Understanding Six Sigma and the Five Phase Implementation Phase

7/21/2010 Carsten Howitz Project Management

Six Sigma is a well-known quality management technique to control the defects arising from various processes in an organization, producing an efficiency of 99.9997% (“perfect”). Six Sigma actually stands for six standard deviations (or sigma) from the mean.

The philosophical idea behind Six Sigma is that all the systems are seen as processes that involve inputs and outputs, and these can be measures, improved and controlled.

Six Sigma focuses on reducing process variation and improving process control. The basic aim of this approach is to reach for a situation that can be termed as “perfect”.

Earlier trends were to aim for three or four performance levels, however with increasing competition the goal has risen and companies now strive to achieve the six sigma level. This means that the standard has risen from 6,200 problems per million opportunities to only 3.4 problems per million opportunities!

Six Sigma is very critical to quality and it can actually be applied effectively to small businesses. It is a result-oriented approach that produces excellent results with optimum utilization of resources. It saves time, money and is one of the best ways to improve customer satisfaction.

So how do you implement Six Sigma? First of all you have to indentify processes within your company that affect your business and that need improvement. The focus should be on processes that affect the organizations customers. The essence of Six Sigma is to solve the problems impacting your business.

In its simplest form of Six Sigma you need to define the problems precisely and lay down the goals of the purpose of the project. Then you put the plan into action and monitor the results. Once you see the results you either accept or reject them. Then you start all over again. This is also called the PDCA cycle, or Plan Do Check Act and it is a recursive process that keeps on going to make the processes better and better. Remember you have to strive for “perfection” under Six Sigma.

In a more improved version of the PDCA model you go through five phases:

  1. 1. Define
    -Defines the issues and sets a baseline to be able to measure improvements. Goal and sub-goals are also defined and the infrastructure to accomplish these goals (manpower, tools etc).

  2. 2. Measure
    -This measures the performance of the ongoing process. Data is collected and quantified.

  3. 3. Analyze
    -Here is the root cause of the defects analyzed and differences between current and target performance is discovered.

  4. 4. Improve
    -This phase is the one that implements the conclusions drawn in the root causes analysis.

  5. 5. Control
    -Here the improvements that have taken place are sustained.

This model is also called DMAIC (from the initial of all five phases) and is the more advance Six Sigma methodology used today.

This is the first article in a series of Six Sigma articles that I will post on this blog. Please sign up for our news feeds or follow us on Twitter and Facebook for new articles about Six Sigma.

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