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Six Sigma as Quality Management Intervention

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Six Sigma as Quality Management Intervention

Six Sigma as Quality Management Intervention

Quality Management

According to The American Society for Quality the term Total Quality Management was first used by the U.S. Naval Air Systems Command to describe its Japanese-style management approach to quality improvement. The methods for implementing this approach, however, found their roots in the teachings of such leaders as “Philip B. Crosby, W. Edwards Deming, Armand V. Feigenbaum, Kaoru Ishikawa and Joseph M. Juran,”(ASQ). While the original title has fallen out of favor in the United States and has been redefined as Quality Management, Europe still holds to the original Total Quality Management.

According to Total Quality Magazine, Quality Management (QM) is a comprehensive and structured approach to organizational management. QM seeks to improve the quality of products and services through ongoing long-term refinements. Achieved in response to continuous feedback, each company defines QM for a particular organization based on their individual adherence to established company standards. QM found its beginnings in the manufacturing sector and has since been adapted for use in numerous types of organization. “QM requires that the company maintain this quality standard in all aspects of its business. This requires ensuring that things are done right the first time and that defects and waste are eliminated from operations,” (Wikipedia Encylopedia).

The QM processes are divided into four categories: plan, do, check, and act. These four categories are based on the PDCA or PDSA cycle which was originally conceived by Walter Shewhart in 1930's, and later adopted by W. Edwards Deming, according to the The Clinician’s Black Bag for Quality Improvement Tools. In the planning phase, people define what they intended to. Looking for areas that hold the most return for their effort, data is collected and the root cause for the intended change is defined. In the doing phase, a plan of action is implemented and the results are measured. The checking phase confirms the results through before-and-after data comparison. This phase allows us to monitor the course that will be taken in the final phase of action. In the act phase, after reviewing the information obtained in the check phase a decision is made to change, to abandon the course of action, or to run the QM process again.

Six Sigma

One such QM-focused process is known as Six Sigma. This 35 year-old process for quality improvement has found success in many diverse forms of business including schools, management, and churches. Even NASA has seen dramatic improvement upon implementation of this process.

The Six Sigma of today has its roots in the quality-focused leadership of Philip Crosby, according to his book Quality is Free. The Six Sigma that is seen today is actually a philosophy that builds on the time-proven techniques of Statistical Process Control (SPC) and Quality Management (QM).

The main features of Six Sigma

Six Sigma was originally suited for defensive organizational transformation. However, it has recently found success in business environments. In determining if Six Sigma is the correct intervention to use, an either/or approach is not always necessary since Six Sigma uses tools that are common to other forms of intervention and can be integrated with other quality control processes. In fact, implementing Six Sigma along with another form of intervention can often lead to faster results with a more focused end result. When implementing Six Sigma, a four phase approach is commonly used; orientation, preparation, roll-out, and integration. The emphasis when using Six Sigma should be on the finding the approach that best fits the client in order to achieve the needed results based on their unique cultures.

Six Sigma’s objective is the gathering of measurable data and determining how far a given process deviates from perfection,“ if you can measure how many "defects" you have in a process, you can systematically figure out how to eliminate them and get as close to "zero defects" as possible, (General Electric ). The two types of data that can be found in business are hard data, defined as discrete data that can be counted, and soft data, defined as opinions and client/employee satisfaction that is acquired and reported to management in a meaningful way. The process of turning this data into actionable information is a two-fold process: knowing what to extract and knowing how to display, (George H. Chynoweth, Ph.D. and Six Sigma). Six Sigma uses such tools as checklists, surveys, and quantitative goals to gather data on process improvements and it’s overall effectiveness in the business.

According to Six Sigma’s definition

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