The Art of Problem Solving and Continuous Process Improvement
Six Sigma methodology is an approach used by businesses in order to enhance business profitability, overall business performance, productivity, reduce operational cost and improve customer satisfaction. It is a disciplined, systematic approach to problem solving and continuous process improvement. This breakthrough methodology has changed the way many companies approach process improvement by focusing on the elimination of process defects.
Companies are achieving significant results in customer satisfaction, while attaining a distinct competitive advantage in the form of reduced costs, improved efficiency, and increased profitability. The benefits of Six Sigma can include breakthrough improvements and greater customer satisfaction. It is a proven and very efficient approach to establish correct and disciplined strategies to improve the overall quality of business operations to achieve faster growth.
The objective is the implementation of a measurement-based strategy that focuses on process improvement and variation reduction. This disciplined approach is accomplished through the use of the DMAIC process (define, measure, analyze, improve, control) to identify root causes that improve processes, achieve and sustain incremental improvements and improve the company’s bottom line.
The traditional Six Sigma methodology operates under the following main steps:
- Define – Identify the processes that are in need of improvement, define the problem, the voice of the customer, and the project goals
- Measure – Map and measure process in question and establish current performance baseline
- Analyze – Enable the identification and validation of the root cause of the problem
- Improve – Establish performance targets and future performance state
- Control – Continue to monitor the process to ensure gains are sustained
Bill Smith at Motorola developed Six Sigma in the early 1980′s. It was originally designed as a quality metric that was used to reduce defects in the production of electronic components, which extended to and embraced many existing quality improvement methods. I should also note that the term “Six Sigma” is a registered trademark, owned by Motorola. According to Motorola, this methodology has saved the company over 17 billion dollars from its inception to 2006.
As a member of the Avaya Business Partner Council, I was recently introduced to the Six Sigma methodology by Adnon Dow, Avaya’s SMEC Vice President. As a Six Sigma Black Belt, he helped our Sub Committee Work Groups understand that structured methodology can be applied to improvement opportunities that are directly linked to organizational strategy.
Our Work Groups were tasked to develop breakthrough project plans, milestones, deliverables, and timelines for committee projects. We had to define and use business objectives and metrics that focused our attention on performance and initiatives that are most important to the customer and have the greatest potential for impacting our collective bottom line.
I quickly realized that I have a lot to learn. The statistical thinking used in the six sigma methodology needs to be understood and studied in depth. Training and lots of it are therefore an essential element of the Six Sigma methodology.
I truly believe that everything we do opens up the chances for process defects to sneak in. I feel that all businesses are capable of improving processes with the Six Sigma methodology. Improved efficiency equals a better product or service, a happier customer, and higher profits.
So far, everything that I have read tells me that the Six Sigma methodology continues to evolve and is becoming more flexible. We should recognize that it essentially provides a framework to train our employees to focus on key performance areas. The tools can help organizations understand their strategy related to its market-place, the services that their customers need most and better organize processes that deliver these customer requirements.
As a Sales and Service company, I believe that the principles of Six Sigma, such as the identification of “critical to customer” requirements, could be very effective in improving sales processes and capabilities to drive growth and customer satisfaction.
Benefits to using Six Sigma methodology in a Sales/Service Organization:
- Better company performance by identifying the sales activities that are critical to winning business
- Cost reductions by standardizing account management capability with consistent, measurable sales processes and activities
- Optimize sales processes, product and service offers based on best practices
- Raise the level of sales performance targets
- Identify and eliminate time wasting activities to increase time available for productive selling activities
- Funnel management improvement to increase win rates and penetration rates
- Higher margins and improved customer satisfaction
When an organization decides to implement Six Sigma, first the company’s leadership team has to embrace the concept and decide the strategy or improvement initiatives. Team members will need to be trained in the Six Sigma use of measurement and improvement tools. I believe, this education is an investment in problem-solving skills for your business and promotes professional development of your staff with the tools and techniques to make them more effective employees.
I’m convinced that a business that uses this approach can achieve higher performance in customer loyalty, market share, employee satisfaction and profitability. It creates a culture of success in your organization, which leads to breakthrough performance that generates long-term, sustainable value-both for your company and your customers.
Jamie Wood, Avatel EVP
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