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How to Set Standards for Six Sigma

By Craig Gygi, Bruce Williams, Neil DeCarlo, Stephen R. Covey

Taking measures for Six Sigma projects to enable and encourage a process to follow a standard — a standard sequence, a standard method of handling, a standard set of equipment settings, and so on — must become the norm if you want to keep performance at an improved level.

And your organization’s management must change the culture so that employees view these standards as process essentials to be embraced and even honored rather than as restrictive shackles that may be okay to resist.

Process standards — embodied in both the work of creating them and in the discipline to adhere to them later — demonstrate respect for people. You honor and respect those who work in a process when you put measures in place that allow them to more easily perform their work correctly.

As a worker in a process, you show respect for people when you follow provided guidelines carefully, knowing that those who provided them did so conscientiously in an effort to help you. On the other hand, you actually disrespect people when you hand them an improved process with an absence of standards for consistent operation or when you disregard work instructions and automatically assume you know a better way.

The setting and following of standards ends up forming the foundation of continuous improvement. Few things are more essential. With standards in place, processes and products that have been improved stay that way, and process workers can rely on a basis for consistent high performance; then their intellects and capacities are freed to look for further improvements.