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Six Sigma

Six Sigma is a highly disciplined, data-driven approach and methodology for eliminating defects in any process – from manufacturing to transactional and from product to service. The fundamental objective of the Six Sigma methodology is the implementation of a measurement-based strategy that focuses on process improvement and variation reduction through the application of Six Sigma improvement projects.

The term Six Sigma originated from terminology associated with statistical modeling of manufacturing processes. The maturity of a manufacturing process can be described by a sigma rating indicating its yield or the percentage of defect-free products it creates. A six sigma process is one in which 99.99966% of all opportunities to produce some feature of a part are statistically expected to be free of defects.

History of Six Sigma

The Six Sigma methodology was first conceptualized by Motorola in 1986 as a metric for measuring defects and improving quality. However, the credit for its widespread acceptance and use goes to Jack Welch who incorporated it in his business strategy at General Electric in 1995.

Since then, Six Sigma has evolved from a problem-solving technique to a quality strategy and philosophy. Today, it is a globally accepted quality management strategy and is implemented in diverse organizations from manufacturing to healthcare, from software to hardware.

Motorola and Six Sigma

Motorola was the first company to implement Six Sigma. The company was facing quality issues and was losing market share to its competitors. To address these issues, Motorola developed the Six Sigma methodology. The results were astounding. Within a few years, Motorola reduced its defects by a factor of ten.

The success of Six Sigma at Motorola led to its adoption by many other companies. Today, Motorola is considered a pioneer in implementing and popularizing Six Sigma.

General Electric and Six Sigma

General Electric (GE) is another company that has successfully implemented Six Sigma. In 1995, Jack Welch, the then CEO of GE, made Six Sigma a part of GE's corporate culture. He made it mandatory for all GE employees to undergo Six Sigma training.

GE reported benefits of over $2 billion during the first five years of implementing Six Sigma. Today, GE is considered a model for successful implementation of Six Sigma.

Principles of Six Sigma

Six Sigma is based on a set of principles that provide a framework for quality improvement and problem-solving. These principles are customer focus, data-driven decision making, process focus, proactive management, boundaryless collaboration, and drive for perfection.

Each of these principles plays a crucial role in the implementation of Six Sigma. They provide a roadmap for organizations to follow in their quest for quality improvement.

Customer Focus

The first principle of Six Sigma is customer focus. This means that all improvement efforts should be directed towards improving customer satisfaction. The voice of the customer (VOC) is paramount in Six Sigma and it is the VOC that defines quality.

Customer focus requires understanding customer needs and expectations, and then aligning the processes to meet these expectations. This principle emphasizes that quality is not what the company thinks it is, but what the customer perceives it to be.

Data-Driven Decision Making

The second principle of Six Sigma is data-driven decision making. This means that decisions should be based on data and facts, not on assumptions or gut feelings. Data provides objective information that can be used to make informed decisions.

Data-driven decision making requires collecting data, analyzing it, and then using it to make decisions. This principle emphasizes the importance of measurement and statistical analysis in decision making.

Process Focus

The third principle of Six Sigma is process focus. This means that quality should be built into the process. The focus should be on preventing defects rather than detecting and correcting them.

Process focus requires understanding the process, identifying the key variables that affect the process outcome, and then controlling these variables to improve the process. This principle emphasizes the importance of process management in quality improvement.

Methodology of Six Sigma

Six Sigma uses a five-step methodology known as DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control). This methodology provides a structured approach for problem-solving and quality improvement.

DMAIC is a closed-loop process that eliminates unproductive steps, often focuses on new measurements, and applies technology for improvement.


The Define phase is the first phase of the DMAIC methodology. In this phase, the project goals and customer (internal and external) deliverables are defined. This phase also involves identifying the process to be improved and understanding the customer requirements.

The Define phase sets the stage for the rest of the DMAIC process. It is critical to clearly define the problem and the project objectives at this stage.


The Measure phase is the second phase of the DMAIC methodology. In this phase, the current process is mapped and its performance is measured. This phase also involves collecting data on the process and establishing baselines for improvement.

The Measure phase provides a clear understanding of the process and its performance. It is critical to accurately measure the process to identify areas for improvement.


The Analyze phase is the third phase of the DMAIC methodology. In this phase, the data collected in the Measure phase is analyzed to identify the root cause of the problem. This phase also involves identifying and validating the key factors affecting the process.

The Analyze phase provides insights into the problem and its causes. It is critical to accurately analyze the data to identify the root cause of the problem.


The Improve phase is the fourth phase of the DMAIC methodology. In this phase, solutions are developed to address the root cause of the problem. This phase also involves implementing the solutions and measuring their impact on the process.

The Improve phase provides solutions to the problem. It is critical to develop effective solutions and implement them to improve the process.


The Control phase is the final phase of the DMAIC methodology. In this phase, the improved process is documented and control plans are developed to maintain the improvements. This phase also involves monitoring the process to ensure that it continues to perform at the improved level.

The Control phase ensures that the improvements are sustained. It is critical to monitor the process and control it to maintain the improvements.

Benefits of Six Sigma

Six Sigma provides numerous benefits to organizations. These benefits include improved quality, reduced costs, increased customer satisfaction, improved employee morale, and increased profitability.

By implementing Six Sigma, organizations can significantly improve their performance and competitiveness. Six Sigma provides a structured approach for quality improvement that can be applied to any process, in any industry.

Improved Quality

One of the main benefits of Six Sigma is improved quality. By focusing on reducing defects and improving processes, Six Sigma helps organizations improve the quality of their products and services.

Improved quality leads to increased customer satisfaction, which in turn leads to increased customer loyalty and repeat business. Thus, Six Sigma not only improves quality but also enhances customer relations.

Reduced Costs

Another benefit of Six Sigma is reduced costs. By improving processes and reducing defects, Six Sigma helps organizations reduce their costs. These cost savings can be substantial and can significantly improve an organization's bottom line.

Reduced costs also mean increased profitability. Thus, Six Sigma not only reduces costs but also enhances profitability.

Increased Customer Satisfaction

Another benefit of Six Sigma is increased customer satisfaction. By improving quality and reducing defects, Six Sigma helps organizations meet and exceed customer expectations.

Increased customer satisfaction leads to increased customer loyalty and repeat business. Thus, Six Sigma not only increases customer satisfaction but also enhances customer relations.

Improved Employee Morale

Another benefit of Six Sigma is improved employee morale. By involving employees in improvement projects and recognizing their contributions, Six Sigma helps improve employee morale.

Improved employee morale leads to increased productivity and reduced turnover. Thus, Six Sigma not only improves employee morale but also enhances organizational performance.


Six Sigma is a powerful quality improvement methodology that can significantly improve an organization's performance and competitiveness. By focusing on customer satisfaction, data-driven decision making, process management, and continuous improvement, Six Sigma provides a roadmap for achieving excellence.

Whether you are a small business owner looking to improve your processes, a manager seeking to enhance your team's performance, or a CEO wanting to increase your company's competitiveness, Six Sigma can provide the tools and techniques you need to achieve your goals.

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