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What Is Six Sigma? A Beginner’s Guide to Understanding the Six Sigma Process

For over a century at least, the industrial world has been striving each day for better efficiency and output rates as well as quality. This process is one that has never stopped and it is evolving even as we speak right now, this very moment. In all of this evolution many methods may be implemented but few have the grit to remain valid through development. One of such most expounded methods founded during the last 35 years is the Six Sigma. Originally this was meant for manufacturing but today, its versatility has led to it being implemented successfully in divers industries such as healthcare, finance and in almost all of the Fortune 500 companies around the world.

Seeing as how important Six Sigma is today, having a certification to prove that you have learned and understood the process, is a definite advantage when it comes to your career progress. In this week’s blog we take you through the beginner’s guide to understanding Six Sigma as simply and comprehensively as possible.

(Source: slideshare.net/NCNarayanan/what-is-dfss )

What is Six Sigma?

If used correctly, Six Sigma is a very powerful tool. There is basically no industry that cannot benefit from using Six Sigma. Many people have one common question; what is Six Sigma? This is essentially a set of tolls that are used for the business process improvement and quality management. The goal of Six Sigma is to improve quality through identifying defects, determining causes and improving processes in order to increase consistency and accuracy of output or results. When you improve efficiency and minimise the amount of defects, the quality and timeliness of the product delivery improves automatically and employee enthusiasm and confidence will increase parallel to this.  This helps companies achieve their bottom line.

What are the principles of Six Sigma?

Now based on where you will look, there will be slight variations on Six Sigma principles that are being implemented. However as a beginner, there are in general, the approaches that you should know about.

  • Ongoing and continuous efforts will be taken to achieve stable and predictable process results that are also crucial for business success.
  • DMAIC – manufacturing and business processes have characteristics can be defined, measured, analysed, improved and controlled.
  • Achieving sustained quality improvements calls for commitment from the entire organisation. This includes upper and middle management.
  • All processes in the company can be analysed and defined in detail and therefore improved. The idea here is that if you control the inputs you can also control the outputs.
  • Continuous evaluation is vital. Before you proceed, think about what went right and wrong.
  • Eliminating the chances of variation means that you can save money and also can reduce defeat.

The methodologies of Six Sigma

The principles that were explained above are executed through the methodologies used in Six Sigma. These are pretty much like roadmaps for improvement known also as a workflow. The two main methodologies that are used are known as DMAIC and DMADV.


This methodology focuses on incrementally improving existing processes. It is also the most widely known methodology and the one that is most associated with Six Sigma. The acronym DMAIc itself can be broken down as below;

  • D – Define the needs of customer, requirements and project goals
  • M – Measure the main aspects of the current process. This is where you can understand your process and collect data on it
  • A – Analyse your data. Look at the 80/20 rule in this case. See if you can find 20% of the reasons that cause 80% of the defects and work towards eliminating those.
  • I – Improve the processes. You need to test and verify that the improvements actually work well.

C – Control the future implementations of the processes so that you can ensure that errors do not come in again into the process.

(Source: smartsheet.com/all-about-six-sigma )

Given below is a template of the DMAIC roadmap


This methodology will focus on optimising new products or processes to Six Sigma standards. The acronym in this case can be broken down into;

  • D – Define the customer or the company goals
  • M – Measure the CTQs or characteristics that are critical to quality, measure your product capabilities, production process capability as well as the risks
  • A – Analyse data from your measurements that were taken
  • D – Design the new processes based on the analysis done in the previous step
  • V – Verify the designs through a pilot run, implement the new processes introduced and then finally hand over to the process owner

The DMDAV roadmap is shown below so you can understand how to lay out your findings


DFSS or Design for Six Sigma is an emerging methodology that is very often associated with Lean Six Sigma. It emphasises on the determination of what the customer wants and ensuring thatd effects and inefficiencies are expected and eliminated in foresight at the design phase of the project.

What are the analysis tools?

Six Sigma practitioners use various tools during the implementation of the Six Sigma methodologies to measure and analyse the process and its outcomes. Some of the most used tools are given below. As a beginner, try to read through what each tool offers and familiarise yourself with them. It will help you.

  • Control charts
  • 5 Whys
  • Root Cause Analysis
  • CTQ Tree (Critical to Quality)
  • Statistical process control
  • Process mapping
  • ANOVA gauge R&R (analysis of variance gauge repeatability and reproducibility)
  • Pareto charts
  • Value Stream Mapping
  • Business Process Mapping or Checksheet
  • Cause and effects diagram or fishbone diagram or Ishikawa diagram
  • Taguchi method

So now that you have a good idea about the fundamentals of Six Sigma and its principles, methodologies and the processes that are involved in each methodology, you should be ready to face your learning process with more confidence.

Learning Six Sigma is important for you no matter what field you wish to work in. learning this will not just increase your chances of growing in your career, but it can also positively impact how you handle your personal challenges as well.

Did our blog help you understand the cornerstones of Six Sigma? Leave us your feedback and let us know. If you want to know about how you can learn about Six Sigma with us contact us on [email protected]

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