Six Sigma is a disciplined methodology for improving performance by decreasing variability and lowering defects. It is a data-driven method and integrates a comprehensive quality tool-set as part of the framework for problem solving. Six Sigma is total quality management process for continuous improvement of operations.
In the 1980′s, Motorola developed shaped the Six Sigma methodology to drive breakthrough performance in the organization. The company continues to refine the methodology and offers training on the methods and its roles. Motorola sees Six Sigma as a metric, a methodology, and a management system (reference: What is Six Sigma, PDF). Six Sigma continues to evolve today.
“Nothing compares to the effectiveness of Six Sigma when it comes to improving a company’s operational efficiency, raising its productivity and lowering its costs. Perhaps the biggest but most unheralded benefit … is its capacity to develop a cadre of great leaders!” … Jack Welch, Retired Chairman and CEO, General Electric.
Jack Welch was interviewed about his experiences with Six Sigma at GE. According to him, at General Electric, management understands that variation is undesirable. With Jack at the helm, GE implemented Six Sigma to achieve competitive
advantage in its markets by reducing span (variation in its products and processes) for the benefit of customers. Jack Welch was appointed CEO of GE in 1981 and transformed one of America’s largest companies. Under his leadership and vision, GE grew from a twenty billion dollar company into a seventy billion dollar enterprise. And, GE moved the quality of its products and processes towards the Sixth Sigma of performance.
… “Six Sigma quality is already becoming part of our culture and defining how we work. The Six Sigma process is a very specific scientific methodology of measuring, analyzing, improving and controlling every process we engage in, from making jet engine blades, to executing a credit transaction with a customer, to minimizing dead air between segments in broadcasting. It involves enormous amounts of training, with thousands of Green Belts, Black Belts and Master Black Belts leading projects, teaching, and widening the circle of involvement in the quality initiative throughout GE. “ … Excerpt from Jack Welch letter to GE shareholders on Quality and Six Sigma.
… “a statistical term that measures how far a given process deviates from perfection. “ … GE on What is Six Sigma.
The DMAIC process is the Six Sigma methodology steps for improvement. …
DMAIC is the abbreviation for:
Voice of the Customer, or VOC
Six Sigma methods require a precise understanding of the customer requirements. The true needs (stated and unstated) must elicited from the customer. The customer value chain must be understood. A number of VOC tools should be deployed, including surveys, interviews, focus groups, and customer data. The customers may be organized as members of customer segments. And, the customer CTQ’s must be defined. A specification is the ideal definition of quality for the customer.
Critical to Quality, or CTQ, characteristics are the customer performance requirements of a product or service. Ultimately, you must validate that the solution being developed creates real value for the customer.
Roles and Organizing for Six Sigma Success
Six Sigma requires an organizational infrastructure of roles and skills to support an enterprise transformation, on the scale achieved by Motorola and General Electric. Performance improvement leaders are trained in the methodology.
The Six Sigma Champion
The champion is recruited from business and function leadership. Champions help black belts understand the business strategy, select projects, and sustain the performance improvement. The champion will ensure that resources are focused on the successful completion of Six Sigma projects.
The master black belt manages Six Sigma programs and mentors green and black belts. Master black belts also provide training. The master designation is achieved over an extended period of time and offers a career path for black belts that want to continue providing improvement services.
Six Sigma Black Belt
The role of the black belt is to implement change in the organization through Six Sigma projects. The Six Sigma black belt position develops leaders and is a career path to the executive suite in many companies.
Six Sigma Green Belt
Sigma is a statistical term that measures how much a process varies from perfection, based on the number of defects per million (DPM) units.
3.4 defects per one million opportunities, DPMO, is the Sixth Sigma. A defect opportunity is any event that can be a chance of not meeting a customer requirement.
Six Sigma and lean are not rival initiatives, but can be complementary methods. Lean Six Sigma integrates the two methods to balance quality and speed.