Six Sigma Training, developed in 1986, is a business development strategy developed by former handset giant Motorola to reach forecasted financial targets through quality management and statistical methods. Six Sigma trainees are classified with a martial arts system of the colored belts and is one of the most widely used management strategies across various business sectors.
The term Six Sigma is derived from the maturity of a manufacturing process, or “sigma rating”, which indicates the percentage of defect-free products (or “yield”) produced. A 99.99966% defect-free yield, or 3.4 defects per million products, is regarded as the Six Sigma standard. The term “Six Sigma” was coined by Motorola in its heyday, causing the term to be popularized and adapted at first by industry rivals, and then by businesses in other industries. At its heart, the Six Sigma system is built on top of the older DMAIC management system.
The main focus of the Six Sigma system is to remove all production defects, consolidate fragmented variables in manufacturing and business practices, and to use standard quality and statistical management methods to improve the quality of finished products. Six Sigma training produces an elite group of employees within a workforce, operating in an internal hierarchy – comprised of “Black Belts”, “Green Belts”, and lower levels, who draft and oversee a Six Sigma project. Six Sigma projects are done strictly “by the book”, and must follow a defined sequence of steps to attain the desired financial results.
The success of Six Sigma has led to the creation of a divergent business management style called Lean Six Sigma, designed for lean manufacturing, which is meant to reduce process flow and waste issues. By shifting the focus from manufacturing defects to inefficient work processes, Lean Six Sigma is often considered the “ultimate efficiency expert” in the industry. However, Lean Six Sigma is also focused on shifting wasted processes towards growth processes, by re-allocating stagnant manpower and capital to more productive, forward-looking projects.
A combination of traditional Six Sigma and Lean Six Sigma is touted by followers as the ultimate method of reducing waste and safely achieving and breaking through financial forecasts. Six Sigma certification courses can be found online, as well as through certified instructors at the American Society for Quality and the Institute of Industrial Engineers. In addition, large corporations which have adopted the Six Sigma system may offer training to employees.
However, some critics have accused Six Sigma of being nothing more than a buzzword full of fancy terms putting a fresh coat of paint on traditional team management philosophies and ideals. In addition, due to its popularity, a number of questionable and unqualified online courses have appeared, which may or may not offer the true Six Sigma experience.