What is Six Sigma?

St. Paul, MN Director of Litigation Support, Chris Iijima, describes Six Sigma.

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Well Six Sigma is a methodology to improve processes. It started out in manufacturing but it can also be applied to service sectors. Literally, Six Sigma is six standard deviations from the mean, so we’re kind of geeking out here but what it means practically is you’ve got 3.4 defects per million. So let’s say I set a goal of drafting summary judgement motions in four hours or less, if I did a million of those there’d be 3.4 of those that took longer than four hours. And what Six Sigma allows you to do is define some issue that you want to resolve and then analyze it and come up with a way to measure those outliers, figure out why they’re outliers, and eliminate the causes of those outliers.

A common thing that they say is y is a function of x. So once you determine what your problem is you look to x, these are the causes. And you look through all those causes, you break those up using an _____ chart they call it, it’s the 80-20 rule. It’s saying that 80 percent of your problems is going to be from 20 percent of the causes. So you focus on those 20 percent, make those more efficient, make those have less waste in them and you will resolve 80 percent of your problem.

And so that’s something you do in Six Sigma you implement new changes, you monitor those, you enforce those, and then you go back to the drawing board and say what’s next?