Sigma is delivering our corporate strategy by
reshaping our company, making us more effective
and building the caterpillar of tomorrow”
Glen Barton, Chairman and CEO Caterpillar inc.
Six Sigma is a way
of transforming your business – make no mistake
about it. It can and will create dramatic increases
in customer satisfaction, productivity and shareholder
Customers value consistent, predictable business processes
that deliver world-class levels of quality. This
is what Six Sigma strives to produce.
We have the ultimate
goal of creating competitive advantage, through;
• Exceeding customer expectations
• Developing best-in-class processes and products
• Eliminating all defects
• Delivering on time in full – every time
• Empowering people
• Minimising product and/or service unit costs
Six Sigma will be an exciting
journey and may also be the most difficult and invigorating
stretch goal ever undertaken.
While other business improvement
philosophies and strategies, like TQM have come and
gone, Six Sigma has been around for 20 years and the
number of business embracing it is increasing exponentially.
It is not another ‘magic solution’ to achieve world
class – but real and quantifiable (financially), tied
into the company’s business strategies and substantial
in its deliverables.
Since 1986, when Motorola launched
Six Sigma, hundreds of companies around the world
have adopted it as a way of doing business. Nowadays
we are seeing an exponential growth in companies using
Six Sigma in response to commercial pressure and to
secure and grow new markets.
It is being used in all sectors;
heavy engineering to electronics, financial services
to retail, and in all processes, including the so-called
transactional processes in administration. It can
have enormous opportunity for benefit – as historically
we seem to spend a lot of time developing products,
and little developing our administration function.
Sigma recognises and deals with
problems…..there are any problems occurring in products,
services or processes – for the customer this often
means failure to live up to expectation, and for the
organisation – massive avoidable cost, in many cases
cost that was previously seen as unavoidable!
Six Sigma is also a statistical
measure of process capability…………..this allows you
measure the quality of your business’ products and
services. A level of 6 sigma (about 3 defects per
million opportunities), represents the highest possible
quality: virtually all outputs and business processes
To be precise, Six Sigma strives
for perfection and allows for only 3.4 defects per
million opportunities for each product or service
transaction. But most companies today function at
only 3 to 4 sigma and lose 10-15% of their total revenue
due to defects. At 4 sigma
(or 99% perfect), this still means 6,210 defects per
So what does this mean
in everyday life, if the goal is 99% quality, well
there would be:
• One hour of unsafe drinking
water per month
• Two unsafe plane landings per day
• 16,000 pieces of lost mail every hour
• 500 incorrect surgical operations per week
Motorola, are attributed as being
the first company to launch Six Sigma companywide,
and their success has been nothing short
Six Sigma has its roots way back
to Carl Frederick Gauss (1777-1855) who
introduced the concept of the normal curve,
and as a measurement standard in product
variation, when Walter Shewhart in the 1920’s
showed that 3 sigma from the mean is the
point where a process requires correction.
Many measurement standards (Cpk, Zero Defects,
etc.) later came on the scene but credit
for coining the term "Six Sigma" goes to
Motorola in 1986.
The name Six Sigma derives from its
origins in the control of variation during
the manufacturing process. The intention
of Motorola’s engineers was to keep variation
in their products down to a level where
the tolerance limits for the product were
at least six standard deviations (sigma)
away from the mean measure on both sides.
General Electric, one of the first
and most successful companies using Six
Sigma says that it can be defined as; “completely
satisfying customers’ needs profitably”.
Six Sigma & e-business solutions
are becoming inextricably linked as Six
Sigma is becoming even more important as
e-business becomes more important.
It is precisely the e-business market
– one of exceptional opportunity, but exceptional
competition and complexity that Six Sigma
becomes not a choice but a necessity. The
e-business means easier to compare prices
and features and choices than ever before,
and Six Sigma delivers the key differentiators
in the e-business world, that of; speed,
agility and quality.
In essence, it distils complex processes
down to what is essential, driven by the
voice of the customer, and provides hard
measures of how well you perform the essential.
In the world of quality, the saying
goes; “It takes money to save money” is
also true with Six Sigma, but the returns
are of a different order.
The reason why Six Sigma has, and
continues to be so successful is that it
makes businesses a great deal of money,
while everyone benefits!
This is achieved directly, not only
through its focus on reducing variation
and hence cost, and ‘critical to quality’
characteristics, but also on reducing the
complexity of those products, services and
processes eventually delivered to the customer.
The Six Sigma approach has been used
with great success in leading companies
who have made vast amounts of savings from
Six Sigma; the most talked about are;
• Motorola who have documented savings
due to Six Sigma in excess of $16 billion
• General Electric say they save
over $2.5 billion annually, and have added
$1 to their earnings per share
• Ford saved $52 million in one year
Six Sigma is for everyone, and a
company can save around 2% to 5% of revenue.
Our experience has shown a return on investment
of 3:1, even in the first year.
If Six Sigma is not giving a good
return then you’re applying it the wrong
The benefits are quite remarkable,
not only for the bottom-line and the customer,
but also for the people involved who see
their potential being realised, being empowered
and involved in innovative teamwork satisfying
both their, and the organisations goals.
Six Sigma can and will produce a
culture shift within your organisation,
a shift that causes every employee to think
about how their actions impact the customer,
the importance of controlling variation,
a belief of being empowered, and a desire
to communicate effectively within the business
using a consistent language.
Again, all this will require a resource
commitment, but the payback is enormous!
This is a simplified business case
for a particular process improvement
This enables Innovation Consultancy
Partnership to address the key questions;
• What effect must we achieve?
• Who will be involved?
• How will results be measured?
• When do we get the ROI?
The challenge is that most of our
very best companies currently operate and
produce products and services at about 3
to 4 sigma; this gives a quality level of
about 95%. But in today’s hypercompetitive
world this error-free level is just not
Customer/data driven Six Sigma sets
aggressive improvement targets of 70% or
higher and achieves them, transforming the
traditional mindset, where a 5% or 10% gain
“We have found that by reaching
for what appears to be the impossible, we
often actually do the impossible.”
- Jack Welch.
Jack Welsh is one of the greatest
corporate leaders of the 20th century and
during his time as CEO of GE, stock price
rose from just over $4 to $133.
You can expect to significantly reduce
costs and increase sales using Six Sigma
by investing in and realising the potential
of your people, products and processes –
and all stakeholders will benefit from this
A view from the bridge
This is a six sigma effectiveness
tool that not only allows a company to determine
how to proceed with a six sigma program
but also to asses and monitor progress.
These are the main components that head
up 92 individual elements that provide an
invaluable checklist of those elements that
need to be in place for a successful program.
Launching a six sigma program requires
careful planning. The Six Sigma Business
Assessment is an excellent tool to establish
those critical attributes required for your
organisation; this is given in section.
Thereafter, the wave delivery process
can be launched. This process is defined
in the diagram;
The focus historically is often on
either on initiating a high volume of projects
in the hope that a few will pay off ensuring
that the overall program has some success.
Alternatively, projects have been selected
with scant regard for complexity or impact
on the business.
This simple model puts project selection
carefully, on the agenda so that focus is
given to those vital few actions that become;
“the difference that will make the difference”
Typical project criteria - summary
• Strategic Fit: Clear alignment
with organisations’ goals / KPI’s / cost
• Savings: Minimum delivery must be £specified
and may cover several parts of a Themed
• Complexity: Speed/ease of implementation
depending on legacy & complexity but target
completion in four months
• Organisational Span: Coverage across the
organisation or within a specific area are
The type of people involved in a
six sigma project very much depends on the
kind of project being undertaken. This diagram
depicts two quite different structures that
may be adopted; depending on whether it
is a discrete and a relatively small project,
or a themed project requiring a group of
black belts and their individual project
teams working towards a common goal.
The first phase is Define. The objective
is to define the project's purpose and scope
and collect background information on the
process and customer. In this phase project
goals will be agreed based on your knowledge
of your company’s strategic business goals,
customer needs, and the process that needs
to be improved to get you to a higher sigma
During the define phase, a Team Charter
will be developed with an overview of the
process to be improved, and information
on what is critical to quality for customers
The goal for the Measure phase is
to focus the improvement effort by gathering
information about the current situation.
This will help to narrow the range of potential
causes needed to investigate the opportunity
in the next Analyse phase. An important
part of the Measure phase is to establish
a baseline capability level for the performance
of the process.
Once data in the baseline performance
has been stratified, then one can pinpoint
where the problems originate very clearly.
This helps to focus the problem statement.
In this phase, therefore, one is able to
identify root causes and confirm them with
In this phase, one should now be
ready to develop, try out, and implement
solutions that address root causes. The
goal is to demonstrate, with data, that
the solutions solve the problem and lead
to improvement. Also to make plans for full-scale
Putting a solution in place can
temporarily fix a problem, but the Control
phase is designed to help make sure the
problem stays fixed and that the new methods
can be improved over time. The goal of this
phase is to evaluate the solutions and plan,
maintain the gains by standardising processes,
and anticipate next steps.
Soft sigma means addressing people’s
attitudes, behaviours and motivations towards
change. All the technical knowledge and
skill in the world will not deliver substantial
and sustainable improvement without the
desire to improve, by doing work differently.
Our attitudes to change are what
really need to be addressed so that changing
what we do becomes acceptable and the norm.
Our attitudes are influenced by how we feel
(affective) based on the support and recognition
we receive, as well as what we know (cognitive)
about, and this does have a major impact
on what we do, our behaviour.
Often this means involving many people
across the organisation, not simply those
that have been trained. Good communication,
commitment, leadership, empathy and empowerment
are vital, as is the recognition of how
others may see change affecting their working
The Change Challenge
Reference: Clairy Wiholm, a Six Sigma
deployment manager for Ericsson.
We recognise that people are often anxious
and uncomfortable about change – it is quite
natural that people will prefer to stay
within their comfort zones, rather than
risk embarrassing or costly failure.
People have a natural fear of failure
that in reality often means; false expectations
Innovation Consultancy Partnership
understands and tackles these very real
concerns head-on by using a range of behaviour
change tools & techniques and by;
• Involving everyone impacted on
the change to become involved in the challenge.
• Encouraging people to take risks,
and reassuring them that those risks are
necessary and worthwhile
• Explaining that doing nothing too has
its own risks
• Mentoring and working with peers who are
less fearful about change
• Giving people clear objectives so that
they know what is expected of them
• Recognising achievement with encouragement
and reinforcement of learning
• Coaching the effective implementation
of new ideas
• Developing a trusting culture that give
people the opportunity and freedom succeed.
This is crucial to succeed in transforming
your organisation into something significantly
better, for the long term.
Six Sigma most definitely does mean
learning and using statistics – and rightly
so to enable fact based decision making,
and identifying those vital few X’s that
affect the Y.
Six Sigma also means, in our view,
that; soft sigma is really the hard sigma
when it comes to implementing transformational
Our approach provides a framework
• Applicable to all business processes
- administrative, manufacturing, sales,
marketing, R&D, etc
• Flexible in that encourages top-down commitment,
linked to the business strategy and sponsored
• Focused and prioritises ‘critical to quality’
essentials based on the ‘voice of the customer’
• Fact based, with data driven decisions,
• Geared towards projects that achieve exponential
• Bottom-line results-oriented
• Hands-on in realising potential in developing
Our focus leads our clients
towards world class benchmarked performance
in the areas of, for example;
• Increasing Overall Equipment Effectiveness
• Improving delivery reliability
• Reducing inventory
• Growing productivity
• Raising quality standards
• Reducing non value-added operations.
Our eight golden rules to
ensure success are;
• Commitment -
get the buy-in of senior managers so that
it receives the resources, awareness and
focus it deserves ensuring successful outcomes
• Opportunities - select
projects carefully and aligned with the
strategic plan, and what the business is
trying to achieve as a whole – using the
new knowledge and skill here will lead more
readily to achieving the vision
• People - carefully select
the people – not necessarily the naturally
technical ones, but those who could aspire
to future leaders, communicate the benefits
and drive improvement.
• Training – to provide
the right knowledge and skills to the right
people, as Six Sigma must increase stakeholder
value, and not simply train Black Belts
• Teamwork - tackle a large
problem that can be broken down and addressed
by a team working together, rather than
many small separate problems tackled individually
• Coaching - spend adequate
time providing leader support and expert
process/skill coaching as this is invaluable
in maximising the learning experience and
hence the resultant benefit.
• Recognition – recognise
achievement for the project team, as well
as the individual
• Prevention - integrate
and align the Six Sigma tools & techniques
into daily life, so that they are used as
prevention rather than simply to react and
Our resource is a team of mature
and experienced trainers, consultants and
expert coaches who support our clients in
implementing Six Sigma within their organisation.
We have worked with the tools & techniques
and philosophies of Six Sigma for over 20
years. In fact we gave one of the very first
presentations of Process Improvement using
these tools & techniques to an audience
of business leaders at the Café Royal in
London in 1987.
We are able to provide the
following bespoke / tailored services;
• Full implementation across the
o Top Team awareness & advice workshops
• Specific awareness, training and
coaching in any of the above to support a
new or previous Six Sigma initiative
• A project quality assurance guarantee
with practical project monitoring and control
support using tried and tested procedures,
documentation and checks. We use traffic light
visual criteria for this purpose, see below;
o People and project selection & definition
o Black Belt, Green Belt and Yellow Belt
o Expert process/skill coaching
o Six Sigma business assessment
o Financial & non financial quantification
o Implementation planning
of the indicator are to:
• improve visibility of Six Sigma
projects, training and savings / benefits
• identify where support is needed
• provide a benchmark of operational excellence
• provide clear indicator of overall project
management and control Our methodology transfers
Six Sigma knowledge and skills to our clients,
enabling them to create ownership, generate
results and sustain success.
In so doing we support our clients
across all business sectors in achieving
outstanding results that;
• Deliver stakeholder value and higher
return on investment
• Translate strategic goals into results
• Create dramatic performance improvements
• Increase revenue while reducing costs
• Drive core processes and customer service
• Develop an entrepreneurial culture