In any business, promoting productivity is a goal to strive for. All of the moving parts of your company—from upper management, middle management, personnel, as well as your supply chain and other operations—need to work like a well-oiled machine. This is where Six Sigma and its precise methodologies come into play. While it’s true that Six Sigma is complex in its applications, its core concepts are fairly basic guidelines, a rough understanding of which will be of great help in streamlining your company’s productivity, thereby increasing savings.
The Six Sigma set of tools and techniques was first developed by Motorola in 1986, aiming to facilitate lean production in their industry – manufacturing. Among other methods, it was an evolution of the famed Toyota Production System, which put the Japanese car maker on the global map. Similarly, Six Sigma was partly responsible for Motorola’s massive success in the latter half of the 20th century—for many years, “Motorola” was synonymous with “mobile phone.”
If you aren’t in charge of a manufacturing business, Six Sigma can still improve your productivity. Its principles of leanness can be applied to any process, and in this article, we’ll lay the groundwork for you to follow.
Six Sigma is special because of its use of data to get to the root of problems and its streamlining of operations to eliminate flaws. Its goal of providing a product or service worthy of the end user is a philosophy that can be followed by any other business.
The traditional technique follows five basic steps: define, measure, analyze, improve, and control (DMAIC), which all have applications in management.
- Define involves identifying the issues in your business process. You need to note the problems currently faced by the company, quantify why they must be solved, and lay out what you want to happen at the end of your process. Use these parameters to create problem statements and metrics to follow.
- Measure is the practice of quantifying the root of the problem. Say, your employees have problems with attendance–you’ll need to pull records to determine a pattern in their habits. These data should be easily quantifiable, such as Bundy clock records. Think of it as actual data in a scientific experiment– accurate, precise, repeatable, and reproducible—so that you can move onward to the analyze stage.
- Improve comes next, which entails extensive planning and brainstorming to address the issue. How can you mitigate these attendance problems? You need to lay out the changes in your product or service that will result in solutions. Brainstorm ideas with your team, being as creative as you can, but always use your data as a skeleton from which to base your ideas.
- And finally, control is the step in which you follow up on your implemented processes, and see if they are taking effect. Use regular targets, usually monthly or biweekly, to determine results. Analyze once again, and implement changes to rectify any possible mistakes.
The Six Sigma method is cyclical, which means that the DMAIC procedure is repeated over and over to determine whether productivity is actually improved. Figure out which actions worked, and which did not, and adapt your strategies accordingly.
Benefits and Improvements
Six Sigma will allow you to make concrete, decisive choices in the path that your employees should take. By defining the productivity problems plaguing your business, you will be able to see just what the issues are and the steps to be taken to address them.
The first three steps—define, measure, and analyze—let you diagnose the missteps that your employees have taken. By mapping out these issues quantitatively, you’ll be able to comprehend the different underlying relationships between employee processes.
Taking our attendance problem above, you may see that your problem employee is absent following payday or on days adjacent to the weekend. Alternately, another employee may be demotivated after being passed up for promotion, or after a particularly trying policy change in the company. After speaking with the employee and finding out their motivations, then you can see how and why they are regularly absent.
After you have identified the problem to be solved, you set a solid goal. This introduces discipline into your workplace, in which everyone follows the procedure set out for them. Plus, because Six Sigma is an iterative, interactive process, employees will have opportunities to innovate and inject new methods into your processes.
Six Sigma is an impressive example of principles followed in a certain industry having profound applications in another. By considering your workforce as a streamlined production line, you’ll be able to understand all of its moving parts and optimize them to maximize productivity.
Images: ”3d illustration of colorful presentation of concept of six sigma / Shutterstock.com“
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