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What is Six Sigma?

Six Sigma was initially developed by Motorola in the 1980's, and now is used in many Fortune 500 companies. The program functions as a business management strategy.The program is used primarily to identify and rectify errors and defects that can occur in a manufacturing or business process.It should also be noted that Six Sigma uses a number of quality methods and tools that are used by professionals, within the organization, after they have been trained on Six Sigma techniques. There are many terms that are used in Six Sigma and they are sometimes misleading, so here are some of the more frequently used with an explanation of each term.

  • Executive Leadership-These are those people who are responsible, for setting up a vision for a Six Sigma implementation. This role can be assumed by the CEO, or other top management. Whoever takes on this role generally has the management authority to make critical decisions for the company.
  • Champion-This role can be defined as a person in a company's organization who "champions" a Six Sigma project. Typically this is specifically used to refer to a senior manager who champions the project, ensures that it is properly resourced and uses their authority to overcome organizational barriers. This person will have direct hands-on contact with the Six Sigma project.
  • Master Black Belt-This person is a expert with extensive experience and technical expertise, in all aspects of Six Sigma. The Master Black Belt is also primarily responsible for selecting, training, and mentoring black belts, within an organization. In addition, the Master Black Belt will often be involved in the selection of and approach to projects. Finally, most importantly they will also be responsible, for ensuring that the standards of the Six Sigma program are consistently maintained.
  • Black Belt-The team leader who is responsible for the operation and outcomes of the Six Sigma projects is referred to as a Black Belt. This will be a full-time professional who has been trained to this level. In order to achieve this level it is required that the person demonstrate mastery of Six Sigma tools, through an examination and experience.This is a lengthy process as a Black Belt training course can involve four to five weeks of classroom training in methods, statistical tools, and team skills, in addition to a completed project. The American Society for Quality (ASQ) offers a Certified Six Sigma Black Belt qualification.
  • Green Belt-This is a member of a company who has been trained on in Six Sigma methodology, and participates in projects, as part of their full time job. It should be noted that they may either work as part of a team, led by a Black Belt, or lead smaller projects, with a Black Belt acting as mentor. This is also typically an employee looking, who is looking for further Six Sigma training.
  • Sponsor-This person functions as the project sponsor and is most often a senior manager who can sign off on the resources, defines the objectives, and evaluate the outcomes. It is important to keep in mind that the project sponsor is sometimes known as the project champion, although the champion can be used to describe anybody who champions a Six Sigma project.
  • Change Agent-This is a flexible position as a Change Agent is a person who leads change within the organization, by championing the change, managing and planning its implementation. The Change Agent position can be official or voluntary.
  • Big Y and Little y-These terms are used to define the important high level measure that a Six Sigma project seeks to improve. The desired change is known as the Big Y. It is critical to understand that Big Y should be linked to the critical customer requirements. Finally, all Six Sigma participants focus on the fact that the Big Y is often used to generate little y operational objectives, that must be improved to achieve Big Y improvements.
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