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An Overview of Six Sigma

written by: Michele McDonough • edited by: Michele McDonough • updated: 1/2/2011

Whether you’re still considering if Six Sigma is right for you and your company or you’re looking for ways to improve your current Six Sigma process, this article points you towards valuable resources that will help you accomplish your goals.

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    Six Sigma Overview

    The project management theory that is now known as Six Sigma began as a means to improve quality in production at Motorola in 1986. Since that time, Six Sigma methodologies have been revised and expanded so that they now can be applied to the development of new products and services as well as existing ones. For more information on the basic theory and history of Six Sigma, take a look at the articles What is the Purpose of Six Sigma? and Key Concepts of Six Sigma.

    Just as with many disciplines in the business world, the terminology used in discussing Six Sigma can sound like a language all its own. To help us muddle through all the various definitions and metrics, Natasha Baker has compiled an excellent comprehensive glossary of terms related to Six Sigma. If you’d like to print out this information to study on the go, a PDF version of this glossary is available in the Project Management Media Gallery.

    Once you have your basic questions on Six Sigma answered, the next step is to figure out how to apply the methodology within your own company in such a way that will reap the most benefits. As explained in How to Implement Six Sigma, this project management tool is a top-down strategy so you’re going to need some support from your company’s highest levels to get the system put into place. If you’re having some trouble selling the Six Sigma process to the senior management, try pointing out the positive benefits of Six Sigma metrics as well as the hard statistics on how much certain government agencies have saved by implementing this strategy.

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    Six Sigma Reports, Charts, and Templates

    Pareto Chart As the Six Sigma methodology is focused on using measureable results to quantify improvement in a process, there are numerous types of reports, charts, and diagrams that are used throughout the Six Sigma process. These include Gantt and PERT charts as well as numerous other reports defined in the Six Sigma glossary and the article 10 Six Sigma Templates You Can Download.

    Another helpful representation used often in Six Sigma is the Pareto chart. A Pareto chart drills down problems to their essential causes and the frequencies of these causes. To help illustrate the usefulness of this tool, a sample Pareto chart has been made available in the Project Management Media Gallery for download. With this type of diagram, it’s easy to determine what items should be concentrated on to obtain the biggest impact on quality improvement.