I had my performance evaluation this week and Six Sigma was mentioned. While I was asked not to enroll in a class because of the time commitment, Six Sigma was inserted in the discussion due to some work errors resulting from not checking details. I am a compensation manager in human resources and am wondering how I would use Six Sigma. Thoughts?

bflynn's picture

Disclaimer - I'm no six sigma expert and I don't play one at work. My understanding of the general methodology of Six Sigma is as a method for error reduction in repeatable processes. The idea is to define your process, determine where errors occur most frequently, change the process to eliminate the errors and continue to monitor it.

Think about that in terms of what you do. Do you understand your processes? Are you tracking your errors back to their source? Do you know why they are caused? Do you know how often they happen?

How would you use it? You might start by defining your processes and identifying where errors occur. Define a metric as to what constitutes an error and begin tracking how many operations you perform and how often you get errors. Run statistics on your observations and see how often your errors occur. Make changes or insert steps to the process until your error rate improves to an acceptable level.


martinoriordan's picture

I have found Six Sigma awkward to apply to some transactional processes. A lot of the Six Sigma tools rely heavily on measurements & then statistical analysis, which may not suit some transactional processes. That said I have seen great results from it. I like the general methodology for approaching problems and it encourages data-driven decision from all.

Lean training could also be a potential option. I really like the focus on the defining value from the customer’s perspective and relentless rooting out waste from the process. Six Sigma is great for eliminating variation in a process while lean focuses on the removal of waste from the process.

[quote="bflynn"] Do you understand your processes?[/quote]
For transactional processes, getting an accurate understanding of the process is key. A great set of tools for this is process mapping. Your view of the process may be very different to those who perform each step. Getting the team together to map it out can be a great exercise with plenty of ah-ha moments & plenty of questions: why do you do that? Etc…

I’ve listed a link from the American Society for Quality (not a member) on the basics of a flowcharting.

[quote="bflynn"] Are you tracking your errors back to their source? Do you know why they are caused? Do you know how often they happen?[/quote]

Root cause analysis… There are some very simple tools to use here that can be very powerful: 5 whys, fishbone diagram or cause and effect diagram… if you have some data try some basic statistcal analsysis… maybe even a Pareto analysis etc…

Once you have identified and definied the real problem, solving it is a lot easier…

HMac's picture

bflynn does a really good explanation of the tool.

I'll add that the real power of the tool shows itself when you're dealing with processes that occur tens of thousands or [i]millions [/i]of times - because bringing down the error rate in a process that happens 400,000 times can yield meaningful improvements.

I'm certified at the Green Belt level in Six Sigma - and I know THIS MUCH to be true:

Like many other popular tools, Six Sigma has become overused in corporate America. It's being applied way too often, as a "magic solution" for a lot of things that can be handled very well using other proceses.

So while you certainly ought to be looking at ways to reduce work errors resulting from not cehcking details, Six Sigma is likey not to be the best or most efficient methodology for fixing the process.


AManagerTool's picture

I think you would find more value in something called Lean Six Sigma or just Lean than pure Six Sigma. Transactional analysis is a cornerstone of the lean methodologies.

US101's picture
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Six Sigma is too much horsepower for HR.

I suggest using GE's Work-Out process.

HMac's picture

Great suggestion 101 -

I remember reading about Work-Out in Noel Tichy's [i]"Control Your Destiny or Someone Else Will"[/i] - but I think that was more of a description, and not a real "how to." Can you suggest any other sources?


US101's picture
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The book goes into great detail, step-by-step, and with examples from different industries.