The basic premise of Six Sigma may seem simple enough on the surface – eliminate variation in business processes, thereby eliminating waste. Putting this methodology into practice, however, involves implementing a variety of specific management strategies and securing the cooperation and support of all employees. Before you can get started, you first need to familiarize yourself with some of the most widely used and powerful Six Sigma strategies, including DMAIC, the “5 Whys” and business process mapping (BPM).
DMAIC is one of the core project methodologies employed by the practitioners of Six Sigma. The acronym is derived from the five key steps in this process: define, measure, analyze, improve and control. Six Sigma practitioners must define the problems, customer concerns, and project goals; measure key data points relating to the current process; analyze their findings to determine cause-and-effect relationships; work to improve and optimize existing processes based on the data analysis; and control the optimized processes to avoid variation or deviation going forward. DMAIC is generally applied to any existing business practice or process in order to effect a qualitative improvement in that area. Mastering this management tool is an essential step on the path to attaining any level of Six Sigma certification.
In order to put DMAIC into practice, however, you will need other tools to help you examine each step of the process. For example, once you have identified a problem, you will need some way of determining the main cause before you can even attempt to formulate a solution. In cases like this, Six Sigma practitioners will often make use of the “5 Whys” to help them get to the root of a problem.
This Six Sigma tool helps to avoid any assumptions along the way and makes it easier to create a direct line of causality from the original symptom to the underlying cause. In practice, this means taking an unacceptable situation and asking why it exists. The direct answer to that question is then subjected to the same question – “Why?” – and the process continues until the ultimate cause is found and can be addressed. The process may sometimes involve more or less than five iterations, but in many cases, the fifth “why” will strike at the heart of the issue.
As an example, the problem might be that a key Six Sigma project is falling behind schedule. The initial reason may appear to be because the engineers have not been meeting their deadlines. Rather than blaming the engineers, it’s important to ask “why” again – it may turn out that they have been directed to focus on another project. Asking another “why” may point to an issue that needs to be resolved for an upcoming product release. A subsequent query may show that correcting the issue will have a substantial financial impact on the company. The fifth “why” may reveal that a particular executive has assessed the financial impact of various projects and prioritized them accordingly. So in order to address the delays on the initial Six Sigma project, the best course of action is for the project manager to speak with the executive prioritizing the projects rather than the engineers working on them.
Another essential Six Sigma management strategy is business process mapping (BPM). This involves drawing up a precise layout of exactly how a business functions, who the responsible party is at each step along the way, what standards should be followed and how success will be measured. In the Six Sigma system, this is a critical part of ensuring that there is no variation throughout the process because each step is laid out in great detail. When each employee knows exactly what is expected of them, what standards they should follow and how their results will be measured, they will be much more productive and precise in their actions.
Business professionals working in a variety of areas of company operations are able to put these and other Six Sigma management practices to good use on a regular basis. Indeed, much of the broad appeal of Six Sigma stems from its versatility and ability to improve so many different business practices and processes. Because of this, Six Sigma training is an invaluable asset for anyone looking to advance in today’s competitive business marketplace.
If you are interested in starting or continuing your Six Sigma training, consider one of the Six Sigma certificate courses or certificate programs offered 100% online by Villanova University. In addition to conferring valuable knowledge, skills and credentials, Villanova’s certificate courses and certificate programs will prepare you to obtain industry-recognized certification.
All of Villanova’s courses are delivered through a convenient, video-based e-learning platform. You may elect to register for the Six Sigma Green Belt, Lean Six Sigma or Lean Six Sigma Black Belt certificate courses, or complete all three to earn a Certificate in Lean Six Sigma. This comprehensive program will enable you to master the core principles of Six Sigma – including DMAIC, the 5 Whys, and BPM – and understand how to expertly apply them in a variety of business situations. Other benefits include the ability to: