Six Sigma | The Statistical Revolution

What is Six Sigma? How can this theory help my business improve on what it is doing today?

Six Sigma was initially created by the famous electronics manufacturer Motorola, although some may dispute this stating that it was actually General Electric; either way both organisations have saved billions of dollars by applying the theories to their businesses, so I guess they won’t fight too much between each other, in respect of who was the first to apply it.

The basis of the Six Sigma concept was to look at all processes, see how they could be improved and drive improvement to eliminate process defects. The theory has been tried and tested in numerous organisations across the world and is recognised as a well structured approach for improving results that can be measured. 

The foundation of the methodology is based on the improvement of business processes by gaining an understanding of the variations that may take place in a process and how it can be controlled in such a way that it can become a predictable process, thus the ability to make an error is negated.

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As with many business processes and implementation of improvement plans it is essential that the Six Sigma concept is supported by the senior members of the organisation, otherwise time well spent in the investigation of processes and how they can improve part of a business could result in a waste of time.

The people who drive the projects are called “Champions”. They are basically the key personnel who have the responsibility of implementing Six Sigma across an organisation in a structured way.

Lean Six Sigma

The key to “Lean Six Sigma” is that it encourages businesses to identify ways to perform their business operations better. It looks a non value adding activities and through various statistical and business techniques, looks to eliminate these from the business processes, thus making the company more effective.

If a number of potential “Lean Six Sigma” projects are identified, then work on finding the ones that can offer your business the biggest benefit and do not try and attempt to implement all of them, otherwise resources can become very thinly spread and the results may not be as fruitful as one expected.

Six Sigma – it’s a tool

Have you heard of TQM? Well it stands for Total Quality Management. TQM combines numerous quality techniques of which the Six Sigma methodology is one of them. The basis of the technique is a data driven structured approach. 

Results from a project may not come through immediately especially if you are reviewing the profit and loss account, however, depending on what the project entails, say for instance, customer satisfaction, then the benefits may be more immediate than anticipated.

What are “Black Belts”?

In Six Sigma there are varying levels of training. The Black Belt (by the way this is a person named a “Black Belt”) has an in-depth understanding of the Six Sigma concepts. The “belts” are based on the various martial arts grades e.g. yellow belt, green belt, black belt.

The Black Belt is expected to have attributes whereby they are expected to be able to teach and mentor colleagues who have not been trained in the techniques to such an extent as them. A Black Belt should show leadership, assign duties to other members in the project team and understand the strength of the team in order to obtain the best business results.


Six Sigma does involve some statistical analysis in terms of being able to calculate predictability and to model or simulate the current situation. If applied correctly and with the support of the senior members of an organisation the benefits could be substantial. One must remember that at the end of the day it’s the people who can change the fortunes of a company, so a combination of scientific analysis and people power can mean a project will be a success.

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