Six Sigma can be intimidating to outsiders or those who are just learning about it. But it doesn’t have to be!

It is a methodology that gives those who practice it a unique view on processes and people. Six Sigma employs dozens of problem-solving tools and has its own terminology to describe the concepts that it uses to improve quality by reducing defects.

Even complete strangers to Six Sigma can gain a working knowledge of how the methodology works. They need only develop a basic Six Sigma literacy by becoming acquainted with the fundamentals.

A Sound-bite Summary of Six Sigma Basics:

Philosophy – Process inputs control the outputs and determine their level of quality.

Focus – An unending quest for improving business processes.

Methods – Known as DMAIC (define, measure, analyze, improve, and control) and DMADV (define, measure, analyze, design, verify).

Measure of Success – Ultimately reducing defects to 3.4 per one million opportunities.

Drive – Six Sigma is fueled by people with a hunger for constant improvement.

The Belts Hold Everything Together

six-sigma-belt-levelsSix Sigma relies heavily on data analysis and statistical measurement, but what really makes Six Sigma work is the people who practice it. To help coordinate the efforts of Six Sigma practitioners and give them the training and support they need, Six Sigma uses a belt system.

The Six Sigma belt system uses a ranking structure similar to the one used in martial arts disciplines. This belt system creates a hierarchy. The structure helps Six Sigma-certified employees coordinate their work by clearly defining the roles they play on the project team.

Each belt level has different qualifications and responsibilities.

Green Belts – These employees usually practice Six Sigma part-time. They generally spend 25% of their work time on Six Sigma projects. They help with data gathering and data analysis, and contribute their functional knowledge to project teams. Green Belts work under the direction of Black Belts.

Black Belts – Black Belts practice Six Sigma as their full-time job. They are instrumental in preparing project charters and selecting Six Sigma projects. They help mentor and train team members, guiding them through complex statistical analysis. Black Belts help select Six Sigma projects and communicate progress to executive leadership.

Master Black Belts (MBBs) – MBBs have more training and experience than any other level of Six Sigma employee. As the ultimate process improvement authorities, Master Black Belts are often called upon to provide Six Sigma advice and counsel to Black Belts and members of upper management.

DMAIC vs. DMADVTwo Ways to Practice Six Sigma

Six Sigma is used to improve new or existing processes.

DMADV – This method occurs in five phases define, measure, analyze, design and verify. It helps teams design a new product or service. DMADV compels project teams to identify customer needs and convert them into a product or service that satisfies them.

DMAIC – This acronym stands for the stages of define, measure, analyze, improve and control, and it is used to improve existing processes. DMAIC employs fact-based statistical analysis to reduce defects and improve processes.

How Companies Benefit from Six Sigma

Six Sigma turns an organization’s employees into quality improvement experts and equips them with principles and tools to solve quality problems by reducing defects. A lower defect rate helps companies produce more goods or services at a lower cost – all while increasing overall profitability.