Many organizations are using the concepts of Six Sigma to improve their business processes. Unfortunately, many organizations fail to reap the benefits of Six Sigma because improvement projects are not focused.
Six Sigma projects must be linked to the organization's business plan
Six Sigma methods have their roots in Motorola's quality improvement efforts in the late 1980s. That effort was a major contributor to Motorola being one of the first Malcolm Baldrige winners in 1988. In the 1990's Six Sigma achieved popular appeal as a result of the success General Electric and Allied Signal (now Honeywell) had implimenting Six Sigma concepts.
While the name "Six Sigma" has taken on a broader meaning, the fundamental purpose of Six Sigma is to improve processes such that there are at least six standard deviations between the worst case specification limit and the mean of process variation. For those of us that are statistically challenged, that means the process is essentially defect free!
The tools of Six Sigma are not new. Most of them are the same basic tools used by Quality Improvement Teams in the 1970s and early 80s. Six Sigma does have a catchy name and titles like "Black Belts," but its real value is in the systematic approach to improvement. The DMAIC process is a variation of PDCA that many people find helpful. There is no doubt about it, Six Sigma can help organizations improve processes.
On the other hand, many Six Sigma program managers complain that projects are all over the map. How can they make sure people are "working on the right things?" The best approach is to align Six Sigma projects with the organization's strategic business plan.
When Six Sigma projects are aligned with the organization's strategic direction, breakthrough results can be realized.
So how can TQE help?
TQE's primary core competence is in the area of Hoshin Kanri. Hoshin identifies the key strategic changes the organization feels are required to meet the needs of the future. To meet its objectives, the organization will need to complete numerous improvement projects (i.e., Six Sigma projects). These projects will show up at the end of every branch of the Hoshin Annual Plan. Forcing the bulk of Six Sigma projects to be managed through the Hoshin plan assures that the right projects are being selected and provides visibility of progress in real time. Hoshin Kanri helps align Six Sigma projects with the organization's strategic direction.
TQE's Hoshin Handbook describes the Hoshin Kanri process and provides step by step instructions. The handbook is also used as the text for the on-site workshop. It can help get you and your team up to speed quickly. To complete your Hoshin implementation, TQE provides both web-based and PC-based software to help reduce the paperwork and provide structure for your planning process. The software will help make your Hoshin plan become the way you manage instead of a document collecting dust on the shelf. Implementing Hoshin Kanri can be a giant step toward becoming a TQM mature organization.
To help organizations learn to use Six Sigma tools, TQE provides an on-site workshop. It teaches people how to use basic quality tools to manage and improve processes. Once the basic tools are mastered, people are able to determine if their processes are capable of meeting customer requirements. If processes are capable, people will know how to standardize the process to assure stable and capable performance. If processes are found to be not capable, then people will know how to use the DMAIC model to begin improving the processes so that they will meet customer requirements and achieve Six Sigma quality. If you want to see if you are proficient with the basic quality tools, take this quiz and find out.
Understanding how to use basic quality tools allows people in the organization to take responsibility for the processes they manage. In general, the tools will allow anyone to understand and continuously improve about 80-90% of the processes they manage. For the 10-20% of processes that require more sophisticated tools, TQE also provides training in Design of Experiments. This class teaches engineers and other technical personnel the techniques used by TQM organizations to achieve breakthrough process improvement.