What Is Six Sigma?
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Six Sigmas

What Is Six Sigma?

Errors are six standard deviations out

Another page on this site is named "Overview of Six Sigma". This "What is Six Sigma" page goes a little deeper to give a finer definition of Six Sigma.

Six Sigma is built upon data. It is a data-driven analysis of your company in key areas. The focus is on the supply chain. How do you know what changes to make? The data shows you where the waste is and what changes are needed.


This is a 30-second summary of what is Six Sigma

With Six Sigma, you

  1. Define a problem.

  2. Use measurements to make that problem clear as a bell.

  3. Make use of statistics to further sort through all "the noise" in the "bell's ring".

  4. Then take total control so you never make the same mistake twice.

  5. Become totally predictable--Six Sigma says you should have no more than three defects per million products made.


Six Sigma was implemented by the Motorola corporation in 1986 as a spin-off of Total Quality Management (TQM). An engineer there named Bill Smith developed the technique. He named it after the fact that it was the latest outgrowth of six decades of quality improvement techniques created and used by the company including TQM, "Zero Defects", and strong quality control management.

It took Bill Smith a long time to finally convince the heads at Motorola that Six Sigma could work.

Originally, Six Sigma was implemented to create products without defects. Defects in products are seen as the most wasteful thing in Six Sigma (although waste can be found in other places, too). Smith said that an average of no more than 3.4 defects for every one million products was realistic.

Six Sigma started in just the manufacturing sector. It has evolved so it can be used to clean up waste in the entire supply chain, which is why it's more than just the original product defects clean-up nowadays.


  1. There is an education process to teach management about what is Six Sigma.

  2. Six Sigma is extra work at first. Many think this is, itself, wasteful. But this has huge long-term payoffs. A little goes a long way.

  3. Many don't understand that Six Sigma is not promising perfection. It just promises you will never make the same mistake twice.

  4. Some managers are threatened by cold, hard facts like those the data show. But these data don't mean they are incompetent. Just that the whole company could do better.

  5. Some companies who try Six Sigma are impatient and get ahead of themselves, especially with customer relations. They need to let the process sink in first.

  6. Some companies use Six Sigma as a last resort when they feel they might be going down. But it needs to be a total system throughout the company to work.


It is hoped that the above will give you a deeper understanding of what is six sigma and what it is not. Consider it to be the gold standard for business analysis. It takes effort, but the long term savings to the company are spectacular.

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