Are you trying to eliminate a systemic quality problem at your business? Six Sigma may help. Six Sigma is a set of project-based methodologies used to improve quality and cut costs. Sure, it's used mostly by big companies. But many smaller companies can benefit from its lessons as well.
Motorola pioneered it, but General Electric's success made it famous. The most widely used method is known as DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control). Rather than trying random solutions, a business using Six Sigma pinpoints the cause of an issue or defect and applies only appropriate solutions.
Six Sigma was designed for manufacturing companies but a variety of companies use it today. The name was coined by a Motorola engineer and is a trademark of that company. Six Sigma implementation can assist with three key business objectives:
- Identify problems and reduce defects by managing process variations that cause them
- Improve quality as a result of fewer defects
- Save money and time by making processes more efficient
Prepare to understand and implement new operational standardsSix Sigma is a rigorous methodology that uses statistical analysis to measure and improve a company's performance by eliminating problems in manufacturing or service-related processes.
Identify the problemWhen deciding which Six Sigma projects to do first, focus on the parts of the business that aren't performing to expected or desired levels. Then create a model of the processes, relate the problem to a specific business process and document the steps.
Education and trainingWhile high-quality education and training can be harder and costlier for small companies, look at the long-term investment and savings. Training/certification, depending on skill level and role (Green Belt, Black Belt, Master Black Belt, Champion, or Executive Leadership), can take months to master.
DMAIC on a budgetImplementing a full-scale Six Sigma process with certified experts can be expensive and time-consuming. However, small businesses can borrow DMAIC principles and apply them to their specific needs, assigning DMAIC tasks internally.
Cultural changeFor complete success, disciplined implementation must follow training, and people at all levels must change their mindset about how they approach their job duties.
- With a small company, some Six Sigma "roles" that the big guys use may not be necessary.
- Ensure Six Sigma is an undertaking your company can manage on the front end. Do you have all of the tools to see implementation through?
- Apply the rigor and written procedures that larger companies do well. Formal performance appraisal systems need to identify what is to be accomplished, what success looks and feels like, and how an employee will be compensated.
- Six Sigma doesn't apply to all business problems. Use it to solve narrow problems in a fundamentally sound process.