Phase 1: Define
There are various Six Sigma methodologies to help resolve conflicts and business problems, but unless you know where the problem is, you won’t be able to find the solution. Therefore, defining the problem is critical at this stage.
First Step: Ask yourself two important questions at this point.
- What exactly is the problem?
- How has this problem affected your organization?
Second Step: Create a project plan or a team charter to define the objective of the exercise. Use the data collected from the first step. You can apply a CTQ, (customer to quality) Six Sigma methodology to state the problem. Consider all aspects, including organizational value, finances, resources and overall management strategies. Customer complaints, interviews, surveys and internal feedback are a few methods that are used to record data from all functions.
The project charter should consist of the following:
- Problem statement
- Project statement
- Scope of the project
- Organization’s objectives
- Problem’s influence on these objectives
Third Step: Submit your project charter or a team charter in the form of presentation or an Excel spreadsheet to management and obtain their approval.
Fourth Step: Once the plan is approved, recruit a team of stakeholders from all functions including HR, marketing, sales and finance. This team should be talented enough to use Six Sigma and be able to find solutions to problems.
Once the problem is defined, the team should be able to identify the right Six Sigma strategy to solve the issue. At times, there are situations that may arise where the Six Sigma model will not work at all to solve a specific problem. Remember, implementing Six Sigma process is expensive and time-consuming. Decide at this initial stage itself whether to use the methodology or not to solve particular issues.
Example: A car wash company recently faced a drastic drop in its clientèle and in turn a huge revenue loss. How can this company improve the situation using Six Sigma? The processes can be initiated by implementing the steps provided above.
First Step: The car wash company started the exercise with these two questions.
What is the problem? - The number of clients obtaining the services from the company has gone down
What is the impact? - Revenue loss for the company
Second Step: The car wash company created a project charter using the key data. The company started receiving feedback from its real-time customers and a survey questionnaire is sent to the existing customers. Interviews were also conducted with potential customers. The company used CTQ to prepare a problem statement. A review from the data collected revealed a unique problem for the car wash company and a problem statement is defined at this stage.
Problem Statement: The existing clients are not able to locate the company for subsequent washes. The potential clients with whom the company conducted an interview didn't even know the company existed.
Project Statement: Identifying solutions to strengthen the clientèle through increasing visibility to the location.
Scope of the Project: Increased clientèle and in turn, revenue growth.
Organization’s Objective: Increase clientèle to achieve revenue growth.
Problem’s influence on these objectives: The location of the company lacks visibility and so clients can't find the building. The number of clients getting services from the company is going down and there is a huge revenue loss.
Deadline: A solution need to be identified in two weeks. Implement solution in pilot mode on the third week. Implement solution to achieve revenue growth on the fourth and the fifth week. The exercise is expected to be completed in five weeks.
Stakeholders: The clients, employees, management, external vendors and the technical support staff, as required.
Third Step: The project charter in the form of an MS word document is presented to management. Management analyzes the situation.They approve the plan after obtaining assurance from the team about the proposed schedules.
Fourth Step: The team of employees found the root cause of the problem and a suitable solution using Six Sigma Methodology. The team will include a few existing and real-time customers during the process. This team is also responsible for involving external vendors with the required technical skills as and when necessary.