Greg Brue describes his book, Six Sigma for Managers, as a journey for business professionals who are truly committed to improving productivity and profitability. The text explains what, why, and how Six Sigma functions so you can start on your own Six Sigma journey.
The text begins by teaching you the basics with an introduction to Six sigma and explains why you should take the Six Sigma journey. Six Sigma is “a methodology for using a set of techniques and tools to improve product or service quality by identifying and reducing or eliminating the causes of defects or errors and minimizing variability in processes. People within the organization are trained to apply the techniques and tools in improvement projects, in which teams set measurable goals and follow a specific sequence of steps.” Six Sigma comes from the statistical concept of sigma, a statistical term that represents standard deviation. In Six Sigma, sigma is used to measure a process in terms of the number of defects and the number of opportunities for defects.
The Six Sigma methodology utilizes statistical tools to detect the factors that are most impactful for improving process quality and generating bottom-line outcomes. These tools are introduced and discussed during the five strategy phases of doing Six Sigma, DMAIC. DMAIC consists of these five phases:
- Define. Determining the project goals and customer (internal and external) deliverables.
- Measure. Identifying one or more product or service characteristics, map the process, evaluate measurement systems, and estimate baseline capability (the current performance of the process).
- Analyze. Evaluating and reduce the variables through graphical analysis and hypothesis testing and identify the vital few factors for process improvement.
- Improve. Discovering variable relationships among the vital few factors, establish operating tolerances, and validate measurements.
- Control. Determining the ability to control the vital few factors and implement process control systems
Once the foundation is set, the text elaborates on why you should practice Six Sigma, highlighting money, customer satisfaction, quality, impact on employees, growth, and competitive advantages as basic achievable results from focusing your efforts on understanding the variations in processes and the defects that result.
After Building the foundation of what Six Sigma is and why you should use it, the text teaches how to implement Six Sigma and the roles and responsibilities. Brue outlines the Do’s and Don’ts of implementing six Sigma, stating as long as the basic principles are followed “you can ensure that your efforts are working for at maximum capacity for lasting results.” Brue goes on to stress that the success of Six Sigma relies on the people who are implementing it and lists Executive Leaders (commit Six sigma and promote throughout the organization), Champions(to remove black belt blockers), Master black Belt(trainer/mentors), Black Belts(full time projects workers), and Green Belts(part time project workers/assist black belts) as the key players.
Once the groundwork for implementation and key players are explained, the text delves into the core concepts of Six Sigma, an overview of tools, how to select Six Sigma projects, and how to sustain them. The core concepts of Six Sigma include the afore mentioned steps to doing Six Sigma, the DMAIC Method. This problem-solving method is an acronym for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control. Everything in Six Sigma can be reduced to this equation (DMAIC) and is essential to achieving desired outcomes. By following each step in order and completing each phases tasks, you can accurately understand, evaluate, and work on all aspects of the critical to quality elements affecting a process. The DMAIC is described as the ultimate tool set for lasting quality improvement and validated bottom line results.
In addition to the DMAIC Six Sigma outlines other key tools for unlocking information and improving processes. Like the DMAIC, they are focused, specific and sequential. They address small margin errors and broad action plans. Some of the tools include: Process Mapping, The YX Matrix, MSA, Process Capability Tool, Hypothesis Testing, Etc.
Winding down, the text explains that you select projects based on effort required and probability of success. Essentiality, you should select projects that have a low ratio effort to impact by selecting the projects that have highest value outcomes for least amount of effort. You should also prioritize projects that yield the most value to clients by selecting projects that address core issues, add valuable features, are manageable, and within scope.
Finally, the text teaches that making your customers more competitive is a key sign that you’re successfully implementing Six Sigma. Measuring project performance to check that you are meeting customer expectations for quality, delivery, and cost should be a part of every managers task list when gauging project success, and the key to sustaining Six Sigma.
This article is an adapted sample from a synopsis paper on Six Sigma for Managers, written for Advanced Topics in Project Management (COM5451) at Florida State University during the Spring of 2015.
Reference: Brue, G. (2002). Six Sigma for Managers. New York, NY: The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.