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A process is a collection of interacting components that transform inputs into outputs toward a common aim, called a mission statement. Two kinds of variation exist in a process: special variation and common variation. Common causes of variation are due to the process itself. Special causes of variation are due to events external to the usual functioning of the process. A feedback loop relates information about outputs from any stage(s) back to other stage(s) so that an analysis of the process can be made.

The goal post view of quality states that as long as a unit of output falls within acceptable limits (called specification limits) around a desired value (called the nominal or target value), the process is deemed conforming, and there is minimum cost. The continuous improvement view of quality states that quality is a predictable degree of uniformity and dependability, at low cost and suited to the market. This is a more realistic view in that losses begin to occur as soon as a quality characteristic of a product or service deviates from the nominal value, even within specification limits. The pursuit of quality requires that organizations globally optimize their process of interdependent stakeholders.

Six Sigma management is the relentless and rigorous pursuit of the reduction of variation in all critical processes to achieve continuous and breakthrough improvements that impact the bottom line and top line of the organization, and to increase customer satisfaction. Another common definition of Six Sigma management is that it is an organizational initiative designed to reduce defects tenfold while simultaneously reducing processing time by 50% every two years. Finally, the objective of Six Sigma management is to create processes that are twice as good as the customer demands so that if the process mean shifts down, the process will not generate more than 3.4 defects per million opportunities.

The methodology utilized in Six Sigma management to lead to breakthrough improvement in current existing processes is the DMAIC model. DMAIC is an acronym for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control. The methodology used to create new products, services, or processes or to substantially innovate broken processes is Design for Six Sigma (DFSS). DFSS uses the DMADV model. DMADV is an acronym for Define, Measure, Analyze, Design, and Verify/Validate. The key ingredient for a successful Six Sigma management process is the commitment of top management.

Six Sigma management is equally applicable in manufacturing and service industries, education, and government.

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