Six Sigma has evolved as a management discipline for improving processes, and providing customer delight. Some organizations like GE had adopted Six Sigma as their management philosophy.

So, Why Six Sigma? Why not follow other approaches like TQM, SCM, COPC, ISO, etc.

Let’s understand why many organizations choose Six Sigma over other approaches; and how they benefited.

There are 3 key salient features of Six Sigma that are noteworthy:

  • Customer Centricity
  • Process Orientation
  • Fact Based Decision Making

Customer Centricity

While the emphasis on building business processes to meet customer requirements was first proposed by Joseph Juran & Edward Deming (fathers of modern Quality movement);  it was taken seriously only with the advent of Six Sigma. Gathering the Voice of Customer and translating these requirements into product features, aka Quality Function Deployment (QFD), were loosely used in TQM. Whereas, in Six Sigma Voice of Customers (VOC) is the starting point.

Operational measures and performance measures (KPIs) are built based on VOC. These measures are called as CTQ (Critical To Quality). Customers’ needs constantly change. Such changing needs mean that processes also need to adapt and evolve. Six Sigma enables achieving this adaptation. While creating a new product or service line; the entire system is built to meet customer requirements. Such an approach is called as Design for Six Sigma (DFSS).

Process Orientation

Six Sigma builds strong process orientation within the organization. In Six Sigma, virtually every department, activity, or task is perceived as a process in itself or process step. What does that mean? It means a lot!

Every process produces few outputs, and in turn; requires few inputs. Outputs are consumed by Customers (internal or external); and inputs are provided by Suppliers. Such visualization is called as SIPOC in Six Sigma. This helps organizations to move away from the mind-set of fixing people when things don’t work; to fixing processes. In order to improve the outputs of any process or department, its process steps and inputs needs to be improved, and sometimes suppliers need to be educated. People are never penalized in Six Sigma!

Traditionally many industries & functions are regarded as ‘people’ driven. For instance, industries such as Hospitality, Entertainment & most service lines and functions such as HR, Marketing, Sales, Admin. Six Sigma organizations treat these as just another process. As a result, the dependency on individuals is also reduced. Organizational silos are challenged and processes are simplified.

Driving strong process orientation across the organization has resulted in unbelievable tangible and intangible benefits to customers and organizations. GE is a pioneer in driving process orientation in its Financial Service businesses.

Fact Based Decision Making

Once organizations establish process orientation; access to data and factual information will increase. This presents the next big opportunity for organizations. Across levels, organizations are dependent on their managers to take right decisions. Most often, these decisions are punctuated by decision maker’s bias and personal intuition. Wrong decisions are costly and usually borne by the organization.

Six Sigma’s bouquet of tools enables data or fact based decision making. This means the overall management is much more efficient and accurate. DMAIC, an acronym for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control, is a method used for solving problems. There are over 50 qualitative and quantitative tools which are part of DMAIC. These tools can be applied in several stand-alone situations too. These tools enable data or fact based decision making.

At a personal level, an individual practicing Six Sigma over a period time is more efficient and effective than her peers. This has direct impact on career and growth prospects.

Thus Six Sigma is a powerful approach which is not only beneficial to organizations; but also to individuals.

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