Keeping it simple: Six Sigma is…“Solving problems with data to achieve results”
Adding a little more complexity: Six Sigma was developed out of necessity as a very rigorous and disciplined approach for companies to improve products and services based on their customers’ requirements…an “outside looking in” approach. Six Sigma can improve profits and cut costs, but more importantly, it can keep customers loyal as well as improve a company’s competitive advantage. Six Sigma can be used for a wide variety of purposes such as new product releases, designing a new process, or fixing a broken process.
The term “Six Sigma” is a measurement system based on the amount of “defects” in a company’s processes. Defects are defined as not meeting customer requirements. The Sigma is a measure of standard deviation – how many of these defects exist in a company’s processes. Put simply, it is the measure of how far a process is away from achieving near perfect customer satisfaction. Six – or 6 – Sigma is measured at near perfect – meeting customer expectations 99.99966% of the time. The more defects processes have, the lower the Sigma. Most companies we have measured, prior to business performance improvement, perform around a 1 to 2 Sigma, which equates to meeting customer expectations 30% to 70% of the time (or roughly 300,000 to 500,000 defects produced per 1 million units). These numbers are staggering and can be extremely detrimental to customer satisfaction with products and services. Although 6 Sigma is difficult to achieve in some industries, a 4 Sigma (meeting customer expectations 99.4% of the time) is realistic for most service and transactional environments.
Six Sigma uses a variety of tools and techniques to achieve superior process performance:
- Data Based Decision Making
- Voice of Customer / Customer Surveying
- Baselining / Measuring Process and Product Performance
- Metric Identification and Collection
- Lean / Process Value Analysis
- Benchmarking “Best In Class” Companies
- Risk Analysis / Assessment
- Implementation Planning / Management
- Change Management
When companies employ Six Sigma tools and techniques, they change the behavior or “status quo” thinking and approach of how work gets done. Process performance is measured by a new standard of excellence through the identification, measurement, and eventual superior improvement of products and processes that lead to greater customer satisfaction.
All of the six sigma belt levels are designed to teach the Lean Six Sigma DMAIC business performance improvement methodology. Where they differ is the depth of knowledge and skills. Here are the six sigma belt levels.
An introductory level belt for people that are looking to learn the basics of Six Sigma.
- If your company is deploying Six Sigma, this is the belt for learning what it is and the key tools and concepts that are going to be introduced at your company.
Designed to prepare you to serve as a team member on Six Sigma projects.
- If you are looking to learn more than the Six Sigma basics introduced in White Belt, but not ready to commit to Green Belt or Black Belt, this is the belt for you.
- If you are a team member on a Green Belt or Black Belt project, then this is a great belt for you. Yellow Belts are equipped to be effective team members on Six Sigma projects.
- If you are looking to lead simple continuous improvement projects, the tools and techniques introduced to Yellow Belts will assist in solving basic business problems.
Designed to prepare you to lead comprehensive Six Sigma projects.
- Most Green Belts manage projects on a part-time basis.
- At this level, you will learn and apply various Six Sigma tools and techniques at a greater depth than Yellow Belt. In addition, statistical analysis software and other analysis tools and techniques are introduced. These tools are the foundation for leading comprehensive Six Sigma projects.
Designed to prepare you to lead complex Six Sigma projects.
- Most Black Belts manage projects on a full-time basis.
- If you are looking to lead projects and can afford the time and cost to earn your Black Belt, this belt level provides the most robust training.
- Black Belts are proficient in achieving business performance improvement success through the utilization of a comprehensive suite of Six Sigma tools and techniques. At this level, your training incorporates even more statistical tools, change management and leadership skills.
- Black Belts often coach Yellow Belts and Green Belts in business performance improvement.
Master Black Belt is a designation for Six Sigma Professionals that are trained in several business performance improvement methodologies such as: Six Sigma, Lean, Design for Six Sigma, Advanced Statistics, Presentation Skills, and Change Management. In addition, Master Black Belts have has many years of experience in leading projects, coaching other belts, and facilitating training.
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