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Steps in Six Sigma Methodology

The steps in Six Sigma methodology is essentially one that endeavours to adopt a smarter way of doing things so as to minimize the occurrence of defects. It emphasizes on doing things right the first time, rather than spending effort on correcting the defects.

Seems logical, right? But how do we ensure that we do it right – the first time? Well, the steps in six sigma methodology propagates adopting a simple five stage process as detailed below:

Step 1 – Define

In this step, you identify the pain area or the process that needs improvement. You define the nature of the problem. The objectives for adopting the six sigma improvement process are defined during this step. You form a team and train them about the benefits of adopting the six sigma methodology to improve your current process. It is advised that the team that you form is motivated and believes in the benefits that will be accrued by completing this project.

Next, you identify the customers or the people who would be impacted by this six sigma project. The critical requirements for these customers are also documented. Finally, you create the team charter which details project scope, business case, and the problem statement. This marks the completion of the define step.

The key tools used during the define phase are: Project Charter, stakeholder analysis, and SIPOC (Suppliers, Inputs, Process, Outputs, and Customers) diagram which visually depicts the key elements for the Six Sigma project.

Step 2 – Measure

This step is a little more time-consuming as compared to the Define phase of the six sigma methodology. It is during this phase that you define the parameters that will be used to measure performance improvement. During this phase, you define the baseline performance and also the extent to which the process can be improved. The key defects in the process are identified and defined. Once the key measures for improvement are defined, data is collected to analyze the difference between the current performance and the desired performance. You also need to establish the process variations during this phase.

The key tools used during the Measure phase are: Pareto charts, control charts, and Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA).

Step 3 – Analyze

The steps in six sigma methodology the third step is Analyze. During this phase, the data collected during the measure phase is used to analyze the gap between the current and desired performance. Next, you perform a root-cause analysis to define the possible reasons for the performance gap and quantify the main causes for variation. The gap between the current and desired state is also calculated in financial terms.

The key tools used during the Analyze phase are Cause and Effect diagram, Regression analysis, and Flow diagrams.

Step 4 – Improve

Now that you have defined the problem, measured the performance gap, and analyzed the reason for the gap, it is time to move over to the Improve phase of the steps in six sigma methodology. During this phase, you will devise a set of possible solutions and then select the best possible solution for the problem identified. Once you have selected the best solution, it is imperative to devise the implementation plan with the time frame for implementation. The main outcome of the improve phase is the designing of the performance improvement plan which will bring about a marked, measured difference in your existing process.

The key tools used during this phase are: Force field diagram, Stakeholder Definition, and FMEA.

Step 5 – Control

The final phase of the steps of six sigma methodology is the Control phase wherein you formulate project management plans and procedures to control or sustain the improved process.

This is one of the most important steps of the six sigma methodology and a failure to devise a control plan might ruin the entire effort spent on improving the original process. During this phase you need to document the revised process, devise, and deploy the response plan, and transfer knowledge of the new process to the process owner and the team.

The key tools used during the Control phase are: Quality control process charts, control charts, and standardization practices.

Steps in Six Sigma Methodology - Tip

You should use visual diagrams as much as possible to drive home the need for process improvement while trying to get a buy-in from the stakeholders for the six sigma project.

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