Six Sigma Approach Part I

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Ger de Waard
Management Consultant, Netherlands

Six Sigma Approach Part I

The Six Sigma approach identifies and prioritizes problems in response to customer needs. The method’s goal is to understand and control variation in an organization’s work processes, which are caused by the “six M’s”: materials, method, machines, manpower, measurement, and mother nature. Issues to be addressed can be categorized as: decreasing unreliability in processes; eliminating waste; identifying and decreasing the incidence of defects; reducing costs of processes; and improving customer satisfaction.
Solutions come from the Six Sigma team, a small group that works on the improvement project full-time for a period of months. Team members are assigned responsibilities according to their level of training. A Six Sigma Black Belt — well-versed in the Six Sigma method — leads each team. The improvement team often includes one or more Green Belts (those with some training in the method) as well as others with expert knowledge on the organizational process that needs to be improved. Each team also has a senior management LSS champion, whose role is to advocate for theprogram as aa whole or for the project (project sponsor). The diversity of perspectives on the team — which includes someone with expertise in understanding what customers (students) want and need — is purposeful and is meant to enrich the identification of possible solutions.
Potential solutions arise during the define, measure, and analyze phases of the DMAIC roadmap. The team then decides which solutions to test, doing so on a small scale and multiple times under various conditions. The Six Sigma toolkit includes resources (many of them statistical methods) for analyzing the test results. Changes that are deemed improvements are then handed off to the workers who are responsible for the (now improved) process.
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