Business Process Management Glossary

What is Six Sigma?

Six Sigma is a methodology that provides an organisation with tools to improve business processes.

Motorola created Six Sigma as a method to provide their organisation with tools to improve the capability of their business processes. This increase in performance and decrease in process variation lead to defect reduction and improvement in profits, employee morale, and quality of products or services. Six Sigma quality is a term generally used to indicate a process is well controlled (within process limits ±3s from the centre line in a control chart, and requirements/tolerance limits ±6s from the centre line).

Six Sigma is a methodology and toolset originating in Japan (Motorola) applied for the purpose of improving businesses processes. As a result, it focuses on finding and removing faults or potential variation in a system. Six Sigma is a structured sequence of steps employing quality management methods to complete specific goals such as:

The Six Sigma Rating

Unlike other process improvement methodologies, the capability of Six Sigma has a grading system known as the sigma rating. The sigma rating indicates how frequently a product defects and how much is yielded from the process. Motorola set a goal to reach Six Sigma in all of their manufacturing processes or a 99.99966% chance to be free of defects (3.4 defective features per million opportunities). During Motorola’s attempt at reaching the rating of Six Sigma they began to refer to the management and engineering practices used to achieve it also as Six Sigma.

Since every organisation is different experts do not always agree on which tools are mandatory or complete the set. However, there are many statistical and graphical tools that are mentioned in these discussions time and time again. Due to that, we’ve listed what we feel are the primary tools to reach the Six Sigma rating below.

Firstly, identifying problems, opportunities to improve and requirements:

Measuring process performance:

Analysing processes to determine root causes of variation, defects, or poor performance:

Improving process performance by addressing root causes:

Finally, controlling the improved process and future performance:

Additionally, Six Sigma team leaders often use project management tools such as Gantt charts and team engagement tools like brainstorming and nominal group technique. In conclusion, Six Sigma provides a massive boost to an organisations performance when integrated fluidly.

Further Resources of Six Sigma:

Explore more about different process improvement terms in our BPM Glossary.