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Integrating Six Sigma with Business Process Management

The concept of Six Sigma was first developed by Motorola Corporation as an approach to address the high defect rates within the company’s manufacturing processes. With the success of Six Sigma, Motorola has registered the Six Sigma brand name to the corporation. The concept of Six Sigma advocates that data be collected from processes to measure performance and determine the extent of variation from target performance measurements.

This approach had been truly effective in ensuring quality in a manufacturing environment and was later adopted by the services industry during the 90s. However, as the Six Sigma framework relied heavily on the collection and analysis of data of individual processes, synchronizing processes between departments was ignored. This resulted in improvement benefits being limited to specific functions only, without taking into consideration the integration with other processes. Another weakness of the Six Sigma methodology is the lack of control used to sustain improvements achieved. This stems from the fact Six Sigma utilizes manual processes to do this, an approach that lacks effectiveness.

In this sense, Business Process Management (BPM) initiatives address areas that Six Sigma falls short of, in line with the purpose of achieving excellence in organizations. These two methodologies complement each other to compensate for areas of weaknesses. Although BPM addresses process enhancements and monitoring from a holistic viewpoint, it fails to address the analytical requirements required to solve complex issues.

Therefore, BPM approaches are used to define current processes and their role across multiple functions, identify areas within the process that affect critical success factors and develop process improvements for these areas of weaknesses. The identification of gaps between existing processes and ideal processes are addressed with Six Sigma initiatives. Finally, process monitoring, evaluation and continuous improvement measures are implemented with BPM techniques. These are carried out for inter-related processes across the organization.

A step-by-step insight into how a BPM – Six Sigma initiative is implemented

Define

The first step for such an initiative is to define the current processes of a function, with outputs clearly determined. Data is collected to determine the health of the performance of the particular process as compared to predefined targets. If there is a deviation in the performance measured from the particular process, the effect of the deviation may be translated into monetary terms.

Measure

BPM process maps are developed which incorporate various critical elements of the process. These would include business systems, people and resources that are involved in the entire process. The functions performed by each of these elements are defined and utilized in the analysis stage.

Analyze

With all data and information at hand, an analysis is conducted on the business process to determine areas of weaknesses. What are the key courses for the deviation? How does this deviation affect other processes? Which steps of the processes are too slow? Where is the backlog?

The key approach when analyzing existing processes is to identify parts of the processes which were irrelevant or which does not add value to the process. Most of the time, these areas of redundancy are the causes of delay within entire processes. Apart from that, dependency on a cross-functional process may also cause the current process to be inefficient.

Improve

Once weaknesses are discovered, areas for improvement to address these weaknesses will be identified. This would incorporate the use of “what if” hypothetical solutions in order to shortlist several possible scenarios that would work to improve the current process.

Many times, process improvements will include the utilization of automated processes through the use of technology. Human intervention will still be required, but a form of integration between automated and human run processes will be developed.

At this juncture, the utilization of machines or applications for greater efficiency will be customized towards the particular business process. Data flow between automated processes and human operated processes will need to be smooth. Therefore, all variables involved in a process will be taken into consideration during the design stage.

Control

A new process will have limited effectiveness to an organization if it is not constantly monitored for sustainability. This is why a monitoring and tracking system needs to be put in place, most probably in the form of a BPM monitoring system where performance indicators are constantly measured. This way, the management team will be able to react to deviations quickly, and make any amendments whenever necessary. Automated reports will be triggered to managers whenever a specific deviation and review meetings are held to address any process issues.

In conclusion, Six Sigma and BPM when implemented together will produce outstanding results for the purpose of organizational excellence. This is possible through the synergy achieved from these two remarkable methodologies that help to improve organizational performance the world over.

Peter Peterka is President of Six Sigma us. For additional information on Six Sigma Green Belt or other Six Sigma Articles contact Peter Peterka.

Author: Peter Peterka Google

Published 09/3/2008

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