Define Six Sigma



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Define Six Sigma

Being able to define Six Sigma is much harder than it sounds. On the one hand it is a quality improvement methodology but on the other this can mean very different things depending on that industry it is being applied to and for what purpose.

If you read through the history of Six Sigma you will see that this methodology was originally devised by Motorola as a way to improve manufacturing. However since then it has been used in industries as diverse as banking, contact centres and supply chain improvements.

When you define Six Sigma it is easy to get carried away by the martial art aspect of it ie the Black Belt, Green Belt levels, all of which simply denote the level of expertise which have been gained in the methodology. However Six Sigma does have some very practical and effective processes which work as long as the senior management buy in is there. Six Sigma is after all a “ top down” program. This means that should there not be the necessary “buy in” from senior management, this process has no chance of working as it should as there will not be rigorous ongoing project quality management.
The Six Sigma definition utilises two project methodologies which are:
1.0 DMAIC

DMAIC is used when Organisations want to improve existing processes which they have in place. This is delivered through a 5 step process which is:

1.1 Define

This will include defining what the problem is and what the results after following the DMAIC process should be.

1.2 Measure

This stage measures the key aspects of the current process whilst collecting any data relevant to it.

1.3 Analyze

The data collected is then collated and investigated to determine the various data links involved. This will include verifying the cause and effect relationships inherent in such processes as well as investigating the root cause of any defects discovered in the process.

1.4 Improve

This stage looks to implement improvements in the current process to rectify any defects uncovered. Techniques such as mistake proofing and design of experiments are used which are then tested in proof of concept pilot.

1.5 Control

Every process needs to have a control mechanism to ensure that any problems are picked up and corrected swiftly. Therefore in this stage systems such as production boards and statistical process controls are devised, implemented and monitored on an ongoing basis.

2.0 DMADV / DFSS

DMADV or DFSS (Design for Six Sigma) is used by Organisations where there is either no existing process in place, or the process currently being utilised is unworkable. The latter happens far more than you may realise!

It again follows a 5 phase process:

2.1 Define

This phase deals with determining the process goals which meet the business requirements and overall strategy.

2.2 Measure

This phase seeks to determine the elements of the process which are CTO or Critical to Quality such as production, development, stages of testing and of course project risks.

2.3 Analyze

As there is no existing process to analyze, a new high level design alternative needs to be devised which enables a seamless “conveyer belt” or production to be created which enables a consistent product to be produced.

2.4 Design

As this is a new process, the design needs to be planned and optimised. One would also often do a proof of concept at this stage to test the simulation thoroughly before applying it at a wholesale level.

2.5 Verify

This will involve running pilots in order to verify the new process and production prior to handing it over to the Organisation owners.

As a result of the above two methodologies, each Six Sigma project will follow a define set of phases which have quantifiable results. These results or outputs can be numerous. From increased revenue and profit to reduced overheads and budget for a project. It can even include reduced project time and cost to market delivery.
Define Six Sigma - Tip

The definition of Six Sigma means it is now the most popular and utilised quality improvement program. It is not cheap and requires significant involvement from senior management in order to realise the benefits. It is also not quick and easy to implement. However despite this, it is much in demand from big Organisations particularly now during this new Decade of Austerity.

Six Sigma Methodology

Six Sigma methodology has been the guiding philosophy of a number of organizations in the world who have benefited by its application in terms of process improvements, delivering quality products, and succeeding in delivering what is required.

Six Sigma refers to a 99.997% rate of perfection. To explain this further, a company producing only 3.4 defects in a batch of one million is said to perform at the Six Sigma level. As such, Six Sigma is a smarter way of managing business wherein a customer-centric approach is adopted in processes, and data is used to drive improvements in processes. The three focus areas of Six Sigma methodology are:
Improving customer satisfaction

Reducing cycle time

Reducing defects

So what exactly does the Six Sigma methodology say?


Well, the Six Sigma methodology communicates the following practices:
Continuous monitoring and assessment of performance using Sigma and DPMO (Defects per million opportunities)

Application of Six Sigma methodology to analyze processes to find the causes of variation and developing alternate processes to eliminate defects and variation

Using various problem solving methodologies, such as Lean Six Sigma, 5 Whys, Theory of Inventive Problem Solving etc, within DMAIC for improving processes

Application of Six Sigma Methodology

The five phases of the DMAIC methodology as documented in the steps in Six Sigma methodology are: Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control. Each of these five phases has a set of deliverables and tools. The focus area and the deliverables of each of these phases are listed below:

Define


The problem area is identified in this phase. The boundaries for the process area and the improvement requirements are defined in this phase.

The key deliverables of this phase are:

The project team is established

The Six Sigma team charter is finalized

The voice of the customer is detailed

The critical to quality parameters are defined

Process maps are defined

Measure


In this phase, the current performance of the process is measured as compared to the desired performance.

The key deliverables for this phase are:


Data collection plan

Measurement system analysis

Baselined data for current process

X data to be collected

Operational definitions

Analyze


This phase involves analyzing the root cause of the problem which is causing the process to perform at the current level.

The key deliverable for this phase is the validated root cause for the deviation in current process.


Improve

This phase involves finding an alternate process for improving performance and conducting a pilot project.

The key deliverables for this phase are:
Proposed solution with the cost/benefit analysis

Execution of the pilot project plan

Presentation of the improved process to the key project management stakeholders

Control


This phase involves taking steps to ensure the sustenance of the improved performance.

The key deliverables for this phase are:

Improved process implementation plan

Implemented process

Process control plan

Six Indicators for Successful Implementation of Six Sigma Methodology

The key indicators for successful Six Sigma projects are listed below:

Selecting a business priority for the Six Sigma project

Understanding the true requirements of the process to be improved

Using data for driving home your point

Selecting the right Six Sigma tool for the right situation

Communicating the project goals and achievements to the stakeholders

Conducting regular health-checkups for the new improved process to ensure that the process is following the prescribed guidelines

Six Sigma Methodology - Tip

Many a times, the Six Sigma project may hit a roadblock. In situations like this, it is always advisable to consult your project mentor who is aware of the common pitfalls and the steps to be taken to rectify the situation.

Steps in Six Sigma Methodology

The steps in Six Sigma methodology is essentially one that endeavours to adopt a smarter way of doing things so as to minimize the occurrence of defects. It emphasizes on doing things right the first time, rather than spending effort on correcting the defects.


Seems logical, right? But how do we ensure that we do it right – the first time? Well, the steps in six sigma methodology propagates adopting a simple five stage process as detailed below:
Step 1 – Define

In this step, you identify the pain area or the process that needs improvement. You define the nature of the problem. The objectives for adopting the six sigma improvement process are defined during this step. You form a team and train them about the benefits of adopting the six sigma methodology to improve your current process. It is advised that the team that you form is motivated and believes in the benefits that will be accrued by completing this project.

Next, you identify the customers or the people who would be impacted by this six sigma project. The critical requirements for these customers are also documented. Finally, you create the team charter which details project scope, business case, and the problem statement. This marks the completion of the define step.
The key tools used during the define phase are: Project Charter, stakeholder analysis, and SIPOC (Suppliers, Inputs, Process, Outputs, and Customers) diagram which visually depicts the key elements for the Six Sigma project.

Step 2 – Measure

This step is a little more time-consuming as compared to the Define phase of the six sigma methodology. It is during this phase that you define the parameters that will be used to measure performance improvement. During this phase, you define the baseline performance and also the extent to which the process can be improved. The key defects in the process are identified and defined. Once the key measures for improvement are defined, data is collected to analyze the difference between the current performance and the desired performance. You also need to establish the process variations during this phase.

The key tools used during the Measure phase are: Pareto charts, control charts, and Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA).

Step 3 – Analyze

The steps in six sigma methodology the third step is Analyze. During this phase, the data collected during the measure phase is used to analyze the gap between the current and desired performance. Next, you perform a root-cause analysis to define the possible reasons for the performance gap and quantify the main causes for variation. The gap between the current and desired state is also calculated in financial terms.

The key tools used during the Analyze phase are Cause and Effect diagram, Regression analysis, and Flow diagrams.
Step 4 – Improve

Now that you have defined the problem, measured the performance gap, and analyzed the reason for the gap, it is time to move over to the Improve phase of the steps in six sigma methodology. During this phase, you will devise a set of possible solutions and then select the best possible solution for the problem identified. Once you have selected the best solution, it is imperative to devise the implementation plan with the time frame for implementation. The main outcome of the improve phase is the designing of the performance improvement plan which will bring about a marked, measured difference in your existing process.

The key tools used during this phase are: Force field diagram, Stakeholder Definition, and FMEA.

Step 5 – Control

The final phase of the steps of six sigma methodology is the Control phase wherein you formulate project management plans and procedures to control or sustain the improved process.

This is one of the most important steps of the six sigma methodology and a failure to devise a control plan might ruin the entire effort spent on improving the original process. During this phase you need to document the revised process, devise, and deploy the response plan, and transfer knowledge of the new process to the process owner and the team.

The key tools used during the Control phase are: Quality control process charts, control charts, and standardization practices.
Steps in Six Sigma Methodology - Tip

You should use visual diagrams as much as possible to drive home the need for process improvement while trying to get a buy-in from the stakeholders for the six sigma project.


Six Sigma Procedure

Six Sigma procedure is currently adopted by many organizations throughout the world who are reaping the benefits offered by this process. Six Sigma changes the way organizations look at their processes. It aims at standardizing them so as to minimize the occurrence of defects. As a result, organizations worldwide have been able to save millions of dollars by improving their processes and reducing rework which results in a loss of project time and cost as well as resources.


5 Steps of Six Sigma Procedures

Do you know what are the key steps of the Six Sigma procedure?

Well, Six Sigma procedure typically follows the DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control) methodology. The basic steps of Six Sigma projects are listed below:

Identify a project: This step involves selecting a problem area for which a Six Sigma project is required to provide a solution. The problem statement and project business case are defined in this step.

Form a team: This step involves identifying a team and team leader as part of the Six Sigma team charter. The team leader can either be a certified Black Belt or a Green Belt.

Train the team: Once the team has been formed, it is important to train the team members on the Six Sigma methodology with specific emphasis on DMAIC and the tools used in each stage of DMAIC.

Perform the DMAIC steps and implement the solution: Once the team has been formed, the next step is to perform all the steps in Six Sigma methodology. These steps are detailed a little later in this article. After identifying the solution, the next step involves implementing the solution within the organization.

Handing-off the project: The final step involves handing over the project to the stakeholders and top management in a formal session.

The steps to be followed while performing the DMAIC methodology in Six Sigma procedures are listed below:

1.0 Define

This phase involves define Six Sigma ie defining the problem. This phase lays the foundation for the entire project.

The key deliverables of the Define phase are:
Team charter

Identification of customers

Voice of the customer or the key requirements for the project

SIPOC or the high-level diagram that the team will work on

2.0 Measure

This phase involves gathering data to quantify the problem. This phase also involves analyzing the preliminary root causes of the problem. Performance is typically measured at the input, process, and output level. The Sigma level of the current performance is also ascertained during this phase.

3.0 Analyze

This phase involves using the data gathered in the Measure phase and applying various tools to establish the root causes of the problem.

4.0 Improve

This phase involves suggesting possible solutions to the problem being faced. A cost-benefit analysis for each solution is done and the best possible solution is selected after a great deal of analysis and brain-storming.

Once a solution has been selected after this thorough analysis, the focus of the Analyze phase shifts on implementing this solution within the organization. A pilot project is executed to implement the solution and study the outcome. Once this is successful, the solution is implemented on a larger scale.

5.0 Control

This phase involves drafting steps to sustain the solution. This is one of the most important phases of the DMAIC methodology. If efforts are not made to sustain the improved process, in all likelihood, the process will go back to its original form and the very purpose of executing the Six Sigma project will be defeated. It is also important to formulate a response plan to deal with risks or issues that might arise with the new process. A formal hand-over is also scheduled at the end of the Control phase.

Six Sigma Procedure - Tip

You should always ensure that you use the right tools in each phase of the Six Sigma procedure. In the Analyze phase, you might be able to pin-point the root cause of a problem by using fairly simple tools.


However, at times, you might find that the causes are pretty deep and the relationship with other factors is quite complex. In such cases, it is always beneficial to use advanced statistical techniques for narrowing down to the root cause of the problem.

Six Sigma Terminology

Understanding Six Sigma terminology is becoming more and more important nowadays as organizations are waking up to the benefits of this methodology. . And why shouldn’t they? After all, Six Sigma offers a good theoretical mechanism for improving quality and reducing the number of defects. In this modern age of consumerism where merely satisfying the customer’s requirements is not enough, adopting Six Sigma practices to improve your process ensures a sure-fire way of retaining your customers.
One problem though with Six Sigma is that like many project management methodologies it has it’s own terms and terminology. This can make you feel alienated when your colleagues throw the Six Sigma jargon at you. However don’t despair. Just keep reading as this article makes an effort to define the Six Sigma terminology in simple and easy-to-understand terms.
Certain key terms of the Six Sigma terminology that you should be aware of are listed below:

1.0 Six Sigma

When you define Six Sigma you realize it is a methodology adopted for improving processes by reducing variation and standardizing the process to achieve a near zero defect product. It is the specific measure of quality that strives to deliver a product that has less than 3.4 defects per million opportunities.

2.0 Defect

A defect is defined as any non-conformance to the expected quality characteristics of a product or a process as expected by the customer. The occurrence of a defect causes frustration to the customers and results in monetary loss to the party producing the defect.

3.0 Critical to Quality (CTQ)

A characteristic of the final product which is one of the parameters for adjudging the quality of a product is defined as critical to quality. It is a key measurable trait of the final product and is critical for satisfying the customer’s expectations.

4.0 DMAIC

These are the steps in Six Sigma methodology which comprise five stages –Define (D) Measure (M), Analyze (A), Improve (I), and Control (C). The key activities for each of these stages are:

4.1 Define (D)

The nature of the problem, project business case and problem statement are defined, and the successful project team and project charter are formulated during this stage.

4.2 Measure (M)

The actual performance is measured and data is gathered during this stage.

4.3 Analyze (A)

The data gathered during the measure phase is analyzed and the gap between the desired and actual performance is identified during this stage.

4.4 Improve (I)

Process improvements are devised, a pilot project is undertaken, and implementation plans are designed during the Improve stage.

4.5 Control (C)

Process improvement is undertaken and measures are devised to sustain the improved process during the Control stage.

5.0 Defects per Million Opportunities (DPMO)

Before defining defects per million opportunities, let’s first understand the meaning of the term ‘number of defect opportunities’. The number of defect opportunities stands for the total number of defects that can occur in a product. For calculating this, you need to know all the parameters that are Critical to Quality (CTQs) for the customer. The number of defect opportunities therefore is the sum total of defects that can happen in a product.

6.0 Control Chart

The control chart is a graphical tool that helps monitor the variance over time in any process. Any unexpected variance might result in a defect.

7.0 Tollgates

Tollgates mark the conclusion of each stage of the DMAIC process while adopting the Six Sigma methodology. A tollgate review is conducted after each stage to ascertain the outcome of each stage and to ensure that the objectives defined for each stage have been achieved.

8.0 Black Belt

A Black Belt is a certified Six Sigma quality position in an organization. Black Belts are responsible for mentoring Six Sigma improvement processes and provide valuable guidance to the team running Six Sigma projects.

Six Sigma Terminology - Tip

While executing a Six Sigma improvement process, it is imperative that the project team is trained on Six Sigma tools and are familiar with all the Six Sigma terminology.

Six Sigma Projects

Six Sigma projects improve processes and reduces defects by adopting the Six Sigma methodology. One of the most important factors that contribute towards the growth of an organization is the quality of its end product or service. Quality of a product or service always leaves a lasting impression on the consumer’s mind. More and more organizations are therefore opting for Six Sigma which in turn leads to the execution of a number of Six Sigma projects to improve quality and standardize processes.
So what exactly is a Six Sigma project?

1.0 Phases of Six Sigma Projects

Six Sigma projects follow the DMAIC philosophy. The main steps in Six Sigma methodology are:

Define


Measure

Analyze


Improve

Control

2.0 Benefits of a Six Sigma Project

Well, as already discussed, the primary focus areas for a Six Sigma project are:

2.1 Reducing the Number of Defects

Six Sigma projects typically focus on reducing defects and getting things ‘first time right’. This in turn saves a lot of time, effort, and project budget which would have otherwise been spent on rectifying defects.

2.2 Increasing Customer Loyalty

Six Sigma projects strive towards delivering a near zero defect product to the end customer. The focus is on meeting the customer business requirements documentation and needs. Customer loyalty is obviously the outcome of delivering a flawless end product.

2.3 Adopting a Customer-Centric Approach

Six Sigma projects aim at reducing defects and thereby improving the quality of product delivered to the customer. Pleasing the customers is the primary driving force behind a Six Sigma project.

2.4 Reducing the Project Life Cycle

The Six Sigma methodology focuses on doing things ‘first time right’. This automatically saves time in refining the defects that are normally produced and hence the project management life cycle normally expected in a delivery like this.

2.5 Cost Savings

A Six Sigma project aims at improving the processes thereby resulting in massive savings for the organization. Cost saving is achieved by less rework, faster cycle time, and less of wastage.

3.0 Six Sigma Project Selection

Now that you are aware of the key steps and benefits of a Six Sigma project, let’s us learn about the key guidelines for selecting a Six Sigma project.

When selecting a Six Sigma project, you should keep the following guidelines in mind:

You should always select a problem area for which you do not know the solution. Six Sigma projects will help you reach a solution for the problem area.

Effective measures for deploying the Six Sigma project outcome should be taken otherwise the very purpose of executing Six Sigma projects would be defeated.

Once a Six Sigma project has been completed and deployed, it is imperative to conduct regular health checkups for the improved process.

Six Sigma Projects - Tip

While selecting a Six Sigma project, you should spend sufficient time in researching and analyzing the benefits of your project to the organization in monetary terms. If a thorough analysis is not done right at the beginning, there is a strong possibility that you execute a successful project with major improvisation in quality and productivity but without any impact on the net profit.

Six Sigma Team Charter

The six sigma team charter is the official document which forms the backbone of the six sigma process improvement project. You must be wondering that how can a document be the backbone of a project. Well, the team charter guides the team to complete the project as it contains the project scope, problem statement, and the boundaries that constrain the focus of the team members. The team charter is formed early on in the Define stage of the six sigma project.


So why is this document being addressed as a team charter and not the project charter? The reason is that any six sigma project cannot be completed without a team. The team forms the core of the project.
Now that we know what a team charter is, let’s identify the key elements of the charter. The essential components of a team charter are listed below:

The 9 Key Elements of a Six Sigma Team Charter

1.0 Project Title

The team charter should include the name of the project. Whilst naming a project ensure that it is self-explanatory and conveys the gist of the project. Hence try to steer clear of the current vogue of naming projects after Greek Gods!

Once your project is completed successfully, it will become a benchmark for others to follow and therefore the title should, at first glance, convey the intention for undertaking the project.

2.0 Project Leader

The project leader should be identified at the beginning of the project and named in the team charter. It is important to name the project leader in the charter so that the project management stakeholders know as to who is driving the effort for the process improvement project.

3.0 Mentor

The mentor for Six Sigma projects needs to be identified and named in the team charter. This person will provide expert guidance to the project team. Ideally a mentor will be a Master Black Belt certified person. You can read more on how to attain Master Black Belt status in Six Sigma certification

4.0 Project Team Members

The project team members who are driving the process improvement project are also named in the team charter. These people are responsible for executing the project and ensuring that the project is a success.

5.0 Project start and End Date

You must include the Six Sigma project start and tentative end date in the project charter. The project end date is decided in consultation with the mentor.

6.0 Business Case

Your project business case should spell out the reason or need for taking on the process improvement project to the top management. It should explain how the project will benefit the business.

The business case should also emphasize the penalties the organization will have to bear by not undertaking the project. Similarly, it should also drive home the gains that will be accrued by implementing the project.

7.0 Problem Statement

The problem statement in the team charter should detail the exact nature of the business problem and the extent of its impact on the organization. The loss of revenue per annum for the organization should be stated. Often this can be included in the project justification document which is delivered after the project business case is completed and approved.

8.0 Goal Statement

The goal statement in your team charter should detail the objectives for executing the process improvement project. The goals should be action-oriented and quantifiable. A time-limit should also be specified for each goal. You should also ensure that the goal laid out is achievable.

9.0 Operational Definition

You should formulate a metrics for judging the success of the project. This can be done in consultation with your project mentor. Now that you know the key components of a team charter, you can get started with creating one for your project. Remember that it is extremely important to formulate a well-thought through team charter as this is the main document that will guide you throughout your six sigma process improvement project.

Six Sigma Team Charter - Tip

It is extremely important that you quote numbers (in financial terms) in the business case and problem statement of your team charter. It is a terrific way to grab the attention of your senior management to ensure buy-in for your project and start the path to successful project management.

Six Sigma Tools

Six Sigma Tools are absolutely vital in these times of cut-throat competition where organizations are looking for newer ways of attracting and retaining customers, Six Sigma offers a complete mechanism of delivering the results your customers require as it focuses on continuous improvement of processes to minimize variation and reduce defects.

To achieve a near zero defect product or service using Six Sigma methodology, various Six Sigma tools are available. A thorough understanding of these Six Sigma tools will not only make your objectives easier to achieve, but you will also get a better perspective of how to successful implement Six Sigma projects.
There are a number of steps in Six Sigma methodology which offer a numerous tools which can be used in each stage of the DMAIC process. These are:

1.0 Define

The key tools used in the Define phase are listed below:

1.1 Brainstorming

This is an ideas generating technique in which the team members come up with a list of options for a task or a solution.

1.2 Multi-voting

This is a structured method of narrowing down a list of options. The team members are required to vote in favor or against each option.

1.3 Pareto Chart

It is based on Pareto’s eighty-twenty rule. It is a kind of a bar chart in which bars are arranged in a descending order with the tallest bar depicting the opportunity to be addressed.

2.0 Measure

The key tools used in the Measure phase are listed below:

2.1 Cause and Effect Diagram

This is a brainstorming tool used to identify the causes of a problem. However, in the Measure phase, it is used to brainstorm the potential ‘x’ data.

2.2 Cause and Effect Matrix

This is specifically used in a project that has multiple Critical to Quality (CTQ) parameters. In this technique, potential causes for a problem are prioritized by examining their relationship with the CTQs.

3.0 Analyze

The key tools used in the Analyze phase are listed below:

3.1 Histogram

This is a type of bar chart in which the frequency of values is indicated. Histograms are used for analyzing the location, spread, and shape of the data.

3.2 Box Plot

This is an alternative to a histogram and is also used for analyzing the location, spread, and shape of data. However these are typically useful for comparing two or more groups.

3.3 Scatter Plot

This is a graphical representation to depict an association between two variables.

3.4 Run Chart

These are used to depict trends in data over a period of time. These depict shifts, patterns, and drifts in data over time.

3.5 The 5 Why’s

This tool is similar to the Cause and Effect diagram. Potential causes of a problem are further analyzed by asking ‘why’ five times with the goal of achieving an actionable.

3.6 Hypothesis Testing

This is a statistical analysis in which a hypothesis is stated, data is collected, and then a decision is made based on the data and the probability value.

3.7 Design of Experiments

This is a statistical method of determining the relationship between the different factors affecting a process and the output of the process.

4.0 Improve

The key tools used in the Improve phase are listed below:

4.1 Random Stimulation

This technique involves letting go of one’s usual thinking habits and letting the brain discover newer thoughts. This is a great way of coming up with unexpected and unusual ideas.

4.2 Mind Mapping

This technique involves encouraging team members to use left brain and right brain thinking to find associations with a variable and break the linear thinking pattern.

4.3 Challenge Assumptions

This is another way of encouraging creative thinking by challenging day-to-day assumptions made by the team members. The focus of this exercise is to make the people look at the situation with a newer perspective.

5.0 Control

The key tools used in the Control phase are listed below:

5.1 Control Charts

This is a statistical tool for distinguishing between variation caused in a process due to common causes and those arising out of special causes.

5.2 Out-of-Control Action Plan

This tool helps in documenting a response plan for instabilities in the new process.

Six Sigma Tools - Tip

It is important to use the correct Six Sigma tool at specific stages of the DMAIC process. Picking up the right tool including Six Sigma storyboards for the right situation is an indicator of successful Six Sigma projects.

Six Sigma Project Management

Six Sigma project management is a key element in the success of a Six Sigma project. Hence how Six Sigma management is implemented is vital right from the conception stage to the later deployment and control stages. After all we are all aware of the benefits of implementing the steps in Six Sigma methodology in day-to-day processes, but if the project isn’t effectively managed, then the benefits will not be realised. Worse still it will be an extremely expensive mistake to rectify!

However on the positive side the integration of Six Sigma management can prove to be extremely beneficial to any organization. If a Six Sigma project is executed with the rigor of professional project management, you will not only end up with an easier task of project quality management of your product through an improved process , but you will also be sure that you do have an easier time in being able to document the project scope statement and the business requirements documentation. Moreover, you will at all times, be in better control of your Six Sigma project.

1.0 What does Six Sigma Project Management involve?

Well whilst the methodology may be different, the principles of project management apply as does the ability to effectively know how to manage a project.

As in all project management it is key to ensure that each stage of the Six Sigma project is tightly controlled so that there are no causes of scope creep, or overrun in project time and cost.

2.0 What are the key considerations for Six Sigma Management?

Like any other project, a Six Sigma project also goes through the initiating, planning, executing, controlling, and closure stages. The key activities for each of these stages are listed below:

2.1 Initiation

The define stage of a Six Sigma project can be termed as the project initiation stage. This stage would either see a project initiation document or project charter created. Further the project manager is determined during this stage. An approval for the project initiation is acquired from the key project management stakeholders and the project sponsors.

2.2 Planning

In a Six Sigma project, various activities are undertaken that fall under the planning stage of a typical project. These activities include understanding exact client requirements using the Design for Six Sigma (DFSS) approach and executing the Monte Carlo simulation for risk planning and the project risk management plan. The Markov chains are applied for improving the testing processes etc.

2.3 Execution

The Measure and Analyze phases of a Six Sigma project overlap with the project execution phase. Six Sigma tools like the Design of Experiments help you decide the best possible option for implementing a solution.

2.4 Control and Closure

Six Sigma projects have the control phase wherein in measures are drafted for sustaining the improved process. At the end of the control phase, the project is finally handed over to the management and the key stakeholders, and knowledge-sharing aka lesson learned sessions are scheduled.

As in any other project, Six Sigma project management involves stakeholder definition and determining the types of stakeholders. These key stakeholders will need to see the weekly project management report as well as important updates on a regular basis.

It is also important that the project is delivered within certain limits stated are concerned as well as the normal project manager duties.

3.0 Utilising Six Sigma and Management

Six Sigma methodology focuses specifically on improving quality. However, without clearly defining the constraints for scope, project budget and time, the very purpose of the Six Sigma project would be defeated.

Consider an example of a process improvement project that managed to reach the required Six Sigma level of quality. However, it was observed, that it resulted in increasing the overhead for the organization by more than eighty percent than the original process was taking. This was not acceptable to the top management and the improved process was scrapped. A stringent approach to project management for Six Sigma projects is therefore extremely important. Process improvement without a formal change request process loses it’s appeal very quickly.

Six Sigma tools for troubleshooting and defining processes should be used throughout the project management life cycle. Similarly, project management tools for monitoring, tracking, and controlling the Six Sigma project can result in a foolproof mechanism for Six Sigma management for ensuring the success of the process improvement projects.
Six Sigma Project Management - Tip

Using the DMAIC methodology as documented in define Six Sigma in conjunction with standard project management as defined by the Project Management Institute (PMI), can significantly reduce the chances of failure and redundancy.

Six Sigma Storyboards

Six Sigma storyboards are a quick, visual depiction of a process or a sequence of events. Similarly, a Six Sigma storyboard is also used to depict the progress and the improvements made by the process improvement project. It also illustrates the different tools used in various stages to define, analyze, and improve the process problem. In a nutshell, Six Sigma storyboards depicts the story of the project. Six Sigma storyboards are created and maintained by the project team during the course of the project. It is imperative that the storyboard gets updated on a regular basis to depict all the developments in the project. It is a good idea to display the storyboard permanently so that it is visible to all the project team members at all times. The Six Sigma storyboard should be easy to interpret and understandable not only by the project team but also the management and project management stakeholders.

How Do You Create Six Sigma Storyboards?

A Six Sigma storyboard is typically based on the DMAIC methodology with each step: Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control included in that order. The storyboard can have one or more chapters comprising pages devoted to each stage of DMAIC process. The language used in the storyboard should be simple and clear.

You should also ensure that a flow is maintained when you move from one page to the other and from one chapter to the next. The tools used during each stage and the outcome of using the tool should be clearly indicated in the storyboards. There should be an extensive usage of diagrams and visuals. The storyboard should convey all the steps taken to complete the Six Sigma improvement process.
Six Sigma storyboards should also lay emphasis on the key takeaways such as, issues, project risks, and learnings. It should be a live document which evolves at each of the steps in Six Sigma methodology process.

What are the Key Functions of a Six Sigma Storyboard?

These are listed below as:

It serves as a useful tool to educate others in the organization about Six Sigma methodology. Typically people interested in learning about Six Sigma get theoretical knowledge of what is Lean Six Sigma? through loads of study material. However, the Six Sigma storyboards provide a real-life example of the application of Six Sigma methodology to improve process within the organization.

The Six Sigma storyboard acts as a project tracker. It helps in reporting the status of the project to the management and key stakeholders. During periodic project status review meetings, the Six Sigma storyboard serves as a presentation medium to apprise the quality leaders about the progress that has been made since the last meeting.

In certain organizations, a Six Sigma storyboard is a necessary deliverable at the end of the project to attain Six Sigma certification. The storyboard not only depicts the different stages and tools used during each stage of the Six Sigma methodology, it also represents the team members’ understanding and grasp in being able to define Six Sigma and it’s logic.

The Six Sigma storyboard also serves as a useful tool to educate the management about the problems being faced, the root cause for the problems, the suggested alternatives and the ways of implementing the improvements. This is specifically important as major changes in an organization cannot be driven without a buy-in from the top management.

Six Sigma Storyboards - Tip

As your Six Sigma storyboard will be used as a presentation tool for depicting the progress and achievements of your process improvement project, it is advisable that the language that you use is crisp and concise. You should also utilize loads of graphics and visual diagrams to increase interest and drive your point home.

What is Lean Six Sigma?

Have you ever wondered what is Lean Six Sigma? You might have heard about Six Sigma and Lean, but what about the combined process?


Let us reinforce our understanding of both the processes and then move onto tackling the concept of Six Sigma Lean.
As you all know, from our page on define Six Sigma, it is a data-driven methodology for improving processes and delivering nearly zero defect end products. It advocates the usage of various quality tools and processes to ensure that there are less than 3.4 defects per million opportunities or better.
And what is Lean? Well, Lean is a production methodology that emphasizes on minimizing wastage during production by cutting down on unnecessary steps that do not bring about any value-add to the process. These non-value adding steps could either be inflating the project time and cost, or stock requirement which therefore might result in additional cost to the process.
So now the next question that would come to your mind is what is Lean Six Sigma and how are Lean and the steps in Six Sigma methodology related?
Six Sigma basically tries to eliminate variation in a process so that there are no defects. The focus of Six Sigma is therefore to control deviation from the standard process. On the other hand, Lean methodology focuses on breaking down a process into various sub-processes and identifying and eliminating any process that is non-essential to the process. In simple terms, the lean methodology tries of speed up the process as can be seen in lean software development. Therefore both Lean and Six Sigma go hand in hand and do not contradict one another.
If you consider the benefits of both the methodologies and try to adopt the combined approach of Lean Six Sigma, the end results would be simply magnificent. But no doubt you’re wondering how these very different methodologies can be deployed together effectively?

As you have already seen, the focus of Lean and Six Sigma are totally different. The combined approach of Six Sigma Lean can very easily be adopted in any process. Lean will help you improve the process workflow whereas Six Sigma will help you standardize the process so as to minimize the variation. And the end result would be a near zero defect product that is delivered faster, and probably at a lower cost.

We all have studied the benefits of Six Sigma and how it goes a long way in ensuring that the number of defects is reduced drastically thereby resulting in a better quality product. Adding Lean to Six Sigma basically means adding speed to the already standardized process. Lean methodology propagates focusing on the core processes and finding ways to streamline them. This will obviously delight your customers as they will not only get quality but speed as well.
It is beneficial to use Six Sigma Lean because many a times you get so focused on Six Sigma and process standardization that you end up creating a number of slow moving, unresponsive practices which focus on process replication. This inadvertently gets treated as a step towards minimizing process deviation. However, when you add Lean to Six Sigma, you are forced to analyze your processes and identify the core processes. In this exercise, you also spot all the slow-moving, non-value adding steps and think of ways to eliminate them. You try to streamline the entire workflow. Therefore Lean complements the Six Sigma process and ensures that you not only deliver excellent-quality products but also deliver them in the best possible time.
Lean Six Sigma is typically beneficial because Lean alone cannot standardize a process and control deviation. Similarly Six Sigma alone cannot drastically improve the process speed and reduce cost.
However, an amalgamation of both ensures an equal focus on both project quality management and speed, both of which are vital for exceeding your customer’s expectations.

What is Six Sigma Lean? - Tip

The combined effect of Lean and Six Sigma leads to improvements in product quality as well a turnaround time. Sharing these improvement stories will not only build your reputation in the market but will also help you get more business.

Six Sigma Certification

In this decade of austerity, Six Sigma certification and Lean Six Sigma certification is becoming much more important to attain as, more companies are being required to deliver zero defect products. Adopting Six Sigma methodology forms the obvious choice for organizations to achieve this. Six Sigma training and certification on a curriculum vitae can make you a top choice for employers. Essentially being Six Sigma certified means getting a seal of validation which proves your quality credentials to prospective employers.

Let’s first understand the Six Sigma certification requirements. To be Six Sigma certified, you need to complete the following tasks:

Go through the training material on Six Sigma to understand each and every concept of the Six Sigma methodology. The training material is easily available with any Six Sigma training organization.

Pass a written test to display your expertise on the subject matter. The written test is usually administered by the training organization. Companies that have had decades of Six Sigma experience conduct their own Six Sigma proficiency test to evaluate the understanding of the candidates on the Six Sigma methodology.

Complete at least one or two Six Sigma projects to display an understanding of the subject in real-life environment. The project undertaken involves application through the steps in Six sigma methodology acquired as a result of the Six Sigma training. The number of projects to be completed may vary depending on the kind of Six Sigma certification you are going in for.

Six Sigma certification entails that you approach an organization or a consulting firm offering this as there is no centralized organization offering Six Sigma training and certification.

Why Become Six Sigma Certified?

Well, getting a Six Sigma and Lean Six Sigma certification has its own benefits. Some of these are:

To verify your quality credentials and to certify that you can properly define Six Sigma and understand it’s concepts.

More and more quality professional are being hired by top organizations throughout the world. By having a Six Sigma certification on your resume, it will only serve as a catalyst to fasten your search for one of the best organizations.

Six Sigma certified personnel are offered much more attractive salaries compared to other quality professionals.

A Lean Six Sigma certification can also help you climb the corporate ladder faster than your colleagues.

Six Sigma certification also denotes your strong desire to be a top notch quality professional.

Now that we have learnt a lot about the benefits of the Six Sigma certification, let’s go and find out about the different types of Six Sigma certificates.

Types of Six Sigma Certification

There are three types of Six Sigma certifications. These are listed below:

Green Belt Certification

The Green Belt certification provides fundamental knowledge of Six Sigma processes and their application. This certification is essential for people who intend to work as project members in a Six Sigma project. These project members will be responsible for any specific function of the project.

Black Belt Certification

The Black Belt certification provides in-depth knowledge of Six Sigma principles, systems, and tools. It is targeted at people who will lead the Six Sigma project. A Black Belt certified quality person is expected to be able to explain the concept of Six Sigma, processes, and tools to others in the organization.

Master Black Belt Certification

The Master Black Belt certification provides advanced knowledge of Six Sigma tools, methods, and leadership skills. It is targeted at people who are responsible for driving the need for adopting Six Sigma within the organization. These people are considered the experts on Six Sigma within the organization.



Six Sigma Certification - Tip

While deciding to go in for Six Sigma training and certification, it is important that you select an institution offering Six Sigma training after careful consideration. Six Sigma training courses can be expensive if you are paying for them on your own. Therefore it makes sense to spend some time, research, and then select a training program and certification that is apt for you.


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