Six Sigma Concepts

Written by Nicholas Kamuda
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Six Sigma concepts developed out of the work of Philip Crosby, the author of a 1979 book titled Quality is Free, Since the late `70s, many people have contributed to Six Sigma techniques, building it into a versatile program that can be adapted to many different kids of businesses. One of the first working examples of Six Sigma concepts in action was Motorola Inc., which underwent a significant turnaround and began a strong period of growth in the mid-80s through the introduction of Six Sigma strategies.

The core of basic Six Sigma concepts can be partially illustrated with the equation y= f (x), where y, the output, is considered a function of x, the input. Through this equation, we can see that the output itself is not directly changeable (as traditional maintenance or management tactics might imply). Instead, a business can only monitor Y, and must control production through the skillful manipulation of X.

Five Basic Six Sigma Concepts

The acronym DMAIC illustrates other core Six Sigma concepts. Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control are the basic stages that Six Sigma experts use to build successful new business strategies. During the Define and Measure stages, every possible input variable, or X, is tested to see what variables most effect product variation. The goal of any Six Sigma operation is to increase productivity through reduced standard deviation, which can increase turnaround time, profitability, and improve customer satisfaction.

During the Analyze and Improve stages, teams of Six Sigma experts and business employees will look closely at the enormous amount of data gathered, and develop innovative solutions that improve on the operation. They will then implement these new strategies, all the while watching the effect that they have on output. Finally, they will develop a Control plan that allows the business to efficiently monitor their output, Y, and make changes to X as necessary.

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My initial respnose would be to reinforce the ground rules and in particular the need to give statements only in respnose to questions. Should the pressure to speed up continue I would enforce the second ground rule and ask the team to reflect on how we are doing, what we are doing well and what we could be doing differently. Should there be members of the group who want to further explore the problem then encourage the group to respect this view and let the process continue: there is a feeling in the group that more time is needed to analyze the problem should we continue? If yes who has the next question? If the consensus is that there is a need to move forward at a faster pace it is a good point at which to note a learning based on coaching experience that time spent analysing the problem is a key determinant of success. However be guided by the mood in the group and do not push the group in the direction you believe they should go. It is their process and if they have moved too quickly this is going to be reinforced as the AL process develops i.e., in this process quicker is not always better.