On The Six Sigma Way

I recently finished reading The Six Sigma Way – How GE, Motorola, And Other Top Companies Are Honing Their Performance by Peter S. Pande, Robert P. Neuman, and Roland R. Cavanagh.

This book is THE reference on Six Sigma. The authors define it as “A comprehensive and flexible system for achieving, sustaining and maximizing business success. Six Sigma is uniquely driven by close understanding of customer needs, disciplined use of facts, data, and statistical analysis, and diligent attention to managing, improving, and reinventing business processes.”

This work is made up of three major sections. The first part provides an executive summary of this system. The second part focuses on the organizational aspects of adopting this system. The last part, focuses on the actual implementation of Six Sigma including the roadmap and tools. Also included in this book, are numerous appendices that provide further “practical support”.

What sets this book apart is both the breadth and depth in which the topic is discussed. Whether one is a novice or expert, looking to obtain a high level overview or a deep understanding of the subject matter, this book is for you. In addition, the interspersed case studies, examples and tools make it very practical and applicable. After reading this book – one cannot but concur with the authors’ closing remark: “We believe – and hope you agree – that there are enough essential, powerful, and valuable elements to make the Six Sigma system, in some way, part of every successful business. At the same time, we strongly encourage you to adapt the discipline and methods of Six Sigma to best impact your unique culture, industry, market position, people, and strategy. Our biggest fear is that people will “accept” or “reject” Six Sigma as it it were a thing (falling victim to the Tyranny of the Or) and not use it as a flexible system.”

Below are key excerpts from the book, that I found particularly insightful:

1) “The Benefits of Six Sigma: 1) Generates sustained success…2) Sets a performance goal for everyone…3) Enhances value to customers…4) Accelerates the rate of improvement…5) Promotes learning and “cross pollination”…6) Executes strategic change”

2) “Six Themes of Six Sigma: 1) Genuine Focus on the Customer…2) Data- and Fact-Driven Management…3) Process focus, Management, and Improvement…4) Proactive Management…5) Boundaryless Collaboration…6) Drive for Perfection; Tolerance for Failure”

3) “Six Sigma Improvement and Management Strategies: 1) Process Improvement: Finding Targeted Solutions…2) Process Design/Redesign: Building a Better Business…3) Process Management: The Infrastructure for Six Sigma Leadership”

4) “In the Six Sigma Way, we will use and refer to a five-phase improvement cycle that has become increasingly common in Six Sigma organizations: Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control – or DMAIC.”

5) “…The ideal roadmap for establishing the Six Sigma system and launching improvements…1) Identify core processes and key customers. 2) Define customer requirements. 3) Measure current performance. 4) Prioritize, analyze, and implement improvements. 5) Expand and integrate the Six Sigma system.”

6) “Five-step measurement implementation model: 1) Select what to measure 2) Develop operational definitions 3) Identify data sources 4) Prepare collection & sampling plan 5) Implement and refine measurement”

7) “We can offer an assessment model, however, based on two major conditions – both of which must be met if process design/redesign is going to work: 1) A major need, threat, or opportunity exists: a) Shifts in customer needs/requirements…b) Demand for greater flexibility…c) New technologies…d) New or changed rules and regulations…e) Competitors are changing…f) Old assumptions (or paradigms) are invalid…g) The current process is “a mess”…2) You’re ready and willing to take on the risk: a) Longer lead-time for change is acceptable…b) Resources and talent are available…c) Leaders, and the organization as a whole, will support the effort…d) The “Risk Profile” is acceptable.”

8) “Process Value Analysis: As processes get more complex, they tend to insulate people from the real reason that customers patronize a business. “Value Analysis” is a way of reemphasizing the key raison d’etre of a business or process by looking at work from the external customer’s point of view. In the analysis, we assign each process step to one of three categories: 1) Value Adding…2) Value Enabling…3) Non-Value-Adding”

9) “Twelve Keys To Success: 1) The Six Sigma Efforts to Business Strategy and Priorities 2) Position Six Sigma as an Improved Way to Manage for Today 3) Keep the Message Simple and Clear 4) Develop Your Own Path to Six Sigma 5) Focus on Short-Term Results 6) Focus on Long-Term Growth and Development 7) Publicize Results, Admit Setbacks, and Learn from Both 8) Make and Investment to Make It Happen 9) Use Six Sigma Tools Wisely 10) Link Customers, Process, Data, and Innovation to Build the Six Sigma System 11) Make Top Leaders Responsible and Accountable 12) Make Learning an Ongoing Activity”


Omar Halabieh

The Six Sigma Way


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