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The Five Fundamental Assumptions of Six Sigma

Some people are angry and upset about the effectiveness of Six Sigma as a problem-solving discipline. Individuals routinely call for the next new quality discipline or argue why Six Sigma will not work in this case or the other. Some of this is one-upping – this approach is better; some of this is sour grapes…

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Cold Beer

I have to admit this is one of my favorite subjects – beer! Recently I toured the Ellis Island Casino and Brewery in Las Vegas. Our guide stated that their customers loved “cold” beer. Like most of you I immediately thought of Six Sigma critical-to-quality (CTQ) trees. (Yes, this stuff can be a curse.) As…

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Voice of the Customer: Have You Asked Enough Questions?

To drive improvement through Lean Six Sigma and other continuous improvement projects, it is imperative for practitioners to determine first what is important to the customers who are affected by the process. Customers can take on a variety of different views. Listed below are examples of typical customers identified in a SIPOC diagram (suppliers, inputs,…

The Customer Talks Back: Musings on Call Center Efficiency

Running a call center is like handling a job interview: First impressions are critical. Good intentions do not make up for tardiness, ill-fitting clothing, dirty shoes, the inability to reasonably pronounce the interviewer’s name or ignorance about what the company does. The primary purpose of a call center is to increase the profitability of the…

Five Myths That Can Undermine Customer Loyalty

Market share depends upon an organization’s capacity not only to acquire new customers, but also to keep them. It makes no sense to invest resources to capture new customers only to lose them to competitors. This is where customer management comes in – a strategy focused on creating loyal customers by providing superior value. Unfortunately,…

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Using the DMAIC Model to Achieve Buy-in

When project managers begin studying Lean Six Sigma, the first question asked is often, “How will I get buy-in?” Although the core concepts and methodologies may make sense to project managers, the question of buy-in sometimes overshadows this powerful methodology for process improvement. There are many root causes for why people are reluctant to lend…

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Thinking Two Moves Ahead with Analytical Tools

Considering the performance of the stock market over the past few years combined with current economic conditions, many financial institutions are analyzing their processes for improvements. Unfortunately, the majority of process improvement tools available to Six Sigma practitioners – such as cause-and-effect diagrams, Pareto charts, histograms and scatter plots – have been used for analyzing…

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Call Center Quality: Satisfaction Over Quantity

Until 2005, this was the case at NCCI Holdings Inc., a workers compensation insurance carrier, based in Boca Raton, Fla., USA. The call center at NCCI is a business-to-business operation that manages 400,000 phone calls and 70,000 email interactions every year with insurance carriers and insurance agents. To help improve call center quality, NCCI took…

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To Identify CTQs, Listen To The Voice of the Market

Successful quality initiatives rely on understanding what quality actually means. The meaning of quality resides in the minds of those who judge it and use it to make their purchase decisions – in other words, the market. Divorced from the market, value or quality has no real meaning. Uninformed definitions of value or quality become…

Understanding Process Variation

It is well established that there exist eight dimensions of quality: Conformance Performance Features Reliability Durability Serviceability Aesthetics Perceived quality Each dimension can be explicitly defined and is self-exclusive from the other dimensions of quality. A customer may rate your service or product high in conformance, but low in reliability. Or they may view two…

Using Six Sigma to Improve Clinical Quality and Outcomes

Appropriately implemented, Six Sigma clearly produces benefits in terms of better operational efficiency, cost effectiveness and higher process quality. Perhaps less obvious – and until recently less documented – is the impact it can make in clinical areas such as infection control and medication delivery. Clinicians are often receptive to Six Sigma given its familiar scientific and…

Defining CTQ Outputs: A Key Step in the Design Process

After starting a project and gathering the voice of the customer (VOC), it is time to define the critical-to-quality outputs (CTQs). CTQs are the key measurable characteristics of a product or process whose performance standards or specification limits must be met in order to satisfy the customer. These outputs represent the product or service characteristics…

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Six Sigma Aids in IT Employee Resource Planning

Effective resource planning is an important part of any process improvement program. Formalizing processes and developing measurement systems helps to determine the value of internal projects from a human capital perspective. A measurement system for effective resource planning in implementing project goals may be particularly helpful for information technology (IT) divisions of companies. Developing a…

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Improved IT Project Forecasting Through Six Sigma

The various costs of an information technology (IT) project is forecast at the beginning of the fiscal year and usually re-forecast at the end of each month based on the actual spending pattern. Variation in the IT project forecasting process can result in either underspent or overspent budgets. As is true in most processes, variation…

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Customer Winback Concept Begs for Use of Six Sigma

“Customer winback” is becoming a common marketing practice in many businesses. The process is aimed at winning back disgruntled customers and then retaining them. Businesses restore the relationship with old customers through a combination of diligent investigations and follow-up, promotion and targeted improvements specifically addressing customer concerns. Companies willing to make the commitment to customer…

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DFSS Study: Develop Software to Track Drug Side Effects

Integrating Design for Six Sigma (DFSS), IDOV (identify, design, optimize, validate) roadmap and selected DFSS tools in the information technology (IT) system development methodology can strengthen the business focus of IT system delivery. Adding additional steps at the beginning and end of the traditional system development cycle for DFSS can support the better understanding of…

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Six Sigma Improves Workflow in N-Medicine Department

The nuclear medicine department located in the Ospedale Santa Croce e Carle in Cuneo, Italy, has always been recognized as a national and international reference site for its clinical compentencies and innovative facility design. When originally opened, the nuclear medicine department was structured to provide the best possible service to patients. This included a focus…

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Measure the Immeasurable: The World of Smell and Taste

In many industries, improvement projects quickly face an obstacle: The lack of easy to get and reliable data. This is especially true when the critical-to-quality elements (CTQs) of the project are “soft attributes” such as taste, smell or texture. Facing such a problem in the food and drink industries is obvious. While in a Kano…

Improving Help Desk Functions by Using Lean Six Sigma

Help desks often face a barrage of complaints when voice of the customer (VOC) data is collected. These typically include: “I had to describe the problem to more than one person before it was solved.” “I had to describe the problem to more than one person, and each time I was asked to do the…

Value Matters as a Key Metric for Six Sigma Initiatives

A key measurement of Six Sigma effectiveness is the application of appropriate metrics. Mikel Harry and Richard Schroeder, two pioneers of Six Sigma, state in their book Six Sigma that, “An organization’s profitability is determined by what it chooses to measure and how it measures it.” They point out that most companies need to change…

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Marketing Function Is Different in a Six Sigma World

Six Sigma is changing the way the marketing function in an organization operates today. Consider the following marketing scenario at a company which manufactures consumer-packaged goods: During an emergency marketing meeting, the market research division discloses that its Brand X, which has recently lost market share, is rated a poor value by consumers in the…

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Six Sigma Applies to IT, as Evidenced by Success

Does Six Sigma apply to IT? This question is heard quite often. It echoes questions that have been asked many times since the first attempts to apply Six Sigma beyond manufacturing. Does Six Sigma apply to finance? Healthcare? Banking? Software? Insurance? In each of those areas the answer turned out to be “yes,” as widely…

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