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Case study - Six sigma

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Six sigma

Six Sigma is a modern 'branded' interpretations of TQM and arguably the most popular management methodology in history. Six Sigma began in 1986 as a statistically-based method to reduce variation in electronic manufacturing processes in Motorola Inc. in the USA, but today Six Sigma is used as an all-encompassing business performance methodology, all over the world, in organizations as diverse as local government departments, prisons, hospitals, the armed forces, banks, and multi-nationals corporations.

Six Sigma is a methodology, which requires and encourages team leaders and teams to train in Six Sigma's methods, such as the use of the measurement and improvement tools, and in communications and relationship skills, necessary to involve and serve the needs of the internal and external customers. Similar to Japanese martial arts, employees with different levels of expertise and responsibilities for implementing Six Sigma methods receive 'belts', such as green and black belt (team leaders) to recognise their seniority and qualification.

Six Sigma teams use a vast array of tools at each stage of Six Sigma implementation to define, measure, analyse and control variation in process quality, and to manage people, teams and communications.

Most practitioners and users of Six Sigma refer to Motorola's early DMAIC acronym (extended since to DMAICT) as a way of reinforcing and reminding participants what needs to be done:

Six Sigma DMAIC and DMAICT process elements

  1. D - Define opportunity
  2. M - Measure performance
  3. A - Analyse opportunity
  4. I - Improve performance
  5. C - Control performance, and optionally:
  6. T - Transfer best practice (to spread the learning to other areas of the organization)