Six Sigma Problem Solving
Six Sigma problem solving encompasses basic to advanced tools and techniques to successfully resolve process and business performance problems of all magnitudes.
Einstein said that a problem can not be resolved at the level at which it occurred. Yet the usual way that we humans solve problems seems to remain at the level where it originated.
Humans usually follow the following problem-solving method:
Understand what is to be improved and set a goal; Measure their current state—if at all; Apply conventional wisdom or gut theory; Take action, and Measure to verify improvement has taken place.
Now, whilst this may be an acceptable method for resolving a problem, it is one major drawback is its overreliance on sentiment or “gut feel”.
The Six Sigma Way The Six Sigma way of resolving a problem is not widely different from the conventional way described above. Its major departure is that the cause of the problem is not known, even though assumptions may be made.
Six Sigma problem solving requires that proof be sought as the (a) the existence of the problem and (b) the true causes to the problem.
The proof is required simply because resources are limited in all organizations and businesses today can ill afford waste through actions based on hunches. Six Sigma has evolved a methodology commonly referred to as DMAIC ( Define—Measure—Analyse-Improve-Control). Using the DMAIC methodology to resolve the problem would see the following process employed:
- Define: Understand what process is to be improved and set a goal.
- Measure: Measure the current state.
- Analyse: Develop a cause and effect theory of what may be causing the problem. Search for the real causes of the problem and scientifically prove the cause and effect linkage.
- Improve: Take action. Test or pilot the solution and prove that it will result in an improvement.
- Control: Measure to verify sustained improvement has taken place. Take actions to ensure sustained future gains.
The Six Sigma methodology is nothing other than a search for the real causes of a problem. Prioritizing those causes. Developing solutions to each cause and testing that by changing the cause the outcome of the process is positively influenced.
As Chew Jian Chieh writes: “Now is that not just common sense?”
Six Sigma problem solving incorporates several proven tools and techniques that have evolved from various business disciplines to address business process and performance issues and/or opportunities of varying magnitude.