Six Sigma, something you’ve heard about over and over and over again, especially for those who are interested in the business world. The name itself sounds scary enough to even the most experienced business person. Why? Is Six Sigma really THAT scary? What is it about? Most importantly, why is it still so famous among business people when it is said to be “scary”?

I apologize for turning away from my regular “Personal Management” postings to this “Business Management” posting. I have this urge to talk about Six Sigma since a long time ago and just recently, my company was visited by one of the Six Sigma black belt holder of our client. When my director introduced this “black belt” holder to the people in the company, I can bet that there are a lot of puzzled faces here and there.
“Black belt? Huh? Six Sigma?”

Well, I’m in an IT company, so its not a big surprise that most of the people here do not know what is Six Sigma. If you’re a business person and you have never heard of it, its time for you to dive into the “happenings” of the global business world and I am sure you will be able to find something related to Six Sigma.

Alright, back to the topic. In this post, I will explain Six Sigma in a layman’s term (I’m a Six Sigma’s idiot myself, in case you want to know). I will have future postings on Six Sigma, ONCE I’ve equipped myself with more advanced information of Six Sigma. 😉

So what is Six Sigma? Six Sigma is a business-driven approach/method to process improvement, reduced costs and increased profits (started by Motorola in the 1995). In other words, to improve the overall efficiency of your business. The fundamental principle behind Six Sigma is to improve customer satisfaction by reducing defects, lowering your cost and builds better leaders.

Six Sigma helps you to deliver your services/products to your customers based on what they want, when they want it and when you promised it. By meeting or exceeding your customers’ expectations, you can be sure that they will most probably remain your business partner for the years to come.

However, this kind of relationship is easier to be destroyed than to be built. One thing which is surely going to kill this kind of relationship is inconsistency in services or products. Here’s a scenario:

Imagine you are the manager of a small business unit in your company, which is responsible for delivering your company’s products to the customers. Your customers will normally receive their products on the average of 7 days. This means that over the course of 3 deliveries, customer A receives his part on day two, customer B on day 7 and customer C on day 11. From here, you can see the inconsistency in the deliveries.
After some discussions with your people, you decided to change the process a little and finally managed to come out with an average of 5 days (2, 5 and 8 days for customer A, B and C respectively). This is a very good improvement over your previous achievement. However, your customers might not see it this way. Try to think from their perspective. What if you ARE the customer who are receiving products on such irregular basis….”I might receive it today…or maybe 4 days later…or 10 days later..I’ve experienced before so its not impossible”.

This is one of the issues Six Sigma intends to help you with. With the implementation of Six Sigma, your customers will receive their deliveries on day 5 or if its not entirely possible, day 4, 5 and 6. Six Sigma is not about counting and calculating averages, it is about helping your business to minimize variation and if possible, removing it from your relationship with your customers.

That’s simple, isn’t it? Yes, Six Sigma CAN be simple and yet, it can be a nightmare. Why? There are more to Six Sigma than the simple variation minimization process we just talked about. If you look at it from a broader (just like watching the lions in the zoo from a far and safe location), there are two primary applications of Six Sigma. First, its about the simple variation thing we just mentioned. It is used to remove the variation in routine and simple tasks. Secondly, it can also be used to ensure that large and complex projects go right the first time (the feeling of failing a multi-million project is not really pleasant).

You have it, the basic definition of Six Sigma. It’s definitely good enough for a layman like me. It helps me to clear my uncertainty over Six Sigma and its effectiveness. You can be very sure that it is effective but bear in mind, it is not the ONE SOLUTION that every company needs to solve their inefficiency problem. Over the years, some of us might have heard companies implementing Six Sigma…a lot of them in fact, and to be frank, more than half of them failed which resulted in the “Six Sigma Phobia” syndrome. Why? To me, there’s no such thing as ONE SOLUTION in this world, including this Six Sigma approach. It can improve your business a lot IF you know how to use it and when to use it.

Try to spread the words in your company and let people know what is Six Sigma before you even think of implementing it. Hiring Six Sigma “super consultants” might help a little, or so you are hoping for that since you’ve spent so much money just to bring them in. Let’s be realistic. Explain to your people in layman’s term and make them understand…..not asking your “super consultants” to jump in and start pouring in all the statistical diagrams and bombastic definitions to your people. It will just add up to their “Fear Factor” on Six Sigma.

 p/s…this is based on what I’ve read on some online articles. Do correct me if I’m wrong.