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Curriculum Center Browse Bibliography Build EPacket Pricing Structure Distribution Process Management Control in Nonprofit Organizations
Note on Six Sigma
Heineke, Janelle
Functional Area(s):
   Operations Management
   Organizational Behavior
   For Profit
Difficulty Level: Beginner
Pages: 4
Teaching Note: Not Available. 
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First Page and the Assignment Questions:
Six Sigma is a process improvement methodology pioneered at Motorola by Bill Smith in the 1980s. Six Sigma clearly builds on a strong foundation of Total Quality Management (TQM) principles, but it is more structured than earlier approaches, is more focused on the bottom line and profitability, and brings its own organizational structure that is superimposed on the functional organization of the firm. Another key difference is that Six Sigma programs emphasize standardization and ongoing monitoring of processes, which was part of earlier TQM programs, but not as central to their improvement models. Fundamentally, the goal of Six Sigma efforts is to reduce variation in process output so that customer needs can be consistently met.


    Several roles are critical to the success of Six Sigma.

o    Team Member: an individual who participates as a member of Six Sigma teams but who has not had any formal training in Six Sigma methods.

o    Yellow Belt: an individual who has had some broad training in the Six Sigma process and an introduction to the basic quality tools. Yellow Belts may participate as members of Six Sigma project teams or as content experts for the process under study.

o    Green Belt: an individual who participates in Six Sigma project teams or who leads a team on smaller projects. Green Belts are very familiar with the basic quality tools and have some training in statistical methods.

o    Black Belt: an individual who has been highly trained in quality management and statistical tools and who has full-time responsibility for managing improvement projects. Black Belts bring analysis expertise and lead Six Sigma teams but may or may not be an expert in the process being improved.

o    Master Black Belt: a successful Black Belt who has managed several projects who trains and coaches Black Belts. Master Black Belts are often involved in particularly complex or important Six Sigma projects.

o    Process Owner: the manager responsible for the process under study. Process owners help to keep the Six Sigma team on track and on budget and work with their employees to implement the improved process.

o    Champion: an upper-middle or senior executive who acts as an advocate for Six Sigma projects and who coordinates with senior management to make sure that the appropriate resources are made available. Champions are also often involved in development of project objectives and in helping to manage the politics involved in improvement projects.

o    Six Sigma Sponsor: a senior executive who links the Six Sigma program to the organization's overall objectives and who is involved in prioritizing, selecting, monitoring and reviewing Six Sigma projects. The Sponsor maintains the strategic focus of Six Sigma efforts.

    As with all improvement or change efforts, the support of top management is critical to the success of Six Sigma implementations. Without true management commitment, employees are not likely to take any change effort seriously.