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Applying Lessons From Six Sigma to Your Small Business


Sigma in the Greek language represents the standard deviation in statistics, and in the present business language, it stands for the six standard deviations. The Six Sigma methodology, which was originally developed by Motorola for monitoring the production of millions of parts in its manufacturing division, has evolved to be successfully implemented in other non-manufacturing industries, like medical and call centers.

The Six Sigma Methodology

The objective of the Six Sigma methodology is to improve any existing business process by using constant "review and retune" techniques. Its business management strategy is to identify and remove the causes of defects using quality management methods. The Six Sigma uses two methodologies:

  • DMAIC: Stands for define, measure, analyze, improve, and control.
  • DFSS: Stands for Design For Six Sigma.

While both the methodologies are improvement systems working to improve the performance of the company, DMAIC deals with existing processes and DFSS deals with the new processes and products. Both these processes are executed by a specially trained group of people who are qualified with different levels of expertise like "Black Belts," "Green Belts," or "Master Black Belts" (much like a marial arts dicotomy).

Six Sigma and Smaller/Mid-Size Companies

Though the Six Sigma methodology was designed for the larger manufacturing companies, these processes can be used with small and mid-sized organizations for achieving maximum benefits. It's been observed that the deployment of this methodology has actually helped some smaller companies to produce better results in both productivity and financial benefits.

Effective Implementation in Small/Mid-Size Companies

Before implementing the Six Sigma, it's important to develop the strategy, method of implementation and the target projects, while keeping in mind the organization's larger plans and the customers' needs. The implementation planning process can be completed after areas like the goals, priorities, objectives and expected improvements are all addressed. Once the needs and implementation planning are in place, you can easily start working toward your goals. The education plan is structured as per the business specific needs. Even though the Six Sigma approach is new to small and mid-size companies, the stress it lays on leadership personnel is the same. Hence the Champion education program, which teaches executives about the Six Sigma process, methodology and tools.

Both green and yellow belt certifications are available to executive personnel when they take the courses and seminars required. The process goes on helping green belts develop into black belts, and yellow belts into green belts. What's important to note is all certifications are by achievement and not attendance. Each executive has to have a specific project demonstrating the correct use of the Six Sigma by solving a real business problem.

Use this step-by-step method to help your company accomplish a successful implementation of the Six Sigma program, and you will find the results you're looking for regardless of the size of your company. Six Sigma programs and processes have been used by Fortune 500 companies for decades. By taking the time to tailor the program to fit the needs of your small business, you can find the same results as the larger companies using this program.

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