More and more companies are seeing the benefits of employing Six Sigma tools and methodologies to improve their business performance. They recognize that competency in the use of this methodology is a competitive advantage. It moves companies beyond using "gut feelings" as the basis of decision making to the use of facts and data to develop sustainable solutions to business issues. Six Sigma forces you to put the customer first; to focus on what is important to improving customer satisfaction. Effective use of Six Sigma tools can result not only in reductions in cycle time, defects and costs, but they can also result in increased revenue.

There are a few principles that are key to any Six Sigma deployment. First, Six Sigma starts and ends with the customer. It is critical to understand clearly the voice of the customer and to be able to translate that voice into clearly defined needs, which will be the basis of the improvement objective for that customer. Second, the efforts undertaken must be aligned with the business strategy. The need that you are trying to meet must fit with the stated strategy and goals of the business. Third, every task is a process. In Six Sigma terminology Y=f(x), for every output metric or Y you have multiple inputs, or x's. It doesn't matter what task you are doing; making a sales call, taking a customer order or conducting a safety audit, they all have processes associated with them. And process is at the heart of Six Sigma. Fourth, in Six Sigma, our goal is to eliminate defects from the process. As you know, Six Sigma means 3.4 defects per million opportunities. The higher the sigma the better the process is performing. Some examples of this would be: (available in full paper)

We have learned that variation is the enemy in any process and the goal is to reduce variation, which improves the sigma score. Fifth, Six Sigma is a fact-based, data-driven, process for making decisions. The goal is to move away from making anecdotal decisions based on assumptions to making decisions based on data. Rather than assuming where the majority of the defects are occurring in a process the rigor of Six Sigma would cause you to take the time to collect the data that will show you where the problem is occurring. Sixth, the goal of Six Sigma is to add business value in terms of cost savings to the bottom line or revenue growth to the top line. And seventh, Six Sigma drives sustained results. As variation is reduced, plans are put in place to ensure that the process stays in control over time. This is often referred to as sustaining the gains.

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