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Six Sigma

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Language:  English
Six Sigma is one of the most important developments in the field of business improvement.
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Six Sigma is one of the most important developments in the field of business improvement. It is also one of the most over-hyped and misunderstood initiatives, leading to confusion and controversy. Those studying or working in the area need to understand not only the mechanics of conducting Six Sigma projects, or even implementing the wider initiative. They must also grasp the underpinning principles and logic. This book looks at both the academic and practical aspects of Six Sigma to give a deeper and more subtle understanding of how and why it works, and the limitations of the approach.

Six Sigma is one of the most important and popular developments in the quality field. It has saved huge amounts of money and improved the customer experience for a large number of organizations across the world, yet it is applied in an inconsistent and often reductive fashion in many companies. This has led to criticism in the literature and a number of abandoned implementations. This study guide is designed to provide an overview of the key elements, important historical context and current debates in the field of Six Sigma. It aims to give a coherent view of the underlying principles, and how these relate to practical application in a range of organizations as well as to other areas of study. The broad Quality Management context, within which Six Sigma fits, will not be explored in this book in detail. More information on this can be found in the companion guide: “Quality Management in the 21st Century” also available at

The guide flows from principles and background to more detailed consideration of Six Sigma as both a business level initiative and project-based improvement methodology. Due to the complexity of many of the issues addressed, it is possible to write much more on any single topic but I have tried to cover most of the key points in order to provide a foundation and further literature linked from the text allows the reader to investigate any topic in more depth if they wish. Finally, at the end of each chapter there are a number of questions for you to develop your thinking in the area.

  1. Introduction
  2. Background and History
    1. Development of Quality Thinking
    2. Six Sigma: The Next Evolution
    3. Definition of Six Sigma
    4. Summary
  3. Why Six Sigma?
    1. Introduction
    2. To Improve Financial Performance and Profitability
    3. To be Responsive to, and Focused on, Customers
    4. To Improve Product and Service Performance
    5. Contributing to Organizational Learning
    6. Summary
  4. Six Sigma: Key Strategic Concepts
    1. Six Sigma is Strategic
    2. Six Sigma is About Customers
    3. Six Sigma is About Variation
    4. Six Sigma is About Process and Scientific Investigation
    5. Six Sigma is About People and Learning Not Cost
    6. Summary
  5. Strategic Six Sigma
    1. Introduction
    2. Vision, Mission and Values
    3. Strategic Objectives
    4. Hoshin Kanri and Six Sigma
    5. Summary
  6. Customers
    1. Introduction
    2. Customer Satisfaction and Customer Value
    3. Summary
  7. Variation
    1. Introduction
    2. Special and Common Cause Variation
    3. Process Capability
    4. Summary
  8. Processes and Scientific Investigation
    1. Introduction
    2. Business Processes: The Reality
    3. Scientific Investigation
    4. Summary
  9. People and Organizational Learning
    1. Key Six Sigma Roles
    2. Belt System Issues
    3. People and Change
    4. Organizational Learning
    5. Summary
  10. Sustainable Six Sigma Deployment
    1. Deployment Model: Kotter
    2. Deployment Logic: System of Profound Knowledge (SoPK)
    3. Steps 1 to 3: Envisioning the Transformation
    4. Steps 4 to 7: Enacting the Transformation
    5. Step 8: Institutionalise the New System
    6. Summary
  11. Six Sigma Projects: Key Concepts
    1. Basic Statistical Concepts
    2. Variation, the Normal Distribution, DPMO and Sigma Levels
    3. The Scientific Method and the DMAIC Cycle
    4. The Four Focuses of a Six Sigma Project
    5. Process
    6. People and Change
    7. Summary
  12. DMAIC
    1. Introduction
    2. The Define Stage
    3. The Measure Stage
    4. The Analyse Stage
    5. The Improve Stage
    6. The Control Stage
    7. Summary
  13. Customer Focus in DMAIC
    1. Introduction
    2. What Does the Customer Value?
    3. What is the Value Stream?
    4. What Design/Process Elements Affect Customer requirements?
    5. Quality Function Deployment
    6. Summary
  14. Variability Reduction in DMAIC
    1. Introduction
    2. Building and Using Control Charts
    3. Responding to Out of Control Conditions
    4. Process Capability
    5. Responding to Incapable Processes
    6. Evaluating the Measurement System
    7. Summary
  15. Soft Aspects of DMAIC
    1. Learning in and Between Projects
    2. People in Improvement
    3. Summary
  16. Processes in DMAIC Projects
    1. Introduction
    2. Supplier-Input-Process-Output-Customer (SIPOC) Diagram
    3. Process Flow Chart
    4. Value Stream Mapping
    5. Soft Systems Methodology
    6. Summary
  17. DMAIC in Service Organizations
    1. Introduction
    2. Service is Different
    3. The Dimensions of Service Quality
    4. Contribution of Six Sigma
    5. Potential Modifications to Six Sigma in Service Environments
    6. Summary
  18. Successful DMAIC Projects
  19. Example of a Six Sigma Project
    1. Introduction
    2. Project Background
    3. Selection of a Quality Characteristic
    4. Methodology
    5. Summary
  20. Quality by Design (for Six Sigma)
    1. Introduction
    2. The DFSS Process
    3. The Voice of The Customer
    4. Impact of Late Design Changes
    5. Design for ‘X’
    6. DFSS Tools
    7. Summary
  21. Six Sigma: A Critique
    1. Introduction
    2. Accepted Strengths of Six Sigma
    3. Reasons for Failure and Critical Success Factors
    4. Inherent Conceptual Issues
    5. The Future
    6. Summary
  22. References
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About the Author

Graeme Knowles