Definition of Six Sigma - Six Sigma

Before we study the subject of Six Sigma in any depth, we need to define the term. Perhaps unusually Six Sigma has 3 distinct elements to its definition:

  • A Measure: A statistical definition of how far a process deviates from perfection.
  • A Target: defects per million opportunities.
  • A Philosophy: A long term business strategy focused on the reduction of cost through the reduction of variability in products and processes.

Accordingly it is defined in a variety of ways by several authors, but for the purposes of these notes the definition from Pandeet al (2000) focused on the more comprehensive philosophy of Six Sigma will be used:

“A comprehensive and lexible system for achieving, sustaining and maximising 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.”

A strong structure and clear alignment to organisational goals (particularly financial) are a key part of the Six Sigma approach as defined by Eckes (2001). Leadership is provided by a team of Champions - Senior Champion, Deployment Champion, Project Champion at corporate, unit and department levels respectively supported by a team of experts. The experts are referred to as Black Belts (who work full time on projects at process level to solve critical problems and achieve bottom-line results) and Master Black Belts (who provide mentoring, training and expert support to the Black Belts). Ingle and Roe (2001) note that that this significant organisational structure can range from 4000 Black Belts in a corporate population of 340,000 in GE to 120 Black Belts in a corporate population of 100,000 in Motorola. Black Belt training is typically 16 - 20 weeks in GE and a year in Motorola (Ingle and Roe, 2001), although both are interspersed with projects that bring value to the organisation.


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