What is Six Sigma?

Many project managers have heard of six sigma, but many of us are not sure what it is. In this post I will try to explain the basics of six sigma.

What is six sigma?

Six sigma is a management tool/process which aims to increase the quality of deliverables by identifying, and then, removing the causes of defects that may impact the deliverables. Six sigma relies heavily upon statistical analysis to identify these root causes. As such, it does take a significant amount of time to implement for your project/company.

What process/methodology is used to execute a six sigma project?

Most six sigma projects adhere to the DMAIC methodology. This methodology has become widespread in its adoption and is the one most people reference when discussing Six Sigma. The DMAIC method is based upon the following steps:

  • Define the problem
  • Measure the process and data
  • Analyze the data to determine the cause of defects
  • Improve the process to eliminate the root cause of the defects
  • Control the new process to maintain improvements and prevent slippage

What is a black belt?

Not be confused with Jackie Chan, a black belt is someone who has become certified in Six Sigma by demonstrating knowledge and experience with implementing the methodology. For those of you who don’t have the time to commit to becoming a black belt, many organizations/associations offer other levels of certification (green and yellow belts).

Where does six sigma come from?

Six sigma was developed in 1983 by Bill Smith while he was at Motorola. Six sigma was originally devised to address the manufacturing process, but has since been adopted by those in software development, service fields, and many other disciplines.

How does it relate to project management?

Six sigma augments project management in that it attempts to reduce defects. Project management attempts to do this through risk management techniques while six sigma attempts to do it through eliminating the root causes of defects.

How can it help my project?

By focusing on the root causes of issues that your team is encountering, six sigma allows you to correct the causes instead of simply remedying the symptoms. This will ultimately allow your product to deliver superior products, but it will also decrease costs aimed at increasing quality.

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