Six Sigma

November 3, 2010

When I first started this article I have to admit that I had no idea what Project Management was or how to implement it in the real world. I did not know the difference between traditional project management and agile project management. Now that I have a basic understanding of project management I can discuss what Six Sigma is and how Six Sigma works.

First Six Sigma is a statistical concept that in the business world means that you are only producing 3.4 million defects per million opportunities (DPMO). Whether your company is producing consumer goods or software for computers Six Sigma is a process that uses business metrics to understand their processes and identify target areas for improvement. When dealing with project management it is essential that we continually work on improving the process and improving the quality of our products. With Six Sigma we can develop a statistical analysis that can continually improve the process, control and reduce costs, and improve quality. To put it simply Six Sigma is a tool that adds the value to the project.

Secondly Six Sigma is a philosophy of managing that focuses on eliminating defects through improving processes. The idea behind Six Sigma in management is that if you can measure the defects in a process then you can figure out ways to eliminate them. There are five phrases that are commonly used when using the Six Sigma methodology toward improving the quality of business processes. They are:
Define the project, the goals, and the deliverables to customers. Measure the current performance of the process. Analyze and determine the root cause(s) of the defects. Improve the process to eliminate defects. Control the performance of the process.

Now that we have a basic understanding of what Six Sigma is we can take a look at how it works. The key to making Six Sigma work is how well the team works together to achieve their quality goals. Team dynamics can either make the project or break the project. Six Sigma team dynamics consist of a team leader who is known as a Black Belt or Green Belt, an internal consultant known as the Master Black Belt, and the project sponsor known as the Champion. Six Sigma Champions are usually high level individuals that understand Six Sigma and are committed to its success. In larger companies the champion will be a full-time, high level individual possibly an Executive Vice President. The Champion is responsible for writing a formal charter to outline the deployment of the Six Sigma team and they act as mentors to Black Belts. Black Belts are generally knowledgeable and experienced individuals that are held in high regard by their peers. Black Belts devote 100% of their time to Six Sigma and they are usually well trained in statistical analysis and mathematics. The Green Belt is similar to the Black Belt in most regards, however the Green Belt is not always fully dedicated to the project like the Black Belt is. Green Belts are capable leaders that manage the Six Sigma teams from conception to completion of the project. Master Black Belts are people within the organization that are at the highest levels of technical and organizational proficiency. The Master Black Belt is required to know everything the Black Belts know. As a general rule there is one Master Black Belt for every one thousand employees. Just to put it all in perspective the Six Sigma team will complete between 50 to 70 projects per year with an estimated savings of between $9 million and $14.6 million.

Six Sigma is not only a statistical analysis that is used to eliminate errors and refine the business process, Six Sigma is a form of project management. Like traditional project management it contains a project charter, a project sponsor, project leaders, and stake holders. The ultimate goal of Six Sigma is to make the companies systems and processes function at the best possible performance levels. The success of Six Sigma relies on the commitment of upper management and the embracing of Six Sigma as part of the company culture. There are many aspects of Six Sigma that I have not covered such as selecting team members, choosing business metrics, and Lean Six Sigma. For further research on Six Sigma please look at some of my reference material used for this article.

Brue, Greg. Six Sigma for Managers. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2002. Electronic Book.

Eckes, George. Six Sigma for Everyone. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2003. Electronic Book.

Wilson, Graham. Six Sigma and the Product Development Cycle. Amsterdam: Boston: Elsevier Butterworth-Heinemann, 2005. Electronic Book.

Wikipedia contributors. “Six Sigma.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 1 Nov. 2010. Web. 3 Nov. 2010.

By: Jeffrey A Putt

One Response to “Six Sigma”

  1. Phil Stilber said

    There might be a type in the second paragraph:

    “First Six Sigma is a statistical concept that in the business world means that you are only producing 3.4 million defects per million opportunities (DPMO).”

    Surely Six Sigma doesn’t want you to make nearly three and a half times as many defective products as good products?

    Outside of that, nice article. I’ve never really delved into Six Sigma because it’s an intimidating topic. Six Sigma and ITIL are where the business world it currently headed though, so I may as well learn.

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