When I was at Cengage, we used a Lean Six Sigma approach for our processes and products, and after a few interviews with people asking me “What is Six Sigma” and “what does Six Sigma mean?” I thought I would write a quick Intro to Six Sigma for those that want to know more.
What is Six Sigma?
- A system to continuously build quality into your processes and products
- A fact based, data-driven improvement system
- A company-wide commitment to quality
What is a Six Sigma project?
- DMAIC: Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control
- DMAIC claims that it ‘fixes’ existing processes
– This is when you scope a project; you find the problem you want to solve.
- Define the process and look for the problems within it. Create a business case for your project and pitch it to management
- Define the goal you want to reach.
- Define your team
- Develop a plan to create the processes needed
– This is when you gather initial information to further refine the problem
- Create measurements to quantify aspects of the process.
- Gather information from your customers (yourself and your manager-types in the office) what they would want out of the process.
- Create measurements for the information you gather
- Prioritize your customers’ needs
– This is when you look at your empirical data in a variety of ways to find possible solutions and find several solutions to decide on the best one
- Create several solutions to the problem.
- You would then look at each solution, and mathematically make a decision.
- You also check the risks associated with the plan and create ways to mitigate them.
– Here you change the process to eliminate the problem
- Come up with some other solutions, like email, face-to-face meetings, and so on.
- You then look at each solution, and mathematically (like the Analyse, there are lots of tools to help with the decision-making process) make a decision.
- You then do a couple of test runs to see if your change makes a difference—take measurements, and compare them against the original ones.
– This is where you monitor the process to ensure that you have selected the best solution
- You make the face-to-face meetings part of the information-gathering process
- You create ways to fool-proof the plan (write up your process, teach the SMEs what you’re doing, and so on)
- You continue to take measurements to be sure that the solution continues to work.
- can assist in making design decisions
- can ensure the documentation is satisfying the customer
- can show managers where the documentation is improving
- may take time up front to set up and get the data, but can save time and money overall