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Describe the Six Sigma methodology?

Posted by Chris Adams

Article Rating // 33612 Views // 3 Additional Answers & Comments

Categories: Business Analysis, SDLC, Process, and Methodologies


Six Sigma is a process improvement methodology.  It is structured into 5 phases which can be iterated to continually improve key processes and deliver greater efficiencies and success within an organization.  These 5 phases are Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control expressed as the acronym DMAIC (pronounced dee-may-ic).  Six Sigma, being a process improvement methodology, views the entire world in terms of processes—processes that achieve goals, processes that act on data, etc.   

Define – The define phase is used to define the problem that has been identified. The term “voice of the customer” is often used within Six Sigma.  The voice of the customer is used to understand where the problem resides. This could be an external client or an internal client such as business workers that are involved in a specific business process that is not performing as well as it could.  While defining the problem, clear goals of the project are outlined.  The goals should define what will make the process better or what is “critical to quality”.

Measure – The measure phase takes the defined problem and measures key aspects of the current state process.  Collecting of this data is necessary to ensure that the results of the control phase can be compared against those of the measure phase and objectively show that the process has been improved to the degree expected.  You may have heard the phrase “you can’t improve what you can’t measure”.

Analyze – In the analyze phase the data captured in the measure phase is analyzed to understand cause-and-effect relationships and perform root cause analysis.  The equation y = f(x) is very popular in Six Sigma.  It emphasizes that some problem domain “y” is a function of “x” where “x” are the inputs or factors that drive the outcome “y”.  Analyzing the data from the measure stage is intended to uncover all of the inputs that have a significant impact on the outcome of the process.

Improve – The improve phase is where the current process is redesigned based upon the analysis that was completed in the analyze phase.  By ensuring that the inputs to a process are available at the right time and in the right condition, the outcome of the process should improve.  And really the process can be just about anything.  Consider requirements as an input to the development of an IT system.  If it’s found that the quality of the input (requirements) is subpar, the team can focus on a better process for gather requirements which will result in an improved project outcome.  Once the new process is designed it should be tested or prototyped before implementing.  The results of the tested process can be measured to ensure that the desired improvements are being realized.

Control – The control phase is an important step in the DMAIC process.  It emphasizes the need to continually monitor the improved process to ensure that any deviations from the targeted outcome can be corrected.  Without the control phase the benefits of many process improvement initiatives would begin to decrease over time.  The control phase can also be used to uncover new areas for improvement and the DMAIC process begins all over again.

Chris Adams
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ng14 posted on Thursday, October 14, 2010 1:25 PM
Are the concepts of Six sigma and best practices in the industry the same?
Chris Adams posted on Thursday, October 14, 2010 2:01 PM
The basic phases and principles, and best practices of Six Sigma are pretty much the same throughout the industry. However, there is no single group that state this is exactly how you should carry out the Six Sigma process, or that you must use a particular set of rules or diagrams. Therefore, it does vary a bit from company to company.

In general, you can probably assume that someone who was Six Sigma certified at one company versus someone certified at another would have agreement and understanding that is about 80% consistent. Maybe 20% of the details of the process used would vary a bit.
Chris Adams
sohanrao posted on Tuesday, October 27, 2015 1:40 PM
How do you actually apply a six sigma to a business process?
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