Learn how the Six Sigma methodology works

How about using the Six Sigma technique to ensure the quality of your brand’s products? Find out how.

Six sigma - number 6 and the sigma symbol

A Six Sigma methodology — or Six Sigma —, is based on several task management theories. It seeks to implement actions to make processes more efficient and economical, in addition to ensuring the quality of the product being offered by the brand.

This form of organizing processes began to be implemented at Motorola in the early 1980s. At the time, the company wanted a tenfold decrease in product failure over a 5-year period.

The theory’s focus is on customer satisfaction by reducing errors in processes. The strategy must be well planned and its focus needs to be on reducing costs and increasing competitiveness, aiming at medium and long-term results.

If you’d like to learn more about this methodology and how it can help you manage your business, keep reading the article!

What is Six Sigma anyways?

Sigma (Σ) is a letter in the Greek alphabet used to represent the measurement of statistical variables.

When this methodology is applied to brand management, it refers to the frequency with which certain processes distance themselves from perfection, consuming more resources than necessary. Thus, sigma deals with the occurrence of defects within a number of opportunities.

In the 1920s, engineer Walter Andrew Shewhart established that a process presenting a variation greater than three sigma needed to be corrected.

Years later, in the 1980s, a team of Motorola engineers found that these numbers didn’t meet the levels of quality. Therefore, they increased the levels of opportunities analyzed in the millions.

Thus, transforming this definition into numbers, the methodology’s goal is to correct processes until the service or product is 99.9997% defect-free. This is a limit of merely 3.4 defects per million opportunities.

This theory consists of three key elements: customers, processes and employees. And it can be applied in a variety of sectors— from production numbers within a plant, to a customer’s waiting time at a call center.

However, achieving this level of quality requires a series of changes to processes and to the brand’s management team. In addition, the transformation of the environment takes time and professionals need to be trained.

What are the benefits of Six Sigma for a business?

In order to keep a brand competitive in the market, a lot of effort and investment is required. Achieving this level of excellence isn’t easy, but the methodology provides several benefits for the management of a business. Check out a few of them:

  • Improvement of internal processes’ efficiency
  • Measurement of the business’ progress
  • Reduction of production costs
  • Elimination of losses
  • Improvement in the service delivered to the customer
  • Classification of goals for all sectors
  • Implementation of strategic actions.

The methodology offers numerous benefits, but on the other hand, an error in its implementation can lead to failure. For example, if the program doesn’t have well defined and standardized methods, costs may be higher than expected or execution time may exceed the expected limit.

Therefore, it’s important to have a technical knowledge of the methodology. You can take courses and become a Six Sigma certified professional — White Belt, Green Belt or Black Belt, for example —, depending on the depth and breadth of knowledge in the technique.

What are the Six Sigma steps?

Six Sigma is of great importance in planning and management processes. After all, its implementation aims to provide an understanding of the customer’s needs, using statistical data and analysis in order to improve and reinvent processes.

This methodology can be divided into 5 steps: Definition, measurement, analysis, improvement and control. Learn more about each of them:

  • Definition — In this step, the key business necessities, the actual goals and the most important quality points are determined in the processes.
  • Measurement — This phase is responsible for measure and establishing the company and customers’ needs, transforming information into numbers.
  • Analysis — Here, all the mapped data will be analyzed in order to find the possible sources of problems, also identifying the possibilities to correct them.
  • Improvement — In this step, the processes begin to be changed and optimized with the solutions defined in the previous steps.
  • Control — In the control phase, the performance of the processes must be monitored, pointing out new improvements.

Thus, the methodology must be viewed not only as a way of controlling quality and proposing statistical formulas, but also to further develop leadership and offer tools to solve the most difficult problems.

How to implement Six Sigma in a business

Considering that Six Sigma is a comprehensive tool, it can be used in all processes, from execution to the delivery of any product or service. Its implementation can be divided into 3 steps: project development, execution and completion.

1. Development

In the development of your project, you need to set goals for each activity and propose improvements in the organization. These goals will be part of your brand’s new strategic objectives. It is also important to always measure and analyze the processes, because only by doing so, is it possible to identify critical points.

The difference between Six Sigma and other methodologies is that the former proposes changes by means of mathematical calculations and statistical analysis. Therefore, documenting the entire internal process is important.

2. Execution

It is possible to identify failures during the execution of the project. It is at this moment, while the processes are in operation, that managers can closely assess what works or doesn’t work in each situation, adjusting whatever necessary.

3. Completion

Finally, the completion step will be the time to evaluate if the Six Sigma methodology is actually providing positive results for your business. Therefore, constant monitoring and calculations will be essential in order to achieve excellence.

However, it is important to understand that the implementation of Six Sigma should focus on solving one problem at a time. After all, by attempting to implement the methodology in all processes, you’ll end up wasting time and money.

Which methodologies help management?

The management area relies on several methodologies to help improve the organization of the workplace. Besides the Six Sigma method, you can use the GUT matrix, SWOT analysis and persona definition to optimize your business’ internal processes.

As you’ve seen in this article, the Six Sigma methodology is an administrative theory focused on eliminating errors, waste and rework. It should be implemented gradually and by qualified professionals, thus ensuring good results.

Did you enjoy this content? Would you like more tips on how to improve workplace management? Well then, check out how to avoid rework in your routine.



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