Six Sigma Solves Problems with an Unknown Solution

Six Sigma is a powerful business improvement strategy. It helps your organization to identify, reduce, and eliminate defects from any product, process, or transaction. More than a “quality” program, Six Sigma is a flexible and dynamic continuous improvement strategy and process initiative that helps your organization uncover solutions.

For example, you may know that a particular process at your organization is not meeting customer specification or is otherwise not performing adequately. However, the solution is not apparent up front. There are many variables that could be causing the defect in the process. How do you determine what specific action you can take to improve your process and reduce defects? Finding that unknown solution is what Six Sigma does best.

Six Sigma is not a pre-packaged one-fits-all solution. Six Sigma is a process that doesn’t impose a particular outcome but discovers the previously unknown solution to a problem. It uses a structured systems approach to problem solving that achieves strategic business results through an intelligent step-by-step process. A structured thinking process helps solve problems better than an ad hoc, blank page approach.

Six Sigma leads organizations through five-steps of realization:
1. We don’t know what we don’t know.
2. We can’t do what we don’t know.
3. We won’t know until we measure.
4. We don’t measure what we don’t value.
5. We don’t value what we don’t measure.

By using Six Sigma to identify and correct major problems you create real data that uncovers previously unknown solutions to problems solutions that you most likely would not be able to discover except through the Six Sigma methodology. What drives this process is the DMAIC method. DMAIC is an acronym for five interconnected phases of a Six Sigma project: Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control. By going through the structured phases you discover the unknown solution to your quality problem.

First you identify the problem you need to solve. At the Define stage of a project, you should have a defined issue or problem you wish to overcome and improve. Once a process is selected as a candidate for improvement, a problem statement is developed and the objective or desired outcome is defined. Progress measures are established and a cost/benefit analysis is performed.

Also during the Define phase, you highlight what the project is supposed to do and how it is supposed to do it and what metrics apply. With a clear measurable set of indicators, the Measure phase studies the process to determine the key process steps and variables to determine the potential ways the process could be going wrong.

After measurements are gathered, the data is analyzed to discover what is causing process variation. Once problem causes are determined in the Analyze phase, you find, evaluate through testing, and decide on creative new improvement solutions. As you move through the Analyze and Improve stages of the process you will identify various process improvement scenarios, and determine which solution has the best net benefit impact to the company.

Most likely, the variation is from a completely unknown source. Without going through the Analyze and Improve stages you would not have known what improvement was required, much less what categories of variables were being affected!

Six Sigma is about tackling problems with an unknown solution. Six Sigma experts know that there are no one-size-fits-all solutions. Six Sigma training provides participants with enhanced problem-solving skills, with an emphasis on the methodology for identifying and creating solutions.

As Six Sigma practitioners, you need to be agnostic. Use the best tools from all of the various methods and apply the right solution to the right problem. Through being agnostic and open-minded you will discover solutions through observation and data rather than just impose solutions from the outside. This enables you to use the best from all of the various methods and tools available and apply the right solution to the right problem. You will be amazed at how well THAT works!

Peter Peterka is a Master Six Sigma Black Belt for Six Sigma us and has implemented Six Sigma in a variety of organizations. For additional information for Six Sigma Online Training please contact Peter Peterka at

Author: Peter Peterka Google

Published 09/1/2008

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