Six Sigma is simply a quality measurement system to drive process output to near perfection or zero defects. Go figure organizations strive for perfection what a novel ideal; I can’t even get them to answer the phone. If you work in manufacturing you’ve probably heard the term. But with the immense amount of terminology, anecdotes and jargon people simply don’t bother to ask, “What exactly is six sigma?”
Six Sigma was developed by Motorola and successfully used by General Electric. Won’t go into great detail because you can always Google the history. This is a fast before I go to meeting read for the lean practitioner or anyone who needs” What is Six Sigma 101” ASAP.
The concept behind Six Sigma is actually a pretty good one. Eliminate defects in the system by reducing process variation. This can be anywhere in the value stream, welding, machining, order entry contact negotiation you name it.
A simple example everyone should relate is the lines painted on city streets. Without the lines variation of vehicle placement is increased which means higher probability of collision. Add a little paint to the street in the proper places all of a sudden the variation in traffic patterns are reduced and safety is increased significantly! Remember this point, the problem wasn’t solved but there was a tool introduced (painted lines) that significantly reduced variation in the process.
What do we mean by Sigma?
In this instance Sigma is simply the standard deviation from the mean. One sigma equals one standard deviation from mean; two sigma is two standard deviations and so on. Use chart below to look smart in your next meeting. Once you discover the process yield for instance 70%, then say with a deep confident voice, “So looks like we’re yielding around 2 sigma”. That will surely get you some brownie points!
Six Sigma = 99.99% defect-free
Five Sigma = 99.98% defect-free
Four Sigma = 99.4% defect-free
Three Sigma = 93.3% defect-free
Two Sigma = 69.1% defect-free
One Sigma = 30.9% defect-free
If you want to go full geek on this you should know there are four levels of certification.
1. Yellow Belt – You have working knowledge good for exercise. Knows enough to search out green or black belt when stuck.
2. Green Belt – Typically where entry-level Six Sigma training happens not your only job but you can crunch the numbers with the best. This where companies train you then oftentimes don’t provide adequate time and resources to practice.
3. Black Belt – Certified professional usually is assigned to Six Sigma projects exclusively. This is where swagger begins an other employees start to name drop when you agree with them.
4. Master Black Belt – Full geek bad-ass ready for the statistical octagon. This is the highest achievable level. Add this to your Linked In profile or resume and see what happens.
Also note that Six Sigma is referred to as a Business Management System. I prefer to call it simply a lean tool. Key point to remember is that Six Sigma doesn’t solve problems. It more or less dissolves problems by reducing variation with in the process.
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