Since its introduction, Six Sigma has literally revolutionized management processes and the way business is done. Over the years, major corporations world-wide—from Motorola to General Electric—have adopted and implemented its methodology as the keystone of their management philosophy.
As such, Six Sigma practitioners are in high demand by top companies looking to streamline their processes and increase their profit margins through this powerful management tool.
This article will provide a basic overview of the concepts and methodology that is redefining the management strategies of major corporations—and the managers they hire.
What is Six Sigma?
At its heart, Six Sigma is a business tool used to increase profit by optimizing performance. In order to understand how Six Sigma achieves this, one must first learn to look at business as a series of processes.
Any business can basically be viewed as a machine comprised of many moving parts, called processes. This idea can be applied to any department, across the board—from Human Resources to Research and Development, from a hiring process to a manufacturing process, from marketing to distribution. All the main parts of whole must be synchronized for optimum performance in order for a company to be successful. The same applies to the processes that make up the individual departments. In this way, everything is interlocked and interdependent. And by extension—as the saying goes—you are only as strong as your weakest link.
With this in mind, Six Sigma sets out a disciplined data-driven methodology to measure and analyze the processes that a company ultimately runs on. Its ultimate goal is the optimization of performance by identifying and eliminating “defects” in the process, resulting in higher customer satisfaction, and thus profit.
The Underlying Principles
Six Sigma is a powerful management tool used to optimize performance by eliminating defects in corporate processes. A defect in process can be seen as an obstacle to customer satisfaction, which is the lifeblood to any company's profitability. Therefore, while Six Sigma analyzes and improves the internal processes of a company, it's ultimate aim is to increase the degree of customer satisfaction.
The term “Six Sigma” itself offers clues to the ideas at the heart of its methodology. The word “sigma” is a statistical term for measuring deviation from perfection. The “six” refers to six standard deviations. Taken together, the term translates into a methodology that, when applied to processes, seeks to produce no more than six standard deviations from the defined point of perfection. In the Six Sigma methodology, this has been defined as no more than 3.4 defects per million opportunities. While the statistical terminology might sound intimidating, the idea of making only 3 mistakes for every million attempts is easy enough to grasp and shows the power of the methods at work.
The methods that underpin the overall Six Sigma approach are split into two categories. The first, DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control), is used to analyze and improve existing processes. The second, DMADV (Define, Measure, Analyze and Verify), is used to develop new processes that adhere to the stringent deviation specifications of Six Sigma.
Obviously, the closer you are to perfection, no matter how you define it, the better off you are in any endeavor. In the business world especially, the competitive edge can be a razor thin line separating competitors in any market space. When it comes down to it, the company that makes the fewest mistakes is the most successful.
Thus, the processes of Six Sigma offers a competitive advantage to any company that can master its concepts—and to any individual trained to implement it.
Make Six Sigma Work for You Six Sigma training is recognized at two levels of certification reflecting the expertise of the individual. These categories are divided into Six Sigma Green Belts and Six Sigma Black Belts.
The Green Belt program introduces managers to the fundamentals of the Six Sigma methodology as well as how it apples to the overall management structure. Green Belts have the basic training of valuable skills that can be immediately applied to critical business processes.
The Six Sigma Black Belt is, as the name suggests, a master of the methodologies and practices of Six Sigma. They have full knowledge of the DMAIC and DMADV methodologies and can implement them in a leadership role.
Obtaining your Green Belt or Black Belt in Six Sigma methodologies will make you more enticing to potential employers. So if you’re looking to boost your career in the corporate world and gain some invaluable knowledge that will give you a leg up on the competition, consider taking a Six Sigma program – such as the one offered by Villanova University – today. It might just be the break you’re looking for.
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