At some point in your career I am sure you will have come across the term “Six Sigma”. Certainly during my time studying Quantitative and Qualitative Statistics, which was one of the modules studied on my MBA course, we did study this subject along with other statistical techniques.
You will also probably have heard of Yellow, Green, Black and Master Black belts (the latter three considered the higher level belts) which defines the level of knowledge an individual has of this quality process. I am personally a Green belt, having taken the exam, after gaining confidence in my statistical abilities when studying for my MBA (I got an A grade!).
A little bit of history – there has been some debate as to whether the concept and practice of Six Sigma was created by Motorola or General Electric. In reality it does not really matter as both organisations over the years saved billions of dollars either by actual cost saving of materials and labour or by improving productivity.
The whole concept and application of Six Sigma within the working environment is to look at the processes being performed within the organisation. My philosophy in life is that everything can always be improved no matter how perfect you may think it is; what I like about the Six Sigma methodology is that it thinks that too. The base of the theory is that there is always some form of variation in a process and to improve you must measure those variations and move them to a predictable event which can be repeated without mistakes, thus the margin for any type of error is reduced by a dramatic degree.
In order to declare that your process is truly of “Six Sigma” proportions you must have a process that produces less than 3.4 defects per million opportunities that is the equivalent of a 0.0000034% margin of error!
You will hear (especially if you are in a manufacturing environment) the term “Lean Six Sigma” or “Lean Manufacturing”. This follows the concept that all non value adding parts of the business are eliminated. These findings are based on statistical and business analysis results. Facts speak louder than anything so if you come up against opposition, then you have hard data to support your cause.
Remember that if there are a number of projects that you think may be worthy of doing, ensure you point your resources in the right direction. Take on too much and spread the expertise too thinly and you may end up failing to improve anything.
Can I say that I have achieved the standard? The honest answer is no! I do however look at processes and look to improve them way beyond where there are today. I feel that if this is a sustainable process rather than a one-off or ad-hoc event then I feel I have achieved something. There is always the Six Sigma objective to go aim for!
If you are looking to embark on the road to process perfection make sure you have the support of the senior executives. They need to be right behind you otherwise the introduction and longevity of success will fail.
After passing you statistics module on your MBA course you may feel confident to get accreditation and introducing Six Sigma into your business.