At the heart of most business improvement methodologies, is the process of highlighting process problems and resolving them. While this might fairly simple problem solving in complex business environments can be extremely difficult. For example businesses are built up of intricate personal relationships – interdependent business processes and data – and that’s just for starters.

Getting to the bottom of business issues therefore requires a proven method that can provide a framework for improvement teams to follow and has a proven record of delivery.

Six sigma offers a process to follow for solving problems it follows a small number of steps (see below) – remember that the six sigma’s purpose is to reduce or eradicate defects and following this method will help that.

1 Definition – Define the problem
2 Identify Root cause – use of techniques (pareto, fishbone analysis, etc) to identify the cause of the problem
3 Deploy improvements – introduce new processes or systems that remove the problem
4 Sustain improvement – deploy appropriate measures that ensure that the improvement is sustained.

While there are lots of individual tools that can be used in improvement programs – you’ll commonly find six sigma relies on 3 main tools when solving problems.

1/ Pareto Analysis
2/ Ishikawa (or fishbone) diagram
3/ Line graphs

We’ll look at covering these tools in greater detail in future articles

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