, Six Sigma is a word that is intrinsic to their strategic initiatives. Companies across the globe and spanning every sector spend millions on getting their employees trained on 6-Sigma processes so that they can take up the big process improvement initiatives and take their company to the next level.
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