There has been a tremendous amount of discussion around defining Six Sigma in terms people within your business or organization can understand.

A long time crusade of mine has been to help define Six Sigma in everyday terms for both my fellow business quality professionals and top managers alike.

Just like some other definitions already viewable on the iSixSigma boards (“Tell me about Six Sigma“, “Explaining Six Sigma Traps“), I start the explanation with the three over arching themes of customer focus, data driven, and robust methodology.


Customer Focus

Data Driven

Robust Methodology
Ensuring all outputs meet customer specifications. This is very intuitive for manufacturing and industrial businesses; potentially a new concept for transactional businesses. Customer needs must be understood down to the tolerance level. In addition, new products and services should be conceived to meet the needs of customers not currently serviced. Data is necessary to identify input, process and output areas for improvement. Quality improvements are not haphazardly implemented. Instead, resources are assigned to projects when it can be shown through data analysis that a difference will be felt by the customer. Data alone cannot solve all your customer or business issues. A methodology for defect definition, measurement, analysis, improvement and control must be utilized to standardize improvement processes and maximize business productivity. Business processes should be structured around the customer’s ideal experience.

Depending on your audience, there may not be a need to define the DMADV and DMAIC methodologies. These tend to confuse those not ready for a full dissertation on the new process/product development and incremental, existing process improvement methodologies.

When you see the eyes of your audience begin to ‘glaze over’ — bail on the description. Stick to the three fundamental themes listed above.

I often find it useful to write these three themes on a white board or overhead for those individuals that are visual thinkers. Rather than just listening to your description, they can see and picture how the interrelationship can form while you explain each item.

Defining Six Sigma For Your Business Or Organization

Three simple over arching themes. And if they can remember just one supporting statement for why each is necessary, the prize is all the sweeter. Good luck!

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