Problem solving approaches are often discussed between members of management when a goal needs to be met. There is always a difference of opinion on how to take action to reach the goals, and the road to get there becomes more and more unclear. Because of the uncertainty of which approach to use, projects and initiatives often see little momentum and fail. By using a defined methodology that can provide a regimented set of steps to keep the project on track, goals can be met with much more ease.
What Makes Six Sigma Different?
At the methodology’s core, six sigma is based on a defined set of steps that help to answer the equation y=f(x). When applied to projects, the sequence of the steps require you to move methodically through defining the problem, gathering data for measurement, analyzing the data, implementing an improvement, and making sure that the process stays in control. These steps are also known as DMAIC, standing for define, measure, analyze, improve, and control. Within each of these steps there numerous tools that can be used to properly identify responsibilities, contributions, and required information needed to make the project successful. These tools have stood the test of time and are historically proven as critical to projects reaching their desired results. The structure of the DMAIC phases and the tools that six sigma projects use is what makes six sigma projects unique from others.
Not only do the steps in the process make six sigma unique, the required identification of owners and responsibilities is integral in the success of six sigma projects. Before actions are taken, there is an intense focus on those who will be responsible during the project. This identification clarifies who key data and outputs come from, those who are stakeholders in the project, and who is going to be the final point of approval for the project. With this clarification, work can run smoothly and successfully throughout the life of the project.
Driven by Data and Metrics
The most consistently successful business decisions are based on facts, and decisions made in a six sigma project are no different. The measure and analyze phases of the six sigma methodology force project leaders to identify what needs to be measured, what type of change needs to be seen, and most importantly, when the goals of the project have been met. Focusing on data allows project teams to have a true understanding of what is actually happening in the process. Often when the focus moves away from data, decisions can be subjective and made based on perception and bias, which in turn can have negative effects on the project. Six sigma projects are also measured and reported regularly. The frequency of these measurements allow for project teams to see changes in data regularly, creating visibility that is often lost in other types of projects. Having an acute awareness of the data and how the data changes gives project teams the ability to take action when needed.
Six Sigma Works
All problems can be solved if the right method is used. Six sigma projects are highly structured using proven steps and tools that make projects successful. Following the DMAIC methodology and knowing that the use of data will drive objectivity and yield decisions based on fact is what makes six sigma work as a problem solving methodology in business.