Dec 072009

The Application Of Six Sigma Concepts To Improve The Customers’ Experience


What Is Six Sigma Process Management? is a relatively quick study at just over 100 pages; however, given a methodical structure, plain language and ample diagrams the authors render the subject as simple to absorb as possible. Being a rookie in the field the book’s methodology was indeed straightforward. How that translates to experienced readers, black belts and consultants in the field is best read in other reviews, but the presence of a concise description of all concepts involved was a plus in this circle. Having said that, a better compilation of definitions and a glossary are missed.

The authors’ definition is that “The Six Sigma Process Management methodology is a practical approach that focuses the tools and rigor of Lean Six Sigma on your critical processes in order to help you identify the most strategic and customer-focused opportunities for Lean Six Sigma projects in your organizations.” The book next relates this topic to what every company has and needs to improve upon, namely products (or services), delivery and value for employees, suppliers and customers. This is where the concept of SIPOC (Suppliers, Input, Process, Output and Customers) is connected to the basic methodology of DMAIC (define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control). In the case of the `Customers’ the process must be value-add i.e. customers must be willing to pay for something the company does that can be done correctly for them the first time around that has gone through a transformation before being delivered.
This book defines what it means when it speaks of a process management in Six Sigma (“end-to-end core processes” are those high-level processes that are the primary drivers of value, satisfaction and profit), goes into detail in the implementation and management phase, discusses the tools needed and ends with a snapshot of what a future organization practicing the science would ostensibly look like. One such process is the obvious one, order-to-cash. However, an inordinate amount of emphasis is given to the management of the process. The authors emphasize the needs for constant and consistent executive sponsorship and the imperative that “process governance” be maintained. The authors’ practical experience in the field likely renders the judgment that strong leadership needs to be sustained for any Six Sigma process to succeed. The presence and approval of executive leadership will prevent an emotional and practical disconnect on behalf of the participants and the failure of the project. And here is a simple formulae for measuring the effort: R(esult) = Q(uality of the solution) x A(cceptance of the solution).

As the book admits, Six Sigma Process Management (SSPM) is not for the faint-hearted. The inter-linked process requires detailed self-examination, metrics, analysis and supervision. However, it can be done and needs to be done and the tools are outlined here. Clearly, the message is that variations and detours are possible, and have been successes at companies like GE or Amex, but the hierarchy and the basics are not in doubt for these practitioners. SSPM will help identify the current processes, deducing what needs to be done and mapping a near-future strategy with the vital Voice Of Customer in mind.

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