Six Sigma For Dummies book cover

Six Sigma For Dummies

By: Craig Gygi and Bruce Williams Published: 10-16-2012

The fast and easy way to understand and implement Six Sigma

The world's largest and most profitable companies—including the likes of GE, Bank of America, Honeywell, DuPont, Samsung, Starwood Hotels, Bechtel, and Motorola—have used Six Sigma to achieve breathtaking improvements in business performance, in everything from products to processes to complex systems and even in work environments. Over the past decade, over $100 billion in bottom-line performance has been achieved through corporate Six Sigma programs. Yet, despite its astounding effectiveness, few outside of the community of Six Sigma practitioners know what Six Sigma is all about.

With this book, Six Sigma is revealed to everyone. You might be in a company that's already implemented Six Sigma, or your organization may be considering it. You may be a student who wants to learn how it works, or you might be a seasoned business professional who needs to get up to speed. In any case, this updated edition of Six Sigma For Dummies is the most straightforward, non-intimidating guide on the market.

  • New and updated material, including real-world examples
  • What Six Sigma is all about and how it works
  • The benefits of Six Sigma in organizations and businesses
  • The powerful "DMAIC" problem-solving roadmap
  • Yellow, Green and Black—how the Six Sigma "belt" system works
  • How to select and utilize the right tools and technologies
  • Speaking the language of Six Sigma; knowing the roles and responsibilities; and mastering the statistics skills and analytical methods

Six Sigma For Dummies will become everyone's No. 1 resource for discovering and mastering the world's most famous and powerful improvement tool. Stephen Covey is spot-on when he says, "Six Sigma For Dummies is a book to be read by everyone."

Articles From Six Sigma For Dummies

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96 results
96 results
Six Sigma For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet / Updated 02-14-2022

To apply Six Sigma to your business and produce the best results, you need to understand what Six Sigma is, the principles of Six Sigma, and the DMAIC problem-solving method. The correct tools and use of the Six Sigma scale and methods will keep your data dependable and reusable.

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How to Launch a Six Sigma Project

Article / Updated 03-07-2017

In Six Sigma, you make progress the old-fashioned way — one project at a time. In essence, projects are the unit of change; they define the collective effort by which most Six Sigma progress is accomplished. Projects represent — and in fact are — the level of granularity expressed to manage Six Sigma change, from a single process improvement to a large-scale business improvement effort. Scope the perfect project A Six Sigma project starts as a practical problem that adversely impacts the business and ends as a practical solution that improves business performance. The focus of a project is to solve a problem that is hurting key performance elements, such as the following: Organizational viability Employee or customer satisfaction Costs Process capability Output capacity Cycle time Revenue potential Begin your project by stating performance problems in quantifiable terms that define expectations related to desired levels of performance and timing. As you define your Six Sigma project, pay attention to issues that warrant a Six Sigma level of effort. Consider problems that Have a financial impact to EBIT (Earnings Before Income Tax) or NPBIT (Net Profit Before Income Tax) or have a significant strategic value Produce results that significantly exceed the amount of effort required to obtain the improvement Aren’t easily or quickly solvable with traditional methods Improve performance of a specified metric or Key Performance Indicator (KPI) by greater than 70 percent over existing performance levels Transform the problem After you’ve framed a particular problem to become a potential Six Sigma project, the problem goes through a critical metamorphosis — it transforms from a practical business problem into a statistical problem. This way, you can identify a statistical solution, which you’ll later transform back into a practical solution. In defining the project, you therefore state your problem in statistical language to ensure that you use data, and only data, to solve it. Using only data forces you to abandon gut feelings, intuition, and best guesses as ways to address your problems. You can’t solve real problems just by throwing time and money at them. You need practical solutions. Six Sigma projects provide practical solutions that aren’t complex, aren’t too difficult to implement, and don’t require extensive resources to affect the improvement. Know your goals and needs To obtain the maximum benefit from your Six Sigma projects, you must be aware of the strategic needs, goals, and objectives of the business. You should keep those key goals and objectives in mind when you decide which problems you need to solve as part of your Six Sigma projects. You begin by finding areas of the business that need improvement to meet business goals (Recognize). This approach leads you to determine the specific problems you need to solve to improve performance. Then you determine a statistical solution to your problem, implement the solution, and obtain the subsequent benefits. Where to begin? Start by assessing the higher level needs of your organization, using any knowledge obtained from the voice of the customer (VOC) and the voice of the business (VOB). The VOC is all the needs and expectations your customers have for your products and services. The VOB represents all the needs and expectations of the business. The basic idea is to assess both the VOC and VOB to identify gaps — areas where the expectations of the business and expectations of the customer are misaligned. To help zero in on problem areas, look for themes, such as the following: Accounts receivable and invoicing issues Capacity constraints Customer complaints Cycle time or responsiveness Excessive inventory levels Ineffective or defective services Product returns or warranty costs Yield and subsequent rework or scrap Determine project responsibilities In addition to transforming the problem from the practical domain to the statistical domain, Six Sigma projects also transform the ownership structure. Problems that begin in functional areas transform from line managers through Belts and finally on to process owner. Project responsibilities, accountabilities, and deliverables are divided between managers and the various Belts who perform problem-solving activities. Managers, including the process owner, are responsible for determining priorities and focus, while non-management personnel are responsible for implementing the solution and realizing the benefits. These project lifecycle relationships prevent Six Sigma deliverables from falling into the cracks. Six Sigma is a team effort. Even in the Define phase, where managers are responsible for project identification and launch, the Belts assist. Generally speaking, Belts have only 20 percent of the responsibility for defining and managing improvement, while the managers have 80 percent. Later, during implementation — the MAIC portion of the breakthrough strategy — these percentages are reversed.

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How to Create a Cause and Effect Analysis for a Six Sigma Initiative

Step by Step / Updated 03-27-2016

A cause-and-effect matrix — sometimes called a C&E matrix for short — helps you discover which factors affect the outcomes of your Six Sigma initiative. It provides a way of mapping out how value is transmitted from the input factors of your system (the Xs) to the process or product outputs (the Ys). With these relationships visible and quantified, you can readily discover the most-influential factors contributing to value.

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The Tools-Methods Landscape of Six Sigma

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Having the right tools and knowing how to apply them to your Six Sigma projects will help you produce accurate, acceptable, and reusable outcomes. Here’s an overview of the Six Sigma landscape:

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The Six Sigma Scale

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

The Six Sigma scale shows how well a vital feature performs compared to its requirements. The higher the sigma score, the more efficient the feature is. This table shows the universal Six Sigma scale: Sigma Level (Z) Defects per Million Opportunities (DPMO) Percent Defects (%) Percent Success (Yield %) Capability (CP) 1 691,462 69 31 0.33 2 308,538 31 69 0.67 3 66,807 6.7 93.3 1.00 4 6,210 0.62 99.38 1.33 5 233 0.023 99.977 1.67 6 3.4 0.00034 99.99966 2.00

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Six Sigma Principles

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Six Sigma is based on a handful of basic principles, and these principles create the entire Six Sigma arrangement. Here are Six Sigma’s fundamental principles: Y=f(X) + ε: All outcomes and results (theY) are determined by inputs (theXs) with some degree of uncertainty (å). To change or improve results (the Y), you have to focus on the inputs (theXs), modify them, and control them. Variation is everywhere, and it degrades consistent, good performance. Your job is to find it and minimize it! Valid measurements and data are required foundations for consistent, breakthrough improvement. Only a critical few inputs have significant effect on the output. Concentrate on the critical few. Every decision and conclusion has risk (ε), which must be weighed against the context of the decision.

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What Is Six Sigma?

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Generally, Six Sigma is a problem-solving methodology that helps enhance business and organizational operations. It can also be defined in a number of other ways: A quality level of 3.4 defects per million opportunities A rate of improvement of 70 percent or better A data-driven, problem-solving methodology of Define-Measure-Analyze-Improve-Control An initiative taken on by organizations to create bottom-line breakthrough change

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The DMAIC Method of Six Sigma

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

The DMAIC (Define-Measure-Analyze-Improve-Control) project method is a formalized problem-solving process of Six Sigma. It’s made-up of five steps to apply to any procedure of a business to improve effectiveness. Define: Set the context and objectives for your improvement project. Measure: Determine the baseline performance and capability of the process or system you’re improving. Analyze: Use data and tools to understand the cause-and-effect relationships in your process or system. Improve: Develop the modifications that lead to a validated improvement in your process or system. Control: Establish plans and procedures to ensure that your improvements are sustained.

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Four Things NOT to Do for Successful Six Sigma Initiatives

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Six Sigma initiatives always have a long list of things to do to achieve a successful project. However, there are a few things you shouldn’t do to help get you to that finish line. Keep the following tips in mind while planning for your own Six Sigma. Don’t deploy Six Sigma without a leader Some organizations deploy Six Sigma without a designated, empowered deployment leader. Sure, these companies train Belts, assign projects, provide tools, and track results. They believe breakthrough change will occur by the sum of the individual, independent efforts. But a Six Sigma deployment without a leader is like a ship without a captain: Individual crew members may know what to do in their own areas, but the project has no direction or overall progress. Make sure you have a leader on board. Don’t take too big a bite Almost invariably, the failure of any Six Sigma project can be traced to a scope that was too broad. Trying to minimize variation in an entire product, for example, is so defocused that little improvement can happen on any part of the product. Concentrating on minimizing the variation in a single critical characteristic of a product, however, allows you to dig deep enough to discover the real source of improvement. Always err on the side of scoping your projects too small. Improvement is continuous; you can always come back later and do more. Don’t think, “but we’re different” Considering yourself or your organization to be unique — so unique that what’s worked for others can’t possibly work for you — is natural. It’s also one of the most common myths people have about Six Sigma. Six Sigma is a general methodology. It has proven itself in every arena where it’s been applied — manufacturing, operations, logistics, design, supply chains, services, transactions, processing, legal, human resources, software, sales, marketing, management, healthcare, the public sector, defense contracting — the list goes on and on! Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you’re the lone exception to the rule. Don’t overtrain Not every officer of the peace needs to be trained as an elite Special Forces commando. Likewise, not everyone doing Six Sigma needs to know the details of every advanced statistical tool and method. The amount of information in Six Sigma courses has ratcheted up as consultants and trainers have competed against each other in their marketing efforts. But the fact that you can learn it doesn’t mean you need to. Only a handful of Six Sigma tools are actually used regularly. The majority of available tools are really brought out only occasionally for rare Sunday drives. Don’t get fooled into thinking that more and more knowledge is always better. And don’t think you have to use every tool on every project. Expediency in learning and in application is the key! The best system gets the right knowledge to the right person at the right time.

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How to Apply General Purpose Computer Programs as Six Sigma Tools

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

The suite of general-purpose programs that come standard on most computers includes word-processing, spreadsheets, presentations, and drawing. These can be useful for Six Sigma purposes and generally come standard on any laptop or desktop. First marketed by Microsoft under the Office brand, people often substitute Microsoft’s product names for the general-purpose tools. But different providers offer different tools. Provider Suite Documents Spreadsheets Presentations Microsoft Office Word Excel PowerPoint Google Docs Documents Spreadsheets Presentations Apple iWork Pages Numbers Keynote Open Source OpenOffice Writer Calc Impress Although the providers are competitors, most of these products fully read and interact with the complimentary product from the other providers. Documents for Six Sigma You regularly use computer-based document programs like Word in Six Sigma for defining projects and writing business cases, reports, and problem and objective statements. Most organizations create reference templates or have libraries of past examples for you to use to help ensure consistency and comprehensiveness. Spreadsheets for Six Sigma Six Sigma practitioners extensively use spreadsheet tools like Excel, mostly for performing analysis. But spreadsheets are great for other tasks as well: Capturing and organizing process metrics for characterization, optimization, and even presentation Easily creating simple forms in a spreadsheet Building matrices (such as C&E) and tables (such as QFD) and displaying information (plots and graphs) Spreadsheet data files can be easily stored and shared and, like with documents, you can create templates and example references. Note, however, that spreadsheets have limitations. Spreadsheet data are stored in what’s called flat files — a simple file structure that’s just rows and columns. But real-world data usually are related in multiple ways; the standard for defining relational data is the Structured Query Language (SQL), the construct governing database systems such as Oracle and Sybase. Accessing data from SQL databases into flat-file spreadsheets involves precision extract procedures and mapping algorithms that are typically outside the realm of most casual spreadsheet users. You’ll need technical assistance. Presentation packages for Six Sigma Six Sigma managers make full use of presentation packages like PowerPoint as a communications tool. Many people inappropriately utilize presentation software as a process mapping tool. Yes, you can draw boxes, circles, and arrows in PowerPoint, but that’s just drawing, and it suffers from most of the same drawbacks as doing it by hand. Instead, use presentation tools for the appropriate purpose of communicating with the people you’re working with. Process map with Visio for Six Sigma Microsoft Visio has been included as a standard desktop computer program on PC desktops and laptops for many years. It also runs in the Mac environment. As such, most Six Sigma practitioners use it to draw process maps and flow diagrams, and most instructors teach process mapping with it. Microsoft has built an array of flowcharting icons and tools into Visio that makes drawing process maps easy. You can also set process steps into swim lanes and draw the flows horizontally or vertically. Numerous add-ons and third-party extensions are also available that provide even more functionality and capabilities. Many of these extend the drawing and mapping features, while others let you import and export data with external data sources. The most important options for Six Sigma practitioners are the extensions that elevate Visio from a simple drawing tool to a more enterprise-compatible process mapping tool through BPMN: the ability to export the process description to process execution engines. Without this enhancement, Visio is just a drawing tool.

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