Six Sigma – Its Origin and Meaning

Definition of Six Sigma

Six Sigma is a methodology used to improve business processes by utilizing statistical analysis rather than guesswork.

If you are on this page I assume you have heard about Six Sigma which is basically a methodology used to improve business functionality. The main objective of Six Sigma is to implement a process, which systematically gets rid of inefficiency and defects. Basically, Six Sigma uses a set of quality management methods of doing the above. This method uses statistical data and creates a special infrastructure of people, also called experts within the organization.

Every Six Sigma project is carried out as part of an organization following a defined sequence and has quantified financial targets. All in all, Six Sigma is customer centric and its main objective is to deliver value, reliability as well as high performance to the customer. Today, Six Sigma is used as one of the major themes for Total Quality Management (TQM).

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Origin of Six Sigma

It was in the early 1980’s that Bill Smith at Motorola developed Six Sigma principles in order to measure defects and improve overall quality. This original idea still forms the core of Six Sigma methodologies with a few more additions, which include improving process with regards to interaction and product design.

General Electric (GE) was the first to use Six Sigma in its operations in order to reduce waste, improve the quality of the product and in turn save money. It is because of the success that GE enjoyed that people began implementing Six Sigma programs into their organizations. Today, companies the world over use Six Sigma to improve the processes, which help bring about positive changes in the organization.

The name Six Sigma is derived from the bell curve used in statistics where one Sigma represents one standard deviation away from the mean. The defect rate is said to be extremely low (3.4 times per million) when the process exhibits Six Sigma. Also, owing to the versatility of Six Sigma and its applications, Six Sigma certification is highly regarded and sought-after across many industries and domains.

5 Key Principles of Six Sigma

1) Working for the customer
The primary goal of any change in the implementation process should be to deliver maximum benefit to the customers. Establishing a clear standard of quality in the early stages defines what the customer/market demands.

2) Finding problems and focusing on it
During the implementation process, it’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of changes and lose focus on the initial problem. Gathering data that shows where a specific problem lies helps to concentrate on correcting that area.

3) Removing variations and bottlenecks
Once the problem is identified, it’s time to look for ways to nullify defects. These openings often come in the form of long, intricate processes that leave significant room for mistakes and resource waste. Streamlining these functions can help to achieve quality control and efficiency.

4) Communicating clearly and training teams
A major necessity for a Six Sigma methodology to succeed is having all team members are well-versed in Six Sigma, understand the goal, and are informed on the project’s progress. The methodology can cause a huge shift in work environments as it requires specialized focus on management to run the entire process smoothly.

5) Being flexible and responsive
Change and Six Sigma go next to each other! It’s a process that identifies defects and works on refining them. Clinging to a failed approached is not an option for a Six Sigma expert. Change might seem challenging at first, but it has a huge benefit for business in the coming future.

Like all processes, Six Sigma is also made up of two methodologies, which are DMAIC and DMADV or DFSS (Design for Six Sigma). DMAIC is used to improve a process that is related to an existing business while DMADV/DFSS is used to create new process or product designs. They are solid methodologies, implementing Six Sigma and its concepts. Let’s have a look at how you can use implement them in your processes.


• Define the goals that will help improve the processes that are in sync with the enterprise strategy and customer demand.
• Measure the aspects of the ongoing process and accumulate data that is relevant to that.
• Analyze the data that has been accumulated and then verify it. Once that is done analyzing involves determining the relationships and attempting to ensure that every factor has been taken into consideration.
• Improve the process of data analysis with the help of new techniques.
• Control in order to check that any deviation from the target is corrected before they turn into defects. Control also involves setting up pilot runs in order to move on to production, establish the process, set up control mechanisms as well as monitor the entire process.


• Define the goals that meet the customer demands as well as the enterprise strategy.
• Measure as well as identify the characteristics that are Critical To Quality (CTQ), production and risks.
• Analyze so that new and better alternatives can be designed.
• Design the details and once that is done, optimize and plan for its verification. The designs phase may include the help of simulations.
• Verify the design and then set up pilot runs. Verification also involves implementing the production process and handing it over to the process owners.

What Is Lean Six Sigma?

Lean Six Sigma is a fact-based and data-driven philosophy of improvements that focuses on defect prevention over defect detection. It drives customer satisfaction by reducing wastes and cycle time while promoting the use of work standardization and flow, thereby creating a competitive advantage.

Six Sigma Belts

Six Sigma has layers to the teaching, methodology, and approach. As you descent higher, you level up in Six Sigma in form of belts. The analogy is similar to belts offered in Taekwondo-Karate. Each Six Sigma Belt prepares you for the next.

With that said, you can start from anywhere, however, the Master Black Belt is different. You must have a Black Belt Certification from a recognized organization before you can enroll in a Master Black Belt Program.

Let’s have a look at Six Sigma belts and what role it prepares you for.

  • White Belt: Serves basic introduction to Six Sigma for those new to the domain.
  • Yellow Belt: A step up from White Belt. Dive deeper into the basics and fundamentals.
  • Green Belt: Intermediate program that prepares you to work on process improvement projects within a company.
  • Black Belt: Advanced program that prepares you to manage and lead project teams.
  • Master Black Belt: Prestigious program that prepares you to educate others and become a master in the domain.


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