How Lean Six Sigma Practices Helped ZARA Achieve Global Success

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ZARA changes its clothing designs every two weeks on average, offering upwards of 11,000 distinct garments every year. In comparison, competitors change their designs every three or four months and product 3-4,000 distinct pieces. This is fast fashion: the business model of replicating high-fashion, luxury-brand pieces quickly and cheaply, making them available to customers while […]

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How Total Quality Management Got Xerox Back on Track

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Xerox went from being an industry leader to resting on its laurels. Their focus shifted away from improvement for the benefit of their customers. This, coupled with a financial scandal, brought the organization to the point where many financial experts believed that bankruptcy was on the horizon. A major shift in how Xerox did business […]

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Ask Dr. Mikel Harry: How Can Six Sigma Be Applied to Human Resources?

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Dr. Mikel Harry answers the question, “How can Six Sigma be applied to the Human Resources (HR) function?” Listed are some simple examples for Human Resource projects: 1) Employee turnover rate. 2) Job satisfaction issues (surveys). 3) Management satisfaction. 4) Cafeteria food quality. 5) Policy deployment. 6) New hire process quality and cycle time. 7) […]

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If a process is broken (low process capability), should it be a DMAIC or Design for Six Sigma (DFSS) project?

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Is the process broken because of poor process control?  Is it broken because of inferior technology?  Is is broken because of inadequate operational knowledge?  Is is broken because  of a mismatch between the process technology and the design specifications?  Is is broken because of some interaction thereof?  How can you expect anyone to rationally answer […]

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What do you see as the evolution of Six Sigma? What is the future and what are the implications for corporations worldwide?

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It is widely known (in the field of quality management) that Motorola inaugurated Six Sigma in the mid eighties.  At that time, Six Sigma was employed to make a dramatic gain in customer satisfaction (by way of quality improvement).  Almost by nature, the initiative was based on the idea of defect reduction.  For the sake […]

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What are your thoughts on the different types of bottom line benefits of Six Sigma?

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The first generation of Six Sigma (1984 – 1994) was initiated at Motorola.  At this time, Six Sigma was primarily focused on the reduction of defects (quality improvements).  It was widely believed that the reduction of defects would naturally and invariably offer certain economic benefits – even though such benefit could not often be directly […]

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How Can Six Sigma can be made part of ISO 9000 system implementation?

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Rhetorically speaking, what is the purpose of ISO9000?  Is it a standard of expectation, much like Six Sigma?  If an organization is currently performing to a Six Sigma level, would there even be a need for this standard?  If this standard was perfectly deployed and implemented in a corporation, would it be a Six Sigma […]

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How are the Six Sigma methods (DMAIC, DFSS, etc.) applicable to software development and services industries?

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Obviously, you know how to ask a “huge” question.  In terms of scope and depth, it is nearly equivalent to the question: “How does one go about boiling the ocean without harming the ecosystem – give me some examples (case studies), tell me the best tools to use, how to use the tools, and kindly […]

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How do I ensure selection of the right type of high impact projects? Any tips on project selection methods and criteria?

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Having “been there and done that,” I deeply appreciate your question.  A simple literature search will yield a lot on this subject.  However, you should first read the Rath and Strong book on Six Sigma.  I highly recommend this particular reading, especially for “middle management level” guidance.  This book provides a number of relevant templates […]

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Has Six Sigma lost it's way and is it on its way becoming another fad?

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The simpliest form of an answer to each of your questions is “yes.”  There does exist an ever-present danger that Six Sigma will become diluted.  In fact, there are many signs that it has already happened.  For example, many business executives now see Six Sigma as a commodity.  So what is driving a lot of […]

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How can Six Sigma be integrated with ISO?

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Imagine working for a corporation that is operating at an overall quality level of about Six Sigma.  In terms of capability, this means that the company would be about 1,800 times better than the average organization (about Four Sigma).  So, what would such a difference be like?  If it existed, what would not need to […]

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Where did the name "Six Sigma" come from?

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In my recollection, two recurring questions have dominated the field of six sigma.  The first inquiry can be described by the global question: “Why 6s and not some other level of capability?”  The second inquiry is more molecular.  It can be summarized by the question: “Where does the 1.5s shift factor come from – and […]

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A good number of management systems are available in addition to Six Sigma. Can a company survive with only one?

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Today, very few corporate executives believe that TQM is a viable system of business management.  To this point, a 1996 study titled “Measuring Performance After Meeting Award Criteria” was published in Quality Progress magazine.  The conclusions were quite apparent – the impact of TQM practices may not be nearly as significant as some think.  After […]

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How significant is benchmarking in an overall Six Sigma approach?

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I assume that you are referring to the “quantitative” variety.  In this regard, I believe that benchmarking is a highly valuable activity.  For example, consider the “sigma-tizing” of a business.  Let us suppose a certain corporation discovers that it is a 3.5 sigma business.  Now suppose that the same company finds one of its competitors […]

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What are the merits and demerits of integrating Six Sigma with Theory Of Constraints, benchmarking and Lean technologies?

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The attempted integration of Six Sigma with other technologies is quite natural, although often unsuccessful.  Perhaps it is only instinctive that people try to blend the benefits of several different approaches into a single entity (per se).  After all, such a thing is seemingly quite rational.  More to the point, it is often believed that […]

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Is there a generalized form of Six Sigma that can be applied to every organization that wants to improve their process quality?

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A central aspect of six sigma is an eight-step approach for achieving dramatic improvement at different levels of the business.  The process is given by the acronym RDMAICSI – Recognize, Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control, Standardize, and Integrate.  As a short cut, many just apply DMAIC. At a top management level, it functions as a […]

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Can you explain how Six Sigma can apply to reducing invoicing errors and improving payment to suppliers?

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I know this may seem somewhat self-evident, but have you considered doing a simple literature review to answer your own question?  So much is out there on the Internet – the available information is like water drops in a world-wide rainstorm.  At this point in the life cycle of Six Sigma, a great many people […]

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The theory of complexity states that creativity balances order and chaos. To maintain creativity in Six Sigma, how can address this balance?

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Metaphysically speaking, I cannot (and will not) argue with your assertions. Perhaps the transitional state between order and chaos (i.e., the point of bifurcation) necessarily constitutes a stage for heightened creativity. However, scientifically speaking, I do believe that chaos theory and fractal geometry can be effectively employed to examine the effects of unstable processes on […]

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Why is it so hard to apply Six Sigma to the oil and gas industry?

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It is quite interesting that you find Six Sigma to be “very difficult” in terms of application.  Typically, such a perspective is fairly common among those who have had limited exposure to or experience with Six Sigma.  Either you have convinced yourself that Six Sigma is very difficult (to deploy, implement, and apply), or someone […]

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What are the differences between Lean and Six Sigma, how do their core values intersect, and what tools are common?

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In terms of Lean vs. Six Sigma, only time will tell.  Although there exists natural points of intersection, there are also points of incompatibility – philosophically and pragmatically speaking.  I would strongly suggest that you conduct a literature review into the stated issue so as to properly scale the scope and depth of an answer.  […]

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Is the process approach to quality mangement is important in Six Sigma?

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Essentially, the idea of a “process” is to “Six Sigma” as the idea of “teaching” is to “knowledge.”  Perhaps Martin Luther King, Jr. best summed it when he stated: “Knowledge is a process of piling up facts; wisdom lies in their simplification.”  Not only is the process approach important, it is what under girds the […]

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I have a great deal of data but don’t know where to start on my Green Belt project. What do you suggest?

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Get the book “Six Sigma for Everyone” by George Eckes, John Wiley and Sons 2003.  It does a very nice job of outlining what to do and provides some really good tools.  Seems like a good book for green belts. To extend beyond the aforementioned book, let us come to understand the importance of properly […]

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