Learning Six Sigma On My Own?

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    Interested In Six Sigma

    I came across Six Sigma accidentally when I listened to an Audio Book about the subject. I was very impressed with the potential, and became interested in diving deeper. I have never attended a class regarding Six Sigma.I’d like to ask the experts to share their philosophy on learning 6 Sigma for individuals. I don’t have a project, and cannot afford the $$$ required by most professional training companies / consultatns. Although the BOK on this site covers the corriculum sufficiently, it does not tie the topics directly to books or course material.Is is practical to learn 6 Sigma on my own? What is the ideal approach / strategy I should follow? Are there any shareware course materials out there? How long does the process take if a committment is made to spend 2 hours/day learning?Thanks in advance


    Jim Johnson

    I think that learning Six Sigma to the point where it would be truly beneficial would not work very well given the parameters that you have outlined.  I say that for a couple of reasons:
    1.  Without a project to apply the priniciple to it is simply an academic exercise.
    2.  The true value of Six Sigma is that as you deploy it into an organization you drive it to the point that it becomes a part of your business management culture.  Even if you never realized this strategic value, the tactical value requires projects in order to be successful.
    My suggestion is put together a strong business case to move your organization to Six Sigma and sell it to your Senior Leadership.  I don’t understand how any manager in any organization wouldn’t pursue a course that would provide the breakthrough results that Six Sigma does.
    I hope that this helps.
    Jim J.



    Not a problem. All this six sigma is is a very time consuming, structured way to do industrial engeering projects. In the old days, you see something that stick out (experience is what gives your the ability to do this) and you applied what ever tools were necessary to define the problem and fix it.
    With six sigma, you will find the chart making and processes will be the difficult part. case in point. I did a project, after starting a new job, on a process that I saw the day I walked in as being totally messed up. Project was to design two pieces of equipment to replace manual process that had been done exactly the same way for years. I ran the numbers, saw that there was over $30,000 in labor savings, designed the equipment and had it installed in three weeks. It took an additional six months to get through all of the bull required to make it a formal six sigma project. So, best advice. tollerance for wasting time. be sure you are a power point chart making champ. and be able to say things like “P95” and you will do well with little or no formal training in this stuff. it is all hype.



    That response, while humorous, is only applicable in some organizations.
    Where I work, there are definitely things to overcome with regards to implementing Six Sigma, but there is no doubt that 1) Top management supports it, and 2) true financial gains are being realized, and people are making progress that without the Six Sigma roadmap and statistical tools would be improbable.
    So to the original person who posted here…I would suggest at minimum that you find a way to take classes (blackbelt training) when possible, and go from there.



    If you have a pre-determined solution to a problem don’t make a 6 Sigma project out of it, just go do it.  There are good valid criteria for determining what makes a good 6 Sigma project, don’t slam an excellent improvment process due to improper project selection.



    Hi everyone,
    I’m also interested in learning Six Sigma on my own to the point of being capable of leading an implementation effort.  I am a former consultant and have plenty of experience selling-advocating-implementing improvement projects in manufacturing environments.  I also have decent statistics knowledge having implemented DOE in the past.
    I have found titles, but nothing that I could call a handbook for someone willing to train him/herself.  I do not have the means to pay for individual training either and are currently unemployed.  I’m aiming to work with a Six Sigma firm and eventually pursue a Black Belt certification through the ASQ once I attain a certain level of experience and practice.
    Can anyone recommend good and specific resources other than paying for individual training to Six Sigma consulting firms?
    Thank you for the advice.



    You should assess your skills against the Black Belt Body of Knowledge (BoK), may be ASQ or one suggested by this site.
    Once the gaps are known, look for books on specific tools or concepts and learn them.
    You will not find any single source for all the BB skills.


    Mike Carnell

    I would suggest you take Jims advice very seriously about not having a project. If you want to read books and study that is great but until you become a practitioner you will always be a spectator in the sport. I don’t think most really mind the spectators except when they choose to participate by trying to egage pratitioners in “what if ” scenarios and esoteric BS.
    In short you can learn it academically. The best overall guide is to use this website as a starting point. This will give you a diversity of opinions that may keep you objective. If you watch the discussions and the articles you see Pros and cons rather than the preaching of dogma that you typically get when you try to follow one author. There is absolutly no advantage to becoming a xenophobic because you are locked into using one tool.
    Figure out what gets discussed and what is pertinent to your business and fill it in with reading.
    If you intend to be effective at some point you will not be able to be effective if your only skill is the stats. You need to understand change, Lean, change overs, financial skills, etc.otherwise you will truncate some portion of the project.
    Final comment. I cannot imagine a situation where you could not have a project. I was in Albuquerque last week at the home of a MBB (you figure out who it was). After several years of paying spinkler experts to fix the lawn sprinklers he was trying it himself. In the 11 hours I was there he ran a DOE on sprinkler heads. Modified some to alter the spray pattern and ran a confirming DOE. We were sitting on the porch watching some of the modified designs run when he said “Can you ever get away from this SS s__t?” “Nope” “I didn’t think so.”
    I had two BB candidates at Sumitomo ran DOE’s that I thought were very creative. One used Legos and the other used frying eggs. John Hathaways daughter ran a DOE baking cookies. She created a measurement scale using shades of brown paint chips from a paint store (granted have John to help you with a DOE is a huge advantage).
    I can’t imagine why you can’t come up with a project.
    Good luck.


    Marc Richardson

    You requested some suggestions on Six Sigma and related material. Here are mine:For systems thinking nothing is better than Out of the Crisis by W. Edwards DemingThe indispensable basic reference for all things having to do with quality is The Quality Handbook by JuranThe Six Sigma Way by Pande et al – Good over-all implementation guide and good overview on tools but you will need further detail for which see belowBlack Belt Memory Jogger for tools and tool usage from GOAL/QPCMemory Jogger II for the 7 QC tools and the 7 management tools from GOAL/QPCThe Team Handbook by Oriel (formerly Joiner Associates). Excellent reference for tools and team dynamics and facilitationFor help with how to develop and run projects try The Project Management Memory Jogger from GOAL/QPCFor Statistical Process Control:Statistical Quality Control by Grant & LeavenworthUnderstanding Statistical Process Control by Donald WheelerIntroduction to Statistical Quality Control by Douglas MontgomeryFor Design of Experiments:Design and Analysis of Experiments by Douglas MontgomeryStatistics for Experimenters by Box & HunterFor other stats such as hypothesis testing, correlation, regression and ANOVA:Basic Statistics by the Air Force AcademyBasic Statistics: Tools for Continuous Improvement by Mark J. KiemeleAnother good resource is the Certified Six Sigma Black Belt refresher Guide from the Quality Council of Indiana. It is based on the ASQ BB BOK. It will help you perform a gap analysis of what you know versus what you will need to know in order to pass the exam.For Advanced Product Quality Planning (Control Plans), Measurement Systems Analysis and Failure Mode and Effects Analysis, visit and order their manuals on the aforementioned three subjects.OK, so I have thrown a lot of titles at you including multiples in a single topic. This is because the different ways in which the information is presented will appeal to different people. My personal bias is towards books that are more application and less theoretically oriented. There are many other titles touching on other areas such as lean manufacturing, Theory of Constraints, Value Engineering and Design for Manufacturing and Assembly but the above is a decent beginning.All this being said, I must echo the opinion expressed by others that in the end, the only way to learn this stuff is to do it. Get a project and work it through from Process Mapping all the way to the confirming Design of Experiment to the preparation and implementation of the Control Plan.Marc RichardsonSr. Quality Assurance Eng.


    Mike Carnell

    I agree with most of your list. Anything by Juran, Montgomery or Deming is useful. Deming and Juran possibly in the context of the time it was written. I would add “Managerial Breakthrough” by Juran as a must. It was were the original thought on the difference between control and breakthrough was written down.
    Grant and Levenworth isa great standard for SPC but the acceptance sampling is not very useful any more.
    I would add the following:
    Six Sigma for Managers – it is new and it is selling – read it so you at least understand what the management thinks they understand
    The Goal – TOC you just have to understand the concepts.
    Lean Thinking – Good basics that integrate well with Six Sigma. If you lean to do this stuff well you will eliminate the number of misfires on BB projects.
    The Toyota Production System – Monden was there when it began, this is the “unmoved mover” stuff. It will be a real long time before we see any group have the impact that Monden, Ohno, and Shingo had – why wouldn’t you read it?
    Straight Talk on Designing Experiments – the only book I have found that really integrates all the different types of designs so you learn to make a strategic decision on which design fits your application best.
    Leadership is an Art & Leadership Jazz – Max DePree just explains leadership better than anyone I have read
    The Five Dysfunctions of a Team – Just relavant
    Managing at the Speed of Change – Nothing is more relavant
    Future Shock – gives you roots
    Anything by Shingo.
    As you read these you have to mix in some Carl Hiaasen and James W Hall or else you will become so boring nobody will have anything to do with you.
    Good luck.



    This is a great thread – lots of insight.
    Mike and Marc – thanks so much for sharing your lists of references.


    Mike Carnell

    You are welcome.



    I wish I had read these excellent posts before attempting to learn SS on my own.  I feel almost completely lost.  I’m getting close to the Aha! Insight! moment, I hope, but the readings mentioned before would have been helpful



    Believe it or not you can do it on your own.  Hee hee.  The first thing you have do do is get your head focused in the right direction.  If you are ready to give up,,,  I understand.  If you are ready for one more round, let me know.   [email protected]
    Good luck,
    You can do it!  Hee hee


    Thomas Tidiks BB

    I ran the numbers, saw that there was over $30,000 in labor savings, designed the equipment and had it installed in three weeks. It took an additional six months to get through all of the bull required to make it a formal six sigma project.
    Codeone,  seems to me that there is some misunderstanding about the Six Sigma methodology. The general rule for a 6S project is that nothing is obvious. You knew the solution when looking at the process.  There are some rules for a project before it becomes a 6S project, i.e. not to know the solution. Or  some significant savings to pay your salary. If you only make to $30m projects per year you are not worth your money. In our company we defined savings as $250m. I believe your example is a good project but not for Six Sigma. I would call it failed when trying to apply the process after the solution was implemented.

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