Definition: What is 6 Sigma?
This is a shorthand way of describing the methodology to improve the processes in an organisation which, by decreasing variability and increasing performance, will drive defect reduction, quality enhancement, staff morale, profits and customer satisfaction. The name refers to the statistical term “sigma” which is a descriptor of the proportion of a group (in this instance a group of products) that can be described as being within a likely distance from the required value (ie not too heavy or too light, not too many or too few etc). As the number of “Sigmas” increases (1 Sigma to 2 Sigma to 3 Sigma etc) it means that the likelihood of any of the group being outside the control of the organisation is decreasing. By the time 6 sigma are reached it says that the organisation controls 99.9999% (ie four 9s) of its production perfectly. Clearly once this threshold is reached there is little more that can be done!
So, what does 6 Sigma involve?
The approach is to ensure that the operatives have the correct range of tools (physical and metaphysical) to address the issues they face. The tools required will vary depending on the process, but the training relates to how to choose the appropriate tool, how to use it correctly and how to ensure that the positive impact is thereby felt most effectively.
Individuals are trained up to become “Black Belts” in 6 Sigma methodology – through a range of different coloured “belts” – demonstrating they know how to apply the approach and understand its impacts at each stage. These are not just learned approaches, the next “belt” cannot be attained until actual completion of specific projects has been achieved as well.
So, is 6 Sigma for the organisation or the staff?
The way the 6 Sigma approach has been designed means that the answer is “both”. The organisation gains by benefitting from the changes made to its procedures over time using continuous improvement techniques. It also gains by having its staff trained and educated in 6 Sigma methodology which means that they better understand the reasons behind the changes being made, better understand what sort of changes they are looking for to develop the organisation and better understand why the changes will result in the improvements needed by the organisation.
The staff gain directly from being trained as individuals with an externally recognised qualification they can take from job to job or develop within their existing job. In this latter case it is a way of differentiating between “ordinary staff” and “6 sigma staff” which can be used to reward the trained up staff – encouraging others to follow suit. Finally they are working for an organisation that has utilised 6 Sigma, making it more resilient, more likely to do well, survive longer and make more money – which rewards the staff in the form of salaries, ongoing existence and surety for the future (pensions as well as longer working life if so desired).
What do you do if you want to find out more about 6 Sigma?
Please give us a call or send us an email so that we can start a conversation. Contact Us and we will talk you through the approaches, the benefits and the likely impacts you should expect.
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