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Six Sigma Methodology Outputs

In many organizations, the Black Belt role is reassigned every year or two so that multiple individuals can become adept at all aspects of the Lean Six Sigma methodology. The final level is that of Master Black Belt. Most organizations will have only one Master Black Belt, someone who is normally a senior individual responsible for managing the Lean Six Sigma initiative within the organization.

This is a full-time position. Lean Six Sigma projects follow a structured methodology, based upon five phases. Each phase has an organizing premise or question that must be addressed. Once the question is satisfactorily answered, the project can proceed to the next phase. The duration of the phase is based upon the information and data that is available.

Normally at the end of each phase there is a phase gate review with the stakeholders and one or more Black Belts. The Define phase is the first phase of the project. The key question that must be answered is, "Have we defined the problem from a business perspective? Some Yellow Belt project team members may also be identified at that time. The project team needs to get input from stakeholders and customers to understand the problem from their perspective.

During this time, they are quantifying what the customers consider to be critical quality expectations. With an understanding of the problem from the business and customer perspective, the boundaries for the process - and any product or service that is delivered - can be determined. While a preliminary project team may be in place in this phase, the determination of the boundaries on the process will often dictate which functions need to support the project with subject matter experts.

During this phase, those subject matter experts who are new to Lean Six Sigma will often receive Yellow Belt training. This phase often ends with the development of a project charter that identifies the problem from the customer perspective, the processes to be analyzed, and a goal for performance improvement. The Measure phase is the second phase of a Lean Six Sigma project. In this phase the baseline condition is established by measuring the current performance of the process, product, or service with respect to the critical quality attributes identified in the Define phase.

The question that is asked in this phase is, "Do we understand the work and flow of each of the steps in the current process and have we measured the process performance at each step? The process must be defined to determine the flow of each step. Each step is then measured for time, quality, and any other attribute that was important to the customer. Often the appropriate measurement systems do not exist to collect this data, so a measurement system will need to be developed and verified so that it provides accurate and complete data. The subject matter experts on the team from the various departments and functions are closely engaged in this phase to identify the process steps and to develop and deploy an approach for measuring performance.

By the end of this phase, the problem experienced by the customer should be quantified with process data, and an accurate assessment of the current or "As-is" state for the entire process has been determined. The Analyze phase is the third phase of a Lean Six Sigma project. In this phase, the process and product data are analyzed to determine the true root cause or causes of the problem the customer has experienced. The key question to be answered is just that, "Have we clearly identified the problem and determined the true root cause s?

The project leader is expected to be able to mathematically show that the root cause has been identified. While the analytical and statistical techniques are rigorous, the math involved is usually very straight-forward, especially if a statistical analysis application is used such as Excel's Analysis Tool Pak or Minitab.

Often the data collected during the Measure phase is sufficient for the analysis. However, in some cases, the analysis will point to an area requiring further study and additional data may need to be collected. Which analytical tool or technique is used will depend upon the nature of the problem or defect from the customer perspective and the types of data that are available for analysis. Often during this phase, a detailed problem statement will be completed based upon the results of the analysis. The team must guard against preparing a detailed problem statement before this step.

Otherwise there is a good chance they will assume the wrong problem, which will lead to confusion and misdirection on the team when they begin to create a solution in the next phase. By the end of this phase all team members should be in agreement that the sources of the problem are now known and understood. The Improve phase is the fourth phase of a Lean Six Sigma project. Teams often want to jump to this phase immediately without thoroughly completing the first three phases. When that occurs, the team usually creates an improvement that addresses a symptom without getting to the root cause.

The goal for this phase is to create a solution to the problem that eliminates or contains it. The question being answered is, "Have we created a viable solution for the problem that is ready to be implemented? During this phase, the solution is developed and tested. Depending upon the nature of the solution, this is often the most expensive phase. The "To-Be" process is developed and documented. In many cases, the new process requires changes in equipment, software, or procedures. Once again data is relied upon to be certain the solution has effectively addressed the problem, which normally means that a statistically significant number of operations are performed to collect that data.

A trap the team can easily fall into is to prematurely celebrate a "random success. By the end of this phase, the solution is ready. The Control phase is the final phase of a Lean Six Sigma project. In this phase the solution is fully deployed.


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The phase does not end until the solution is stable and all aspects of the business that are affected by the change are operational. The question being answered is, "Have we established a "new normal" that has eliminated or controlled the problem the customer experienced? The phase continues until the process has demonstrated stability in performance. This may occur within a few days or may take several months. A control plan is normally set in place for monitoring the process, product or service. The control plan includes threshold measurements for acceptable performance and corrective action steps to be followed if the performance degrades.

This control plan is one of the keys to ensuring the improvement is permanent and that the process does not revert back to its prior state.

Six Sigma Doctrine's Three Goals

In most cases, the control plan will include statistical process control. A major aspect of the work in this phase is often the updates of documentation in associated processes such as training processes, business information systems, and management review. This phase is completed when the operators and managers of the process no longer require support from the project team. We have focused on the role of the project leader and the project team. However, senior management and the process stakeholders also have a role in the Lean Six Sigma methodology. These individuals, along with one or more Black Belts, will conduct the Phase Gate reviews.

The reviews can be done in a face-to-face presentation, a virtual presentation, or through the submittal of a report that is reviewed and approved by the stakeholders and Black Belts. Which approach is used depends primarily on corporate culture and team logistics. These reviews occur at the end of each phase.

A review has three purposes:. Review the work of the preceding phase to ensure that it was done with the appropriate Lean Six Sigma rigor. If this is found to be inadequate, the team will need to repeat portions of the work and come back for a new Phase Gate review. The Black Belt in the review will coach the team on the performance of the areas of weakness.

Review the answer to the phase question and the supporting data or documentation, to ensure it addresses the customer need. If the data does not support the answer, the reviewers should direct the team to continue in this phase until they have answered the question. Establish any ground-rules or boundaries associated with the next phase, based upon the results of the preceding phase. Examples would be to set a time window for collecting data in the Measure phase or a capital budget limit for a solution to be developed in the Improve phase.

Reviewers need to be familiar with the Lean Six Sigma methodology and the structured approach to problem solving. They can easily derail a project team by asking the wrong question for the given phase. For instance, asking a team to identify the root cause of the problem during the Measure Phase Gate review will force them to jump to conclusions. That question should not be asked until the Analyze Phase Gate review.

The Black Belt who is part of the review team should ensure the reviewers are aware of what questions the team should be prepared to answer, and which questions are not appropriate for that Phase Gate review. The reviewers often include senior leaders from the organizations or departments with responsibility for the process being analyzed. If the team is encountering resistance to their activities or need special access or support, to conduct the next phase of the project they should be requesting that from the reviewers.

Does your organization use Six Sigma? How do you feel about its benefits?

An example might be to have access to certain data records or to have operators support a measurement systems analysis of the testing methodology. The response of the reviewers to these requests is a signal to the rest of the organization of the importance of the Lean Six Sigma initiative. Now that we have covered the structure and process of the Lean Six Sigma methodology, let's look at the tools and techniques.

Many of these tools and techniques were in use long before the Lean Six Sigma methodology was formulated, and have been incorporated into this methodology. One of the powerful aspects of Lean Six Sigma is that multiple tools are available for use in each phase.

A team can then choose the tool or technique that best fits their unique situation. Organizations will often have a favorite set of techniques based upon their corporate culture or historical preferences. These tools and techniques are organized based upon the types of analysis in which they are used. Many of these could be used in multiple phases of a Lean Six Sigma project, depending upon the problem and analysis being conducted. Process analysis tools and techniques are often associated with the Lean portion of the analysis. They help to describe the process and understand its efficiency.

Visual analysis tools and techniques are used with virtually every problem-solving methodology. These techniques can be used in multiple phases. Their value is that they are quick and easy to understand. They are also excellent communication techniques with senior management and the operations or organizations that will be affected by the solution.

The statistical analysis tools and techniques are often associated with the Six Sigma portion of the analysis. The statistical tools help us to make sense of the data and to determine what is significant and what is not. The use of statistical software such as Excel Analysis Tool Pak or the Minitab application has minimized the amount of mathematical computation that the team members must do. However, they still need to understand which statistical techniques to use in each situation and how to interpret the results. Lean Six Sigma projects must also be able to interact with stakeholders and customers.

There are several techniques that have proven effective in this regard. Some of these are based upon understanding the perspective of external stakeholders and some of these are useful for organizing and communicating with internal stakeholders, such as team members. In order to illustrate how Lean Six Sigma works, I will use the methodology to solve a hypothetical problem. Let me set the stage:. Some mornings when you prepare to leave home for work, you can't find your keys. Searching causes delays and you miss your train or bus.

Even worse, sometimes you take your spouse's keys and then you can't unlock the office when you arrive. Now you need to wait for someone else to arrive to open the office. Not to mention, your spouse has the same problem when they get to work. The problem has occurred multiple times and your boss has remarked about it. Something must be done to ensure it does not happen again. Let's start by considering this from the customer perspective.

You and your spouse are the primary customers of this process. Your goal is twofold: a leave for work on time, and b have the correct keys with you when you leave for work. This leads to one primary CTQ, the keys are in a known location and you can grab them and take them with you when you leave home in the morning. You will not include everything else you do to get ready for work in the morning such as breakfast, showering, and getting dressed — except to the extent that they impact the keys.

The goal for the project Charter is to create and implement a process that results in the immediate acquisition of the correct keys in the morning when leaving for work. In this phase you create a process map that shows all the possibilities for what happens to the keys at night. The process starts with arrival at home and ends with arrival at the office the next morning.

The process has different branches depending upon whether it was a weekday, weekend or holiday, whether you went out that evening or stayed in, and whether you have inclement weather requiring additional preparation to leave, such as finding an umbrella or a cold-weather coat. In creating the map, you realized that the process on weekends and holidays varied so widely you could not even map it, but the process during the week was relatively stable.

This is your As-Is process map. You applied a time metric to each step and a success or yield metric.

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The Integration of Six Sigma and Lean Manufacturing

Of course, many of the steps, especially those spent searching in the morning, had no value-added time associated with them. In fact, the only value-added steps were the step of placing the keys on your desk when arriving home and picking up your keys in the morning. A challenge you faced with the process mapping and measurement was to define a pass or fail condition for each step.

In some cases it was obvious, in others you had to think through the purpose of the step to determine the desired outcome. You then collected data for four weeks. To do this you created and used a check sheet every night at bedtime to determine what you had done that evening when arriving home from work and then noted how much time each step required. You also created a check sheet for your activities in the morning, but you normally did not complete that until you arrived at work. Finally, you documented what you did with the keys on each day of the weekend and on the one holiday that fell within that four-week period.

A significant challenge in the data collection was the Hawthorne Effect. This is the name given to the condition where the measurement of a parameter changes what people do. If they know they are being measured, their behavior changes to optimize the measure. By completing the check sheet every night, you were changing your behavior. So you were careful that even if you realized at night that the keys were not in the correct place on your desk, you did not go then to find them, but waited until the morning as would normally occur.

Now that there is data, the analysis can begin. An obvious problem is that there is no process defined for weekends and holidays. But even during the weekdays you find that your process is unstable. There is minor common cause variation most of the time, but on six of the weekdays there was a major problem finding the keys.

You never took your spouse's keys by accident during the four weeks; but that has only occurred twice in the past six months, so you aren't able to draw any conclusions about that type of defect. You create a Fishbone diagram to determine the root causes, and you brainstormed seventeen possible causes for uncertainty in the location of keys in the morning. Even though you were brainstorming and normally would not reject any ideas, you choose not to include the intervention of space aliens as one of the causes — although it was suggested by your spouse.

Based upon your analysis, you find that five of the possible root causes could have contributed to the six occurrences of the problem in your data set. In doing this you find that there is a major difference in what happens to your keys when there has been inclement weather. It is doubtful that weather causes keys to change location by themselves, so you must do something different when there is bad weather. This points to the need to understand your process for removing and storing your inclement weather apparel. This points to a process problem.

You determine that there are two contributing root causes. Now it is time to create a solution. First you and your spouse decided on the process changes that need to occur, and created a selection matrix to assess the options. Eliminates chronic problems and improves customer satisfaction Provides a disciplined approach to problem solving and changes company culture.

Creates a competitive advantage. Improves profits. Financial Benefits of Six Sigma. Operational Benefits of Six Sigma. Roles and Responsibilities. Leadership The key role of executive leaders is to decide to implement Six Sigma and publicly endorse it, and promote it throughout the organization.

The executive leadership is also responsible for: Providing training at all levels of the organization. Establishing criteria for project selection. Selecting Six Sigma projects to be performed. Ensuring continuous improvement in the process. Eliminate barriers. Project Sponsor A Sponsor is a senior level manager with demonstrable interest in the outcome of the project that is responsible for securing spending authority and resources for the project.

They are also responsible for: Providing advice and counsel to the Executive Staff. Providing training and support. Developing sustainability for the business. Facilitating cultural change. Green Belts Green Belts are employees trained in Six Sigma who spend a portion of their time completing projects, but maintain their regular work role and responsibilities.

10 Best Six Sigma Lean Books - Tulip

Well versed in the definition and measurement of critical processes. Typically works on projects in existing functional area. Involved in identifying improvement opportunities. Involved in continuous improvement efforts. Collects and analyze data. Converts data into usable information. Increases the effectiveness of the decision making process by using data. Their responsibilities also include: Project team leader.

Works cross-functionally. Contributes to the accomplishments of organizational goals. Provides technical support to improvement efforts. Reduce the time it takes to close the accounting books cycle time. Some organizations have opted to integrate their kaizen or rapid continual improvement processes with Six Sigma approaches. This typically results in the use of statistical tools to aid the identification and measurement of improvement opportunities during and following kaizen event implementation.

It should be noted that some lean experts believe that Six Sigma, as implemented in some organizations, can be contradictory to lean principles. In such cases, Six Sigma experts, often known as "black belts", lead improvement efforts without actively involving workers affected by the improvement effort. Lean experts typically contend that employee involvement and empowerment is critical to fostering the continual improvement, waste elimination culture that is a foundation of lean thinking.

It should be noted that Six Sigma techniques can be relatively sophisticated, and are most frequently utilized by larger organizations and organizations willing to devote resources and talent for developing Six Sigma statistical capabilities. Breyfogle, Forrest W. Winiarz, Marek L. Contact Us to ask a question, provide feedback, or report a problem. Jump to main content. An official website of the United States government. Related Topics: Sustainability. Contact Us. Lean Thinking and Methods - Six Sigma Introduction Method and Implementation Approach Implications for Environmental Performance Useful Resources Introduction Six Sigma consists of a set of statistical methods for systemically analyzing processes to reduce process variation, which are sometimes used to support and guide organizational continual improvement activities.

This phase focuses on defining the project improvement activity goals and identifying the issues that need to be addressed to achieve a higher sigma level. In this phase, the aim is to gather information about the targeted process. Metrics are established and used to obtain baseline data on process performance and to help identify problem areas. This phase is concerned with identifying the root cause s of quality problems, and confirming those causes using appropriate statistical tools. Often, other lean methods such as cellular manufacturing, 5S, mistake-proofing, and total productive maintenance are identified as potential solutions.

Statistical methods are again used to assess improvement.