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Six Sigma: What’s Needed to Succeed

six sigma methodology

Six Sigma, the popular methodology for process improvement, is a statistical concept that identifies the variation inherent in any process.  By subsequently working to reduce these variations once it defines them, the Six Sigma methodology diminishes the opportunity for error, thus reducing process costs or increasing customer satisfaction.

The core objective of Six Sigma is to implement a measurement-based strategy that focuses on process improvement and variation reduction.  At a high level, this is accomplished through the use DMAIC, an improvement cycle (define, measure, analyze, improve, control) for existing processes that lack efficiency, and the statistical representation of Six Sigma, which describes quantitatively how a process is performing.

There are, of course, many proven methodologies an organization can consider for process improvement.  So, why should they use Six Sigma, and what do they need to make sure they succeed?

When to Use Six Sigma

Given the similarities between continuous improvement methodologies, it can be difficult to determine which one is right for a given situation. To help organizations make that decision, the Six Sigma Council outlines the following scenarios, and the benefits of Six Sigma can bring to solving each one.

When facing the unknown – A process is operating out of control but the problem causing the deficient output is not known.

Six Sigma looks for potential causes and using sigma level calculations prioritizes them.  It then sets up the framework to resolve the causes and get to a solution.

When problems are widespread and not defined – The problems in the process are known and understood, but the scope of the solution is not defined, leading to constant scope increases and lack of viable solutions due to their unmanageable size.

With control measures in its methodology, Six Sigma stays clear of unmanageable scope escalations in favor of incremental improvements over time.

When solving complex problems – A problem with many variables causes a complex process, where it’s challenging to identify an approach, definition, and measure for a successful outcome.

Due to its statistical basis, Six Sigma can handle problems that contain large amounts of data and variables, deciphering them to give hypotheses, premises, and conclusions to base changes on.

When costs are closely tied to processes – A process that has a high cost risk due to its very small margin of error – where one incremental change can translate to millions of dollars of loss or gain – requires solution accuracy before implementation.

Six Sigma leans on its statistical process control to create assumptions, therefore when implemented properly, this method is significantly more accurate than its alternatives.

Success in Six Sigma

The Six Sigma method is not without its challenges, of course. 

To be successful, Six Sigma requires support – primarily in the form of resources and data – at all levels of an organization.  Adequately staffed engagement teams with necessary levels of subject matter expertise are a must for positive results, as is access to consistent and accurate data streams to enable calibration factors and the capturing of necessary KPIs – crucial to data outputs value.

But ultimately, taking advantage of how customizable this approach is to fit your industry and organizational needs will be the key to successful process improvement.

Is It the Right Choice for You?

When starting on a process improvement initiative and considering the Six Sigma methodology, it is important to have all the information first.  Knowing when this method is best applied can set you on the path to operational process perfection.

The Six Sigma methodology has been adopted by top operational excellence consulting firms, including Trindent Consulting.  Click here to learn more about how we can work with you to utilize this valuable tool in driving the efficiency of your organization.