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SIX-SIGMA A-Z GLOSSARY

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A/B Testing
A/B Testing is a form of controlled experiment which test two different scenarios (or more). Each scenario has the same characteristics with the exception of what is being tested to see which performs the better.
Affinity Mapping
Affinity mapping is used to organise list of ideas or issues into groupings in order to better understand a problem and to allow analysis to take place. These ideas or issues usually come from a group brainstorming session, where individuals bring their collective thoughts together grouped under ‘affinity’ headings.

An example:

  1. A project team meet to brainstorm a list of ideas to solve a problem/issue
  2. Each team member is given a set of post-it notes to individually write down their ideas. These are then brought together on a flip-chart/wall. At this stage the wall becomes a sea of ideas on post-it notes with no sense of order
  3. Now as a team they begin to cluster the post-it’s into categories. For example all complaint related post-it’s go togther as would all service and product related ones etc
  4. Now that there are a range of groupings each of these clusters are given a name – at this point there maybe the odd single post-it note. That is OK these will stand alone as their own individual groupings
  5. Some of these clusters may require a set of sub-categorisation. For example a set of complaints could be split accordingly:
    1. Agent related complaints – i.e. behavioural
    2. Product related complaints – i.e. broken parts
    3. Service related complaints – i.e. length of time to respond

Now that the ideas have been affinity mapped they can be used in the following ways:

  1. A from of prioritisation to focus on the areas which repeat the most – have the most post-it notes with a group consensus on the magnitude of the issue
  2. The affinity grouping are added to data collection templates to size the problem
Alternate Hypothesis
There are types of hypothesis tests, the Null Hypothesis (the statement being tested) and the Alternate Hypothesis (opposite of the null or simply the alternative).

The Alternate Hypothesis (presented Ha) is simply the opposite of the Null Hypothesis or just represents and answer that is not the same as the Null Hypothesis

Analyse Phase
The Analyse Phase is the third stage of the six-sigma DMAIC improvement cycle. The intention is to step beyond having data and to drill-down and analyse what the data is telling us. This stage uses several analytical tools to understand the root cause (s) of our problem. The tools which are deployed will depend on the problem being solved, the type of data you have and what this data is telling you.

For the Analyse stage a guide for completion is somewhere  between 2-4 weeks depending on the complexities within your project and organisational set-up.

Click here for more information on the DMAIC Analyse phase 

Analysis Paralysis
Analysis Paralysis is the term given for when a situation is overwhelmed by analysis (or analysing a situation – over thinking) to the extent that a decision is never taken. In doing so becomes paralysed and hence the term analysis paralysis.
Andon
Andon originated as a manufacturing term to highlight to management and colleagues when a process has encountered a quality problem. An Andon is often visual with a light representing the quality breach. This approach has transferred into the service industry, examples being:

  1. Flashing light above a row of self-scan checkouts to get an assistance awareness to help required
  2. A contact centre ‘wallboard’ which goes red when set service levels are not being met
Analysis of Variance (ANOVA)
ANOVA is an abbreviation for Analysis of Variance. Anova is a statistical method to test the differences between two or more means
Attribute Data
Attribute Data is one of the 3 Data Worlds prescribed within Six-Sigma (the others being Continuous Data and Count Data – there is also a 4th Data type contextual Data).

Attribute data is for when you are looking to ‘classify’ something, and is binary in nature. Common examples are:

  • Standard pass or fail on an exam or other test
  • On target not on target
  • On time not on time

The statistical model applied to Attribute data is the Binomial Distribution (however the process needs to be in-control to apply).

Time Series Plots; Stacked Bar Charts and Pareto Charts are useful graphical analysis tools

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Baseline
A baseline in terms of a project can be referenced in 3 different ways: 1. The starting performance to measure benefits against before a project has delivered 2. Reference levels to control a project – Baseline Costs; Baseline Dates; Baseline Plan; Baseline Schedule 3. A snapshot; a position or situation that is recorded
Baseline of cost and hours ineffective
The baseline of costs and hour ineffective is a measurement taken to understand the existing (as-is) amount spent in terms of £’s and hours on ineffective activity
Benchmarking
Benchmarking is an effective tool for understanding somethings relative performance. Benchmarking could be in comparison to:

  1. Internal function/process/people
  2. Internal function/process but outside of immediate team
  3. External within the industry
  4. External outside of the industry

Benchmarking has three key purposes:

  1. To showcase to others the art of the possible. Those not versed in six-sigma practices may not initially believe the proposed gains
  2. Allows a project to understand how far potential improvements could go if they were to match up with similar processes
  3. Understand best practices of others – what are they doing to achieve Z performance?
Bias
Bias relates to a measurement system and so is considered within the Measure phase of DMAIC. Bias is consistent errors within a measurements measured value and the true value, examples being:

  1. A jug measuring 2 litres is actually 1.95 litres resulting in 0.05 error with every 2 litre measurement taken
  2. A call recording system not recording the first 5 seconds of every call. The bias here is a consistent length of 5 seconds for every call taken
Binomial Distribution
Binomial Distribution is the statistical method for Attribute Data, this model applies if the process is in control.
Black Belt (BB)
There are layers of Six-Sigma proficiency represented by belts – similar to those used within karate. Black Belt – Expert Certification – Leads Black Belt projects which deliver significant business benefits  
Box Plots
Box Plots are utilised for comparing samples of data against one another (for just singular data set use Histograms). They are often produced using statistical software such as Minitab or SigmaXL, however with a little know how they can be produced within Excel.

Box Plots summarise the data into quintiles presented as follows:

  1. The Box – presents 50% of the data from the middle out (a box)
  2. The Whiskers – presents the minimum to maximum range (to 1.5 the length of the box) – (a line)
  3. The Outliers – the data that is beyond 1.5 times the length of the box (an asterix (s))
Brainstorming
Brainstorming (sometimes referred to as Mindmapping) is a creative technique to explore options to resolve a problem. Though this may be done effectively alone in a Six-Sigma project it is almost always best to be conducted in group setting. The following rules support positive Brainstorming sessions:

  1. Limit each Brainstorming session to one problem at a time (this avoids going off track or confusing multiple items)
  2. No restriction to the type of ideas people may suggest – at this stage it is about generating ideas not questioning their validity that comes later.
  3. Where possible mix the Brainstorming teams with experts and people new to the process or problem. This will effectively blend expertise with a fresh pair of eyes

In addition, the following techniques can aid Brainstorming sessions:

  • Nominal Group Technique – This is where participants contribute their ideas anonymously and thus removes association with a particular person. There are a few positives to this, A) it allows for ideas which may otherwise not have been presented – B) it allows for all members to have and equal say – C) it prevents the group from becoming swayed by an initial idea
  • Passing Group Technique – This is where chain is created from an initial idea. So a colleague writes an idea down on a piece of paper and passes it on, the next colleague adds to that idea. This approach continues until it has passed through all colleagues involved within the brainstorming session
  • SCAMPER – SCAMPER is an acronym to support ways of thinking by offering different solutions. I.e. Substitute, Combine or Adapt – for a full breakdown on SCAMPER – see S in this A-Z
  • Negative Brainstorming – Essentially this is where a team will seek to find solutions which will definitely not want to be achieved.

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Cause and Effect Diagram
Cause and Effect diagrams have two other common names – Fish Bone (due to the resemblance of a fish) and Ishikawa (the Japanese term). However, you or your company refer to them they are commonly used for the identification of root causes as part of a brainstorming session.

Components of a cause and effect diagram:

  1. The problem/issue (this forms the head of the ‘fish)
  2. Categories of causes (the scales of the fish) – as with the name of the tool their are also multiple category names that are used. The main premise here is to use enough breadth to cover all possible causes for your process/project. The 6M’s (well kind of M’s) are a useful guide to cover most eventuallities:
    1. Man or WoMan (people to be politically correct but then that doesn’t fit neatly to 6M’s
    2. Machine or Equipment
    3. Measurement
    4. Methods
    5. Materials
    6. Mother Nature (or environment but environment doesn’t fit neatly for M either!)
  3. Causes are then grouped under these categories and some may be sub-grouped as well

This exercise as with many techniques within six-sigma is best completed with a flipchart and post-it notes or on a whiteboard. The picture can then be added to a presentation or it can be transferred onto a slide.

Change Agent
Change Agents are often deployed within Lean and Six-Sigma projects. Depending on the role being asked to perform they will commonly be trained to Yellow Belt and potentially to Green Belt standard.

They support the implementation of the change and act as subject matter experts. After the change is deployed they perform a key role in knowledge transfer back within the business to make continuous improvement a natural way of functioning.

Closure Action Log
A Closure Action Log is simply a list of outstanding actions to be completed before the end or at the end of the Six-Sigma project. This ensures any outstanding items are not left un-completed
Confidence Intervals
The Confidence Interval (also known as margin of error) presents the range for which we can be statistically confident with the data.

For example lets says we have completed some statistically valid analysis and a test result landed at 85. If we had a confidence interval of 10 then we are ‘sure’ that the result running the same test on the whole population (full data-set) would return a range plus or minus 10 from the result. So in this example we would be sure the answer would lie between 75 and 95.

Confidence Level
The Confidence Level (not to be confused with the Confidence Interval) is confident we are with our data. These are expressed as percentages and the commonly used are 99% and 95% (the most common).

The higher the confidence level sought the more data that needs to be sampled.

The confidence level is then paired with the confidence interval to provide a clear view on the level of overall confidence in the sample.

Contextual Data
Contextual data is considered the 4th data world, the other 3 (official Data Worlds) being: Attribute Data; Continuous Data; Count Data)

Contextual data is for when you are looking to ‘provide context or supporting information’. Common examples are:

  • Unique reference identification
  • Type of data – i.e. contact type
  • Geographical information – i.e. Country, market
  • Priority level

Contextual data is particularly important to capture for the Analyse Stage. If in doubt on whether to collect the contextual data – do so it can always be a column or two ignored within an Excel spreadsheet later on.

Continuous Data
Continuous Data is one of the 3 Data Worlds prescribed within Six-Sigma (the others being Attribute Data and Count Data – there is also a 4th Data type Contextual Data).

Continuous data is for when you are looking to ‘measure’ something, and by nature then contains numeric measurement data. Common examples are:

  • Route distances
  • Completion times
  • Speed of answer

The statistical model applied to Continuous data is the Normal distribution (however the validity of the normal model needs to be checked).

Histograms and Time Series Plots are useful graphical analysis tools

Continuous Improvement
Continuous Improvement is a mindset that sets out to improve and get better everyday. It is a key principle of lean six-sigma activities and everyone within the organisation should be encouraged to do just that.
Control Plan
A Control Plan is developed to cover each process step and defines the measurements, specification, historical capability, measurement method and a response plan.
Correlation and Regression Analysis
Correlation and Regression analysis identifys relationships in data.

The most common regression model type is Linear – think Celsius and Fahrenheit, when one rises so does the other. Though Linear is not applicable to all types of relationships.

Quadratic – represents relationships that rise and then fall again

Cubic – represents relationships which rise, fall then rise again

Cost of Poor Quality (CoPQ)
Cost of Poor Quality (CoPQ) simply put is the cost associated with poor quality – a defect, rework, failure demand etc. The sooner in the process CoPQ is captured and resolved the cheaper the issue will be to resolve.

CoPQ should be linked to the problem statement and as such the removal through the project of this problem can then be assessed from a benefit perspective.  For example the financial costs to answer the 20% of repeat contacts, or the cost to send engineers back out on trips to re-visit customers for a recurring issue.

Some CoPQ’s are well understood and sometimes easy to spot that it becomes highly questioned as to why they were not dealt with sooner (we have worked in numerous places were this has been the case and in such circumstances the response from directors is not positive as may be expected but negative due to the issue being something that should easily been resolved – so be careful in your stakeholder management for such examples).

The converse is also true some others are more disguised but perhaps not as one would initially think. This is due to people becoming ‘blind’ to certain situations (that explains the term Muda Specs!, for those that have learnt about wastes). Not blind in the traditional sense but blind to the action occurring – “that’s just the way it is” and “just the way it has always been”.

Count Data
Count Data is one of the 3 Data Worlds prescribed within Six-Sigma (the others being Continuous Data and Count Data – there is also a 4th Data type contextual Data).

Count data is for when you are looking to ‘count’ something. Common examples are:

  • Number of defects in a process
  • Number of satisfied or dissatisfied customers
  • Contacts received in a set time period

The statistical model applied to Count data is the Poisson distribution (however the process needs to be in-control to apply).

Histograms and Time Series Plots are useful graphical analysis tools

Critical to Quality (CTQ)
Critical to Quality (CTQ) is the term to describe what customers require from the product/service. It takes the verbatim or other feedback to understand their drivers of quality and turns that into measurable elements.

CTQ trees are a technique for following the Need, through to Driver, through to Critical measurements. An example:

  • Need – Customer Satisfaction
  • Driver – Knowledgeable Agents (and no doubt many other drivers for this need)
  • CTQ –
    • Right First Time information
    • Speed of response
    • Understanding of customers full requirement – probing ability
Current State
The current state is where we are today, sometimes referred to as the As-is. It is important to understand the current state as we need to know where we are in order to understand where we can get to.
Cycle Time
Cycle Time is a lean measure which measures the end to end time of a process. This includes not only touch time (the amount of time physically expanded on processing) but also includes any dwell or delay.

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Data Collection Plan
Compiling a Data Collection Plan is a key part of the DMAIC Measure phase. Collecting and not mention analysing data takes concerted time and effort and is therefore expensive in nature. A focused data collection plan optimises the time, efficiency and relevance of collection.
Data Door
The DMAIC Analyse stage is sometimes referenced in two parts. Part 1 refers to the Process (Process Door) and Part 2 to Data (Data Door).

As there are a myriad of tools and techniques to apply the Data Door acts as a signpost and selector for the appropriate tool to match the task. Therefore ensuring that the correct statistical tools are deployed.

The second of those parts concerns the data. As there are a myriad of tools and techniques to apply the Data Door acts as a signpost and selector for the appropriate tool to match the task. Therefore ensuring that the correct statistical tools are deployed.

Data Presentation
Data Presentation is important to consider particulalry for your stakeholders. An often placed critiscm on data driven colleagues is their inability to effectively eplain what they see. Therefore choosing the correct presentation style and format is important not only for engagement but for understanding. In some senior circles you may even need to over simplify your information down to 1 or 2.
A key concept in data presentation is less is more, allow your audience to be able to see the main points being made and not get lost in a sea of lines (unless of course that is your intention). Despite requiring detail senior leaders are notrious for not looking at teh detail. They quite rightly expect that a level of due dilligence and peer review has taken place ahead of presentation. So take a look at your charts and information before presenting do they accurately show the ‘story’ that you want to tell?
Data Quality
An often missed step within the data collection of any business improvement step – or indeed any operational delivery. DMAIC qualifies this as Measurement System Analysis (MSA). Which is simply ensuring for each data point the numbers are accurate or an accurate representation of the situation.
Data Worlds
According to Six-Sigma there are 3 Data Worlds being:

  1. Attribute Data – To classify something
  2. Continuous Data – To measure something
  3. Count Data – To count things

Wherever possible collect Continuous Data as it provides the most information i.e. instead of just pass or fail (attribute data), or how many items were completed in a set time frame it provides us with the exact measurement i.e. the time something took to build.

There is also a 4th data type:

  1.  Contextual Data – To provide context or supporting information

In order to effectively measure a process and then to analyse in the subsequent phase a solid understanding of data worlds is required. In most workplaces this is often overlooked with a pressing need to churn data out an organisation/project can become guilty of not considering the use of the data. The consequences can be quite significant as wrong interpretations are made and therefore the real root causes can be misdiagnosed or misactioned upon.

The key tip here is to understand the difference. A little more detail is provided on each Data World within this FAQ section.

Design of Experiments (DoE)
For experimenting to test main effects and interactions we utilise Design for Experiments (DoE) and analyse those results. From an analytical perspective the calculations are similar to regression the main difference here is testing something out in a controlled manner beyond what we currently do today. This is most common in the technical environments as opposed to the service sector.
Defects
Central to the lean six-sigma improvement methodology and to understanding sigma values is  the term defects. A defect is simply something which is not performing/presenting how it should. We can use defects to understand the number of defects per million opportunities (DPMO). Which in turn helps us to understand the sigma levels
Defects per Million Opportunities (DPMO)
Defects per Million Opportunities help us to understand the Sigma-Level. It is simply the number of defects that are present within 1 million opportunities. If we do not have a million records to analyse (or the time for that matter!) we use the following calculation:

DPMO = DPU (Defects per Unit) * 1,000,000 / 1

Defects per Unit (DPU)
Defects per Unit (DPU) is simply the number of defects present on a unit/work item. The calculation is therefore as follows:

DPU = The Number of Defects / Number of Opportunities

Define Stage
Define is the first phase of the DMAIC six-sigma improvement cycle, were ‘you’ve guessed it…’ define the project. This is the foundation of your six-sigma improvement project. If the project is not defined, unrecorded or not signed off, then your project is likely to be in high company… and fail.
Design For Six-Sigma (DFSS)
Design for Six-Sigma (DFSS) is a variant of Six-Sigma that defines all the variables and then delivers all those variable to customer expectations. This differs to DMAIC methodology that typically focuses on a one or a few number of Critical to Customer variables.

DFSS is used when:

  1. A process cannot be improved to the desired level, or;
  2. Where a new product is introduced
DMADV
DMADV – Define, Measure, Analyse, Design, Verify. DMADV is a Six-Sigma methodology similar to DMAIC that primarily focuses on new product development (but also be a service or a process).
DMAIC
DMAIC – Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve, Control, is the main improvement cycle associated with Six-Sigma.

DMAIC concentrates on improving existing processes see either DMADV or DFSS for new processes, services or products). It is a structured methodology to guide your improvement activity. It covers:

  1. Define – Adequately defining the problem (s)
  2. Measure – Collecting baseline measurements
  3. Analyse – Understanding the Root Causes of our problem
  4. Improve – Deploy the prioritised solutions and deliver the plan
  5. Control – Develop process control to maintain and improve
DOWNTIME
An acronym for the 8 lean wastes see also TIMWOODS. DOWNTIME stands for:

  • Defects
  • Over-Production
  • Waiting
  • Non-Utilised Talent
  • Transport
  • Inventory
  • Motion
  • Extra Processing
Dot Plots
Dot Plots are a form of Graphical Analysis utilised within the Analysis Phase of DMAIC, showing distribution.

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Eighty Twenty Rule (Pareto's Law)
The Eighty Twenty Rule otherwise known as Pareto’s Law – is the principle is based on the assumption that only a small amount of factors are responsible for most problems – or a small amount of effort is responsible for most the benefit. By conducting Pareto analysis it forces us to concentrate on the issues/effort that will have the greatest effect, and in doing so is helpful in prioritising actions.
Error Proofing (Poke Yoke)
Poke Yoke is the Japanese term for Error Proofing. if we want to safeguard against defects or errors occurring then considering how to Poke-Yoke is key. Ideally we would remove all possibilities of the issue re-occurring but there could be reasons why we don’t namely the cost of changes outweighs the gains.

Examples:

  1. An everyday example is entering you card details or email address online. Storefronts have methods to prevent completion unless these have been filled out correctly
  2. A railway crossing:
    1. A signal is a first line of defence and will prevent some cars from entering when the shouldn’t – minimal cost
    2. A barrier to come down when trains are approaching will prevent more cars from entering when they shouldn’t – more cost
    3. A bridge over the railway line takes away the possibility for cars to enter when they shouldn’t – most cost
Essential Value Add (Business Value Add; Necessary Value Add)
Essential Value Add (EVA) has the same meaning as Business Value Add and Necessary Value Add. These terms are used interchangeably depending on which organisation you work within. It is essentially the activities which a customer would not be willing to pay but are essential for a business to function. Examples are employee  1-2-1’s (staff appraisals) and Team Briefs. The trick is challenge what is included here as it is all to easy to categorise this way and a consequence not reduce waste.
Extra Processing
Extra Processing or over processing as it is sometimes referred to is one of the 8 lean wastes. Extra Processing is the doing of more than is necessary, so actions that are not required. An example would be cleaning an area twice a week which is only contracted for once.

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Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA)
FMEA stands for Failure Mode and Effect Analysis. FMEA is effectively a risk analysis tool that is utilised within several stages of the DMAIC improvement lifecycle (Analyse, Improve and Control).
Full Time Equivalent (FTE)
Full Time Equivalent commonly referred to by its acronym FTE expresses a number of people in an organisation, team or process as a proportion of full time hours. For example: A project team has 14 people within it – this is the number of headcount – 1 for each person. However, if all 14 people worked part-time for 20 hours instead of a standard 40 hours per week then each head would equate to 0.5 FTE. So the total heads remain at 14 but the FTE of this project is 7FTE (14*0.5).
First Pass Analysis
First Pass Analysis is used to have an initial assessment of the KPI’s. This provides a baseline and aids understanding of the process behaviour. This activity can help to show a historical view of the process and highlight any positive or negative trends.
First Time Yield (FTY)
First Time Yeild (FTY) is the percentage of items/services which are produced/delivered without any defects on the first attempt – (those that are right first time).

An example:

100 customer direct debit amendments are placed into an organisation. 20 of these go back to the customer with queries or incorrect information and thus require completing again. This would mean that the FTY of this process would be 100-20 =80 80/100 =0.8*100 = FTY of 80%

Fishbone Diagrams
Fishbone diagrams (named so due to the resemblance of a fish) is a Cause and Effect diagrams and also known as Ishikawa (the Japanese term). However, you or your company refer to them they are commonly used for the identification of root causes as part of a brainstorming session.

Components of a Fishbone diagram:

  1. The problem/issue (this forms the head of the ‘fish)
  2. Categories of causes (the scales of the fish) – as with the name of the tool their are also multiple category names that are used. The main premise here is to use enough breadth to cover all possible causes for your process/project. The 6M’s (well kind of M’s) are a useful guide to cover most eventuallities:
    1. Man or WoMan (people to be politically correct but then that doesn’t fit neatly to 6M’s
    2. Machine or Equipment
    3. Measurement
    4. Methods
    5. Materials
    6. Mother Nature (or environment but environment doesn’t fit neatly for M either!)
  3. Causes are then grouped under these categories and some may be sub-grouped as well

This exercise as with many techniques within six-sigma is best completed with a flipchart and post-it notes or on a whiteboard. The picture can then be added to a presentation or it can be transferred onto a slide.

Future State
The Future State expresses where the project or process wants to get it. In some cases the future state maybe referred to as True North.

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Gauge R&R
Gauge Repeatability and Reproducability is a Measurement System Analysis technique. It helps to test the validity of the data. This technique is most commonly used in technical environments such as car manufacturing.
Gemba
Gemba or The Gemba is a Japanese term meaning the ‘actual place’. in a Lean Six-Sigma respect this means going to the place where the work happens and seeing and observing what is going on.
Graphical Analysis
Graphical Analysis is a statistical technique utilised within the Analyse Stage of DMAIC. It takes information and presents that information in graphical form to better understand what is happening.
Green Belt (GB)
There are layers of Six-Sigma proficiency represented by belts – similar to those used within karate. Green Belt – Fully Certified – Leads Green Belt projects and support Black Belts with analysis for Black Belt projects

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Histograms
Histograms  are a form of Graphical Analysis utilised within the Analysis Phase of DMAIC, showing distribution.
House of Quality
House of Quality (otherwise known as Quality Function Deployment – QFD) establishes the connection between VOC and CTQs, and takes their interactions and relationships in to account. The intention is to drive real customer value and not just deliver against compliance of a target.

This is a structured methodology and depending on the use can become quite technical and all involved. In a more streamlined view :

  1. Capture – Captures and records the needs of the customer
    1. Recorded on the left most side of the ‘house’ (diagram) and can be grouped into sections as well as listed individually
  2. How to – Translates these needs into the product or service offering through features
    1. Listed at the top of the ‘house’
  3. Link
    1. Assess the relationship between features and the customers requirements (positive and negative)
      1. Marked in the central area of the ‘house’. The strength of the relationship is also marked from High, Medium, low
    2. Technical Correlation – the interaction between two technical attributes again can be positive or negative.
      1. Recorded in the roof of the ‘house’ within a matri
  4. Planning – Rating of the performance of the product/service against each of the customer requirements
    1. Recorded on the right side of the ‘house’
  5. Technical – The technical requirements are prioritised against one another and  compared against other products or services to prioritise future improvements
    1. This are recorded in the foundations (base) of the ‘house’
Hypothesis
An hypothesis is a theory that is offered to explain a situation or a possible situation. At the initial stage it is just that a theory, which is not proven or dis-proven.   The principle use of hypothesis in Six-Sigma is for structured data gathering and to align stakeholders on measurement/analysis and the results.
Hypothesis Testing
(see Hypothesis first) Hypothesis Testing is a method for testing whether an outcome is true or false. There are two possible outcomes – the null Hypothesis what was being tested is true or the Alternate Hypothesis what was being tested is not true. This method helps to speed u[ data collection and analysis and used effectively really focuses this stage and provides focus and engagement of stakeholders.

It is best practice to attempt to prove the analysis wrong – so to test the data and assumptions thoroughly to be sure of the outcome.

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Implementation
Implementation is when the project delivers the changes based on the analysis that has been developed throughout the DMAIC project.
Improve Stage
The DMAIC Improve stage is where we get to mobilise and implement the improvements to our problems! This is where the change happens. Before, we go head in to delivery we will ensure suitable solution generation, prioritisation and selection of the optimum solution with measure risk.
Inventory (Waste)
Inventory is one of the 8 lean wastes and refers to:

  • Excess Raw Materials (materials to make the product/service which are held before being used)
  • Work in Progress (WIP)
  • Completed held Stock (ready and waiting before a customer is ready to consume)

In most situations organisations are holding excessive inventory which has consumed cash that can no longer be redeployed elsewhere. Inventory can have a significant impact on cash-flow and impact an organisations ability to function.

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Jitter
Jitter is a technique deployed to prevent individual values from overlapping on a plot. The individual values are scattered sideways so they can be graphically seen.
Just in Time (JIT)
Just in Time refers to items being produced just as the customer wants them. Producing items before the customer want them leads to waste in cash being spent before required and taking up additional space. Producing an item after the customer want it can lead to delays and other costs such as penalties.

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Kaizen
Kaizen, is a lean six-sigma approach. Its name can be broken down into two main parts;

  1. Kai being Japanese for Change and

2. Zen being Japanese for Good

So in essence the term translates as change for the better and refers to everyday continuous improvement.

The approach encourages everyone, everywhere to get a little better everyday, from the front line staff to the CEO. This mind-set of continuous improvement forms the foundation for lean six-sigma as popularised in Japanese manufacturing.

Taken to the extremes Kaizen encourages small incremental changes daily that by themselves are insignificant and thus easy to implement and adopt which other time translates into powerful lasting change. An example being to start exercising, Kaizen wouldn’t proclaim going out and running a marathon tomorrow, rather for 1 minute – say during an ad break do star jumps – then tomorrow increase to 2 minutes.

Another term you may have heard of or indeed been asked to join is a Kaizen event. These are sometimes referred to as Rapid Improvement Events. The idea is to gather the necessary actors together for a short period of time from an hour; a day; to a week or two at max with the specific intention to focus on an item to improve.

Kano Analysis
Kano Analysis is a framework for categorising and prioritising the performance features of a product or service. Kano analysis is focused on the 3 categories:

  1. Dissatisfiers – ‘The must haves’; these are essentially hygiene factors that are expected, if these are not available then that leads to automatic dissatisfaction. Examples are:
    1. A hotel room with no bed
    2. A theatre seat without a view
  2. Satisfiers – ‘More is better’; These extra touches that have an ability to increase or decrease satisfaction. Example are:
    1. Takeaway coffee cups to accompany your tea and coffee provision in a hotel room
    2. An extra bottle of water on an airplane
  3. Delighters – ‘Extra Special’; These are unexpected extras provided that deliver joy. Examples are:
    1. A free glass of champagne on your flight
    2. Complimentary upgrades at your hotel

A word of caution on the Satisfiers and Delighters overtime these can become expected and as such are no longer Satisfiers or Delighters they downgrade.

KPI Trees
KPI Trees are a method to visually show the range of Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) and how they connect with the process. The visual nature helps to ensure that a balance is provided and the CTQ are covered.

This will also help to show where existing measures can be applied and where additional data may be required.

Key Performance Indicators (KPI's)
Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) are the key measures which show the performance of a process/organisation. Six-Sigma and the DMAIC improvement methodology help to ensure that KPis are developed from what the customer defines as CTQ (Critical to Quality).
Key Process Input Variable (KPIV)
Key Process Input Variable (KPIV) is a process input that has a significant impact on the output.
Key Process Output Variable (KPOV)
Key Process Output Variable (KPOV) is a significant process output. Variations in KPOV can have a significant impact on the outcomes.

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Lean Six-Sigma (LSS)
Lean Six-Sigma refers to the combined improvement methodologies of Lean and Six-Sigma. In many ways the two are similar and they share many of the same tools and techniques, so there combination can make a lot of sense.

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Master Black Belt (MBB)
There are layers of Six-Sigma proficiency represented by belts – similar to those used within karate. Master Black Belt – Master Certification – Trains and coaches Black and Green Belts. Operates at the programme level
Matrix Plot
Matrix Plots are an array of Scatter Plots, placed graphically together for several columns of data. This can help to quickly show correlation within data sets when laid out in a single graphical representation (consiting of multiple graphs).

Matrix Plots are best used when you have data with multiple columns to represent a single function or process.

Mean
The Mean is the (arithmetic) average of a set of values, there it reflects the influence of all values.

It is straight forward to calculate sum up the total of items in scope and divide by the total number of entries.

With the Mean be aware that it is heavily influenced by extreme values.

Measles Charts
A Measles Chart is a great way to visually represent where defects are occurring. Once plotted on a schematic of a car, factory or invoice for example – the product or service is scattered with dots to represent where the defect occurred. Hence the name Measles chart. This technique compliments other metrics like First Time Yield (FTY) by pin pointing the problem areas. This in turn allows the project team to focus in and resolve the root causes.
Measure Stage
The Measure Stage is the second stage within DMAIC.  In the Measure Stage we understand where we are today. A cornerstone of a DMAIC project is that they are data bound. That doesn’t mean to say that we have all the data in the world at our disposal, rather we utilise the data we have and seek out data for our purposes.  Critically, the measure stage provides the baseline for our project., thereby placing a stake in the ground for the projects staring point . This is referred back to, to see what difference the improvement project has made.  The measure phase is often detailed and requires significant thought and investment – however that investment will pay off here and throughout the six-sigma project.
Measurement System Analysis (MSA)
DMAIC qualifies the data quality check as Measurement System Analysis (MSA). Which is simply ensuring for each data point the numbers are accurate or an accurate representation of the situation. A MSA drill down can help to test the validity of the data.

MSA is an often missed step in most organisations and projects, as the desire to churn out numbers and an ‘Answer’ overrides the need for accuracy. To generate true results, avoid this urge and qualify your data.

Medium
The Medium reflects the middle number when a set of numbers have been sorted in value order. Unlike the Mean the Medium is relatively robust to extreme values.
Milestone Plan
The Milestone Plan represents when ‘Milestone’ activities are going to be complete. These can be built up from the underlying activities to complete a milestone or may be produced knowing that those milestones will drive the agenda.

Milestones are a great way to communicate with senior stakeholders, who do not have the time (or inclination) to be bogged down in the detail.

Mindmapping
Mindmapping is another term for Brainstorming – below describes Brainstorming: Brainstorming (sometimes referred to as Mindmapping) is a creative technique to explore options to resolve a problem. Though this may be done effectively alone in a Six-Sigma project it is almost always best to be conducted in group setting. The following rules support positive Brainstorming sessions:

  1. Limit each Brainstorming session to one problem at a time (this avoids going off track or confusing multiple items)
  2. No restriction to the type of ideas people may suggest – at this stage it is about generating ideas not questioning their validity that comes later.
  3. Where possible mix the Brainstorming teams with experts and people new to the process or problem. This will effectively blend expertise with a fresh pair of eyes

In addition, the following techniques can aid Brainstorming sessions:

  • Nominal Group Technique – This is where participants contribute their ideas anonymously and thus removes association with a particular person. There are a few positives to this, A) it allows for ideas which may otherwise not have been presented – B) it allows for all members to have and equal say – C) it prevents the group from becoming swayed by an initial idea
  • Passing Group Technique – This is where chain is created from an initial idea. So a colleague writes an idea down on a piece of paper and passes it on, the next colleague adds to that idea. This approach continues until it has passed through all colleagues involved within the brainstorming session
  • SCAMPER – SCAMPER is an acronym to support ways of thinking by offering different solutions. I.e. Substitute or Adapt – for a full breakdown on SCAMPER – see S in this A-Z
  • Negative Brainstorming – Essentially this is where a team will seek to find solutions which will definitely not want to be achieved.
Mode
The Mode is the number which occurs most often

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Negative Brainstorming
Negative Brainstorming is a technique utilised within a brainstorming session. Essentially this is where a team will seek to find solutions which will definitely not want to be achieved.
Non-Value Add (NVA)
Non-Value Adding work simply put is activity performed that adds costs but not value. Therefore the response sought is to eliminate all wastes from within a process.
Normal DIstribution
A Normal Distribution is commonly occurring and follows the standard bell curve. The normal distribution is used to find significance levels in many hypothesis tests and confidence intervals.
Normality Test
Normality Test  is statistical analysis utilised within the Analysis Phase of DMAIC, showing distribution. This tests whether or not the data follows normal distribution.
Null Hypothesis
There are types of hypothesis tests, the Null Hypothesis (the statement being tested) and the Alternate Hypothesis (opposite of the null or simply the alternative).

The Null Hypothesis (presented Ho) is the statement being tested, it is the expected outcome from the test.

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OCAP
Out of Control Action Plan. An OCAP sets in place remedial actions to get an improvement back on track and minimise the damage. The OCAP should be agreed and signed-off with the owner and be instigated based on a set of tolerances.
Operational Definitions
Operational Definitions is the term given to the meaning of the KPI’s that are set within the operation. The reason there is a focus on operational definitions in Six-Sigma is so we can be clear on what the meanings of the kPI’s are. This takes away second guessing or misconstruing what a term means.

Therefore without capturing accurate operational definitions the project would be faced with the following:

  • Unreliable and unfocused data collection
  • Differing standards applied

Operational definitions contain the following:

  1. KPI Name (standard terminology that is common across the business – there are many terms which are used differently across industries (even the same industries) so although this may seem trivia in application it can be quite the opposite)
  2. KPI Description – (this is what the KPI represents again in simple terms)
  3. Pictorial process (this can be a process flow or a product or process specification)
  4. Scope of the Measurement (Usually defined at the project layer but they maybe situations where the measurements cannot coincide)
Overall Process Effectiveness (OPE)
The Overall Process Effectiveness (OPE) is a measure which looks across the process end-to-end and reflects on the process from several perspectives.
Over-Processing (waste)
Over-Processing (or sometimes known as Extra-Processing) is one of the 8 lean wastes and refers to:

  • Duplication
  • Doing more work than the standard requires
  • Quality errors which have no impact on the customer
  • Over-categorising, logging collecting (i.e. collecting and analysing more data than is required)
  • Unnecessary or unread reports (common place in many organisations a new report is often introduced without de-commissioning any old reports)

Over-Processing usual occurs when:

  1. A side-effect of pride in one’s work (often unwittingly)
  2. System or process inflexibility
  3. Unclear or no defined processes
Over-Production (Waste)
Over-Production is one of the 8 lean wastes and refers to:

  • Producing sooner than required
  • Producing faster or greater quantities than required by the customer
  • Excess printing, filing etc
  • Excessive preventative maintenance (the key term here is excessive as preventative maintenance can play a key role in an improvement programme)

This waste can at time be compounded. There is waste in the extra production and then that waste product is scrapped and thus creates 2 wastes!

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P-Value
The P-Value is the probability of getting a result if the Null Hypothesis (Ho our starting position) is true. So the P-Value makes it easy to determine whether to reject Null Hypothesis:

For 95% confidence

–if p<0.05 then reject H0

–if p>=0.05 then fail to reject H0

Statistical software such as Minitab or SigmXl can provide P-Value tests.

Pareto
Pareto’s Law (sometimes referred to as the Eighty Twenty Rule) is based on the principle assumption that only a small amount of factors are responsible for most problems – or a small amount of effort is responsible for most the benefit. By conducting Pareto analysis it forces us to concentrate on the issues/effort that will have the greatest effect, and in doing so is helpful in prioritising actions.
Pilot Studies
Pilot Studies are the implementation of a potential solution on a smaller scale either in size or complexity. Conducting Pilot Studies help with:

  • Gaining a better understanding as to how the potential implementation could work
  • Ironing out issues in a controlled environment before going live at scale – opportunity to improve
  • Provide experience of the rollout ahead of go-live
  • Gain stakeholder acceptance – the change is no longer theoretical based on a set of data, the change and results are starting to become real
  • Gain engagement of the team in which the process will affect
  • A response as part of risk management – greater certainty over the benefits and the costs
  • Understand and learn things which were maybe not considered as part of the project – i.e. how the team may react

Key note: Before piloting ensure your project is set-up to gather back the information you require to progress or learn from. In too many situations we have seen pilots conducting in good faith but no meaningful information delivered as a result.

Poisson Distribution
The Poisson distribution is derived from counting events or items, this is the statistical distribution for the count data world.
Poke Yoke (Error-Proofing)
Poke Yoke is the Japanese term for Error Proofing. if we want to safeguard against defects or errors occurring then considering how to Poke-Yoke is key. Ideally we would remove all possibilities of the issue re-occurring but there could be reasons why we don’t namely the cost of changes outweighs the gains.

Examples:

  1. An everyday example is entering you card details or email address online. Storefronts have methods to prevent completion unless these have been filled out correctly
  2. A railway crossing:
    1. A signal is a first line of defence and will prevent some cars from entering when the shouldn’t – minimal cost
    2. A barrier to come down when trains are approaching will prevent more cars from entering when they shouldn’t – more cost
    3. A bridge over the railway line takes away the possibility for cars to enter when they shouldn’t – most cost
Population
Population is a term used in statistics, to represent all of the data. It comes a key component when considering sample size and data validity.
Prioritisation Matrix
Prioritisation is a key part of any business process improvement. For Six-Sigma we are seeking to deploy the improvement initiatives which generate the greatest benefit in return. A Prioritisation Matrix supports us to do this. Generally a Prioritisation Matrix consists of:

  1. A 2-by-2 matrix comparing
    1. Effort on the horizontal axis
    2. Benefit on the vertical axis
  2.  Each grid then represents a level of opportunity:
    1. Top Left – Low Effort/High Benefit – This is the golden quadrant prioritise these
    2. Bottom Left High Effort/High Benefit – We may want to get these started as they could have a longer lead time but make sure the benefit outweighs the costs associated
    3. Top Right – Low Effort/Low Benefit – Though not as attractive as Top Left if there are one or two really easy to do activities then we may consider completing them to get the ball rolling and generate trust in the project
    4. Bottom Right – High Effort/Low Benefit – stay well clear! There are better returns on our investment financial and human resources.
Probability Plots
Probability Plots  are a form of Graphical Analysis utilised within the Analysis Phase of DMAIC, showing distribution.
Problem Statements
Problem Statements (or least defining them) play a crucial role in all Six-Sigma projects large or small, or any project for that matter. Problem statements are a specific description of the problem kept brief and concise, so that anybody picking up the DMAIC project can understand.

They should:

  • Explain the Problem
  • Explain How often the problem occurs
  • Show the Impact of the problem
  • Define the Scope
Process
A Process is a series of tasks, actions or steps to achieve an end.
Process Capability
Process Capability is for the set of KPI’s which measure the processes performance against the VoC specifications.
Process Cycle Efficiency

Process Cycle Efficiency is a primary Lean Measure. It is a calculation that represents the proportion of value added time within a process – calculated as follows:

PCE (%) = Total Value Added Time / Total Lead Time

Why not try our Lean Calculators!

Organisations definitions of value add can range widely (due to what people are willing to accept is adding value to a customer and often from not wanting to show that most of the work a team does is non-value add!). As a consequence PCE is best measured in a set consistent way to improve other time rather than as a benchmark for external or even internal processes (unless of course the value add is applied in the same way)

Process Confirmation
Process Confirmation is a set approach to ensuring processes are performing as intended. A key premise of six-sigma is for processes which are repeatable, predictable, high-level of quality (minimal defects) with limited variance. Process confirmation is a tool that helps to ensure this. Process confirmation will often be in the form of checklist which team members, managers and leaders will use to check that the process is being delivered to set standards. This is an often overlooked part of six-sigma and lean projects, but its simple in application and can have a tremendous impact on the sustainability of projects. Done effectively it allows for reinforcement of the right behaviours and spots issues before they get out of control.
Process Door
The DMAIC Analyse stage is sometimes referenced in two parts. Part 1 refers to the Process (Process Door) and Part 2 to Data (Data Door).

The Process Door contains all of the tools and techniques which focus on the ways the process works. Examples being the 8 wastes and Process Mapping.

Process Mapping
Process Mapping is a technique to understand how a process operates. The intention of process mapping is to understand what really happens and not assume from what is recorded in a potentially out of date Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). A process map illustrates:

  1. Graphical presentation of the steps – we do this because it allows for easier representation of the process and therefore the associated problem which those unaware of the full detail
    1. Consequently it becomes a lot easier to define the process – not just for those who are new to the process but also for those who follow the process everyday. Sometimes just this very act creates a light-bulb moment
  2. The sequence the steps or tasks are completed and their relationships
    1. This helps to more easily show where the wastes maybe as it allows for the whole process to be viewed – those hidden wastes are no longer hidden
  3. Value stream of inputs and outputs
  4. Picture of as-is or to-be process
    1. This allows the team to consider where the improvements may be placed
Project Charter
The Project Charter is a critical project document and as you will see as you work through the DMAIC material is a living document, which will be referred back to frequently and updated in this and subsequent steps. To complete the project charter you must understand the problem – so go to the workplace that the proposed project is focused on and go-see what happens (Gemba Walk). The key components of a project charter are;

  1.   Hygiene components
    1. Project Title
    2. Project Manager Name
    3. Project Sponsor Name
    4. Project Start Date
  2. The Problem Statement – The What
  3. The Project Scope
  4. The Goal Statement – The Now What
  5. Voice of the Customer
  6. Deliverables – The Now What
  7. Risks, Assumptions, Issues and Dependencies (RAID)
  8. Financials – The So What
  9. Milestones
  10. Approval Members

Though the above covers a lot of ground it is important to keep this as a one page document and maintain consistency with your organisations approach. This will aid stakeholder familiarity.

Project Report
A Project Report is templated update on the projects progress that keeps a focus on outcomes and not just activities.
PUGH Matrix
A Pugh Matrix (named after Stuart Pugh) is a highly effective tool for decision making. It is also well deployed in situations where there are disagreements between departments as it focuses on the criteria/requirements to make a more fact based decision. The Pugh matrix compares the different solutions against a standard base for each of the criteria being assessed. If a solution is deemed to be better than the base then positive score is returned if lower than the base then a negative score is returned. -2, -1, 0, 1, 2 is a common scoring criteria. Importantly each criteria is all given a weighting as not all things are created equal. So if a criteria is critical to success give this a higher weighting. The score for each solution by criteria is then multiplied by the weighting. These are then summed and the solution which come out on top is the chosen solution.

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Quality Function Deployment (QFD)
Quality Function Deployment is another term for the House of Quality. Below is the FAQ for House of Quality:

House of Quality establishes the connection between VOC and CTQs, and takes their interactions and relationships in to account. The intention is to drive real customer value and not just deliver against compliance of a target.

This is a structured methodology and depending on the use can become quite technical and all involved. In a more streamlined view :

  1. Capture – Captures and records the needs of the customer
    1. Recorded on the left most side of the ‘house’ (diagram) and can be grouped into sections as well as listed individually
  2. How to – Translates these needs into the product or service offering through features
    1. Listed at the top of the ‘house’
  3. Link
    1. Assess the relationship between features and the customers requirements (positive and negative)
      1. Marked in the central area of the ‘house’. The strength of the relationship is also marked from High, Medium, low
    2. Technical Correlation – the interaction between two technical attributes again can be positive or negative.
      1. Recorded in the roof of the ‘house’ within a matri
  4. Planning – Rating of the performance of the product/service against each of the customer requirements
    1. Recorded on the right side of the ‘house’
  5. Technical – The technical requirements are prioritised against one another and  compared against other products or services to prioritise future improvements
    1. This are recorded in the foundations (base) of the ‘house’
Quick Wins and Sacred Cows
Quick Wins are always advisable to go after, subject to reasonable effort and resources of course. A quick win can enable a project to gain respect and momentum amongst peers, colleagues and senior stakeholders.

Sacred Cows on the other hand are items which are ‘out-of-bounds). The advise here is not to not challenge but ‘pick your battles). Sacred Cows are certainly not the place for a project to start – unless of course you are wanting to alienate everyone.

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Responsible Accountable Consulted Informed (RACI)
RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) is a matrix tool which supports stakeholder engagement and understanding the roles and responsibilities.

How many times have you been involved in a project or activity where there is confusion over who does what – or worse a lack of traction or ownership?

This is where a RACI (Responsible; Accountable; Consulted; Informed) or a RASCI (as RACI but with an S standing for Support) comes into play:

  • Responsible – The performer. The person who performs the task(s) or activity(ies).
  • Accountable – The decision maker. The person who is held to account for the success. The accountability cannot be delegated.
  • Support – The supporters. The people who will be required to support a task(s) or activity(ies) to happen. It is often helpful to add this additional clarity to ensure a projects success.
  • Consulted – The subject matter experts. The people who need to be consulted (asked) before proceeding. They provide the advice and steer the project towards certain decisions.
  • Informed – The informed. They are who we let know what activities are on-going or once they are completed.
Responsible Accountable Supported Consulted Informed (RASCI)
Responsible, Accountable, Supported, Consulted, Informed.

How many times have you been involved in a project or activity and there is confusion over who does what – or worse a lack of traction or ownership.

This is where a RACI (Responsible; Accountable; Consulted; Informed) or a RASCI (as RACI but with an additional S standing for Support) comes into play

  • Responsible – The performer. This is the person who performs the task (s) or activity (ies).
  • Accountable – The decision maker. This is the person who is held to account for the success. The accountability cannot be delegated.
  • Support – The supporters. These are the people who will be required to support a task (s) or activity (ies) to happen. It is often helpful to add this additional clarity to ensure a projects success.
  • Consulted – The subject matter experts. These are the people who need to be consulted (asked) before proceeding. They provide the advice and steer that the project can decide to act upon
  • Informed – The informed. These are who we let know activities are on-going or once they are completed.
Risk Priority Number (RPN)
A Risk Priority Number (RPN) is part of the Failure Mode and Effect Analysis (FMEA) tool – RPN takes into account:

  1. Failure Mode – The failure that occurs
  2. Failure Effects – What the result of the Failure Mode is (i.e. missed engineer visit if the failure mode is wrong address captured)
  3. Severity (SEV) – Impact of the Failure Mode occurring in numerical terms
  4. Occurrence (OCC) – The number of different potentially occurrences which could happen
  5. Detection (DET) – –Meaning how can we spot potential failure and prevent. For detection we rate the likelihood that we will spot it before the failure happens (the more likely we can control the lower the score for detection

The RPN is then calculated based on the above:

RPN = SEV multiplied by OCC multiplied by DET

Root Cause Analysis (RCA)
Root Cause Analysis refers to analysis that is conducted to understand the real reason (the rrot cause) for a defect occurring. It is fundamental to Six-Sigma and DMAIC projects that they seek to tackle the root causes of problems.
Run Time Chart
Run Time Charts are a tool that help you to see if a process is statistically stable.

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Sampling
Try our Sample Size Calculator!

Sampling is a method used to collect a proportion of either new or readily available data with the purpose to draw conclusions (see also Confidence Intervals and Confidence Levels).

Sampling performed to a structured, statistically valid approach is highly beneficial for the following reasons:

  • It can be impractical or too expensive to collect all the data
  • The time taken to digest and then analyse the data is impractical or too expensive
  • It just isn’t necessary to review all data all of the time – time can then be better utilised on other value add activities
  • Some data collection is destructive a one off event and once its happened the information has gone
SCAMPER
SCAMPER is a Brainstorming technique utilised for identifying potential solutions. SCAMPER stands for:

  • Substitute – e.g. Which parts of the product or service could you swap out to improve? Are there rules which could be substituted for others?
  • Combine – e.g. Can you combine process steps? Could you combine the output or waste to good use in another product or service?
  • Adapt – e.g. How could the product or service be adapted to improve? Can you learn fro other products or services and adapt the offering?
  • Modify – e.g. can the product or service be modified in shape, look or feel?
  • Put to another use – e.g. can the waster be utilised in another product or service offering? Can the product or service be enhanced by going into a different setting?
  • Eliminate – e.g. How could you eliminate the waste? Can whole steps or actions not be required?
  • Reverse – e.g. Could steps be completed in a different order would this remove the waste? How could the product or service be re-organised?
Scatter Plot
Scatter Plots are the first step in ascertaining whether or not their is a relationship between two data sets. Correlation and Regression techniques can then be used if the correlation is not clear (and to move beyond pictorial basis).

A Matrix Plot is another chart which scatter plots may support – see Matrix Plot for details. This are effectively a series of scatter plots with a data set covering a single area.

Sigma-Levels

Try our Process Sigma Calculator!

Central to the lean six-sigma improvement methodology and to understanding sigma values is  the term defects. A defect is simply something which is not performing/presenting how it should. We can use defects to understand the number of defects per million opportunities (DPMO). Which in turn helps us to understand the sigma levels. The ambition is to work towards a position of six-sigma hence the name.

Sigma levels are as presented in the chart and the table below – the higher the sigma level the less defect are presented:

Sigma-Level Percentage DPMO
Sigma 1 – Plus and minus 1 69% 690,000
Sigma 2 – Plus and minus 2 95.46% 308,538
Sigma 3 – Plus and minus 3 99.73% 66,807
Sigma 4 – Plus and minus 4 99.9937% 6,210
Sigma 5 – Plus and minus 5 99.999943% 233
Sigma 6 – Plus and minus 6 99.999997% 3.4
SIPOC
A SIPOC is essentially a high-level process map, that presents easy enough for outsiders to get an understanding of the process and the key process elements:

  • S – The suppliers who provide the input to the process
  • I – The inputs
  • P – The operation performed on the input (the actual process)
  • O – The outputs
  • C – The customers who receive the outputs

A SIPOC can sometimes be known by the acronym COPIS the key change here is starting with the customer – other variations places the customer in the middle (at the heart of the activity). 

Six-Sigma
Six-sigma is a data driven approach to solve problems. There are two main elements to remember Defects and Variation. We want 0 defects or the least amount possible and we want the process to be stable with little to no variance – so each and every time we deliver the same result in the same way.

See also Sigma Levels or this overview of Sigma Levels

Single Minute Exchange of Die (SMED)
Single Minute Exchange of Die (SMED) stems from the manufacturing world and is focused on the reduction of waste.  It provides a very quick, efficient way of transitioning from the production one product to another.
Spaghetti Diagram
Spaghetti Diagrams are a fantastic visual way of representing a process. Even if used in a service setting they can excellently visually highlight a transportation waste.

A spaghetti diagram follows the process around and draws the flow of an item moving through the process from one step to another.

Stacked Charts
Stacked Charts are a method for showing the composition of an item. Each bar in the represents the whole category and sub-sections represent the make up of the whole.

An example would be household spending – Lets say a household spends £1,000 per week. the bar chart could look as follows:

Total stacked chart height = £1,000

  1. Rent = £400
  2. Food = £150
  3. Transport = £150
  4. Household bills (insurance, Tax etc) £50
  5. Child Care £100
  6. Disposable £150

In the above example the Total is equal to £1,000 (representing the weekly spend). There are then 6 sub categories of varying heights represnting their values.

Stakeholder Analysis
A crucial part of any project is to understand your stakeholder and a Six-Sigma project is no different. This is where Stakeholder Analysis comes into play.

This is an activity which the project will complete within the Define Stage but will consistently monitor throughout the project. You will want to consider all those that:

  • Will be involved in the project
  • Affected by the project
  • Level of control
  • Level of interest

And with the above it is important to remember stakeholders can be internal and external to a project or organisation.

There are then two core criteria to consider:

  1. Power – Is it High or Low
  2. Position – Low or High

Each stakeholder is then plotted on a 2 by 2 matrix for their response:

  1. Power – High; Position Low – Response Keep Satisfied
  2. Power – Low; Position Low – Response Minimum Effort
  3. Power – High; Position High – Response Key Player
  4. Power – Low; Position High – Response Keep Informed

A communication plan will then be developed to respond accordingly.

Standard Deviation
Standard Deviation is a measure of variance critical to Six-Sigma. Standard Deviation is the average variation of a sample of data points from their own average.
Standardise Processes
Standardise Process is where processes have a common way of being completed. Standardising processes is often an action of Six-Sigma projects in the control phase to ensure the improvements are sustained.

Having standardised processes can help to prevent waste and reduce variance in the process.

Statistical Process Control (SPC)
The primary control chart in Six-Sigma is the Statistical Process Control Chart – known as SPC. The SPC has upper control limits (UCL), lower control limits (LCL) and tghe mean (average). These limits are set by the spread of the data with the LCL usually 3 standard deviations below the mean and the UCL usually 3 standard deviations above the mean. Any data point which sits outside of the control limit lines is an outlier and if there are many of these then the process is considered to be out of control – these are signals. SPC charts are great visual way to quickly ascertain whether or not a process is in control.
Storyboarding
Storyboarding or Ghost Decks are an effective method of framing and recording the progression and findings of a Six-Sigma DMAIC project (this is an approach all good consultancies have honed well). The storyboard considers the information required and then focuses on its collection. In doing this up front thinking significant time is saved downstream. In addition, the storyboard is structured around the DMAIC stages so it acts as a guide as the project progresses.

Advantages of Storyboarding:

  1. Maintains focus on the items that really matter – which in turn reduces effort
  2. Tells the ‘story’ in a fluid logical way
  3. Consistency is provided from one project to another so aids senior decision makers understanding
  4. The storyboard can support coaching and guide more junior colleagues
  5. Time is devoted to content (substance) and less expanded on presentation (style). This isnt to say that the storyboard is any less presentable on the contrary getting this right ensures a sleek finish design

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Takt Time

Takt Time is a Lean measurement and is referred to as the drumbeat of a process, as it represents the speed of customer demand. It is a load balancing mechanism and is calculated on a process accordingly:

Takt Time = Available Work Time / Customer Demand

Why not try our Lean Calculators!

Implications of Takt Time are considered for:

  1. Relating Customer demand to the production requirements
  2. Removing of waste
  3. Effective performance monitoring
TIMWOODS
An acronym for the 8 lean wastes see also DOWNTIME. TIMWOODS stands for:

  • Transport
  • Inventory
  • Motion
  • Waiting
  • Over-Production
  • Over-Processing
  • Defects
  • Skills

Skills are an addition to the original 7 wastes

Time and Motion
Time and motion is a method of data collection. This is often used when data sources are not available or when the quality of the data is questionable. Time and Motion can often take part in the Measure Stage of DMAIC as part of going back to the Gemba (the place of work) to see what is really happening.

When done well Time and motion can be a very valuable data source and collect most process based lean measures.

When conducting Time and motion it is always beneficial to positively engage with the operation – due tot he nature of watching people work with a stop watch can be somewhat off putting and raise lots of questions. In some organisations time and motion studies may require the approval of the union.

Time Series Plot
A Time Series Plot is one of the most important graphical tools within Six-Sigma. They are used to spot trends and changes over time.
Tollgate Review
A DMAIC Tollgate review is a checkpoint at the end of each stage which secures stakeholder approval to move to the next stage. A tollgate serves 2 main purposes:

  1. A decision point where project vision, strategy and deliverable results are questioned and affirmed
  2. Provide a continued mandate for the project to proceed, the alternative is to halt or stop the project

During the Tollgate review the steering group will be:

  • Formally managing and identifying the risks and issues
  • Monitor progression against the business needs
  • Provide regular checkpoints to keep stakeholders informed throughout the project and thus avoiding surpirses at the conclusion, or with proposals
  • A formal communication tool
  • A decision making review based on the data the project presents
  • A way to check that the correct resources are deployed on the project
Transportation (Waste)
Transportation is one of the 8 lean wastes and refers to:

  • Movement of Equipment, People or Information between processes this can include:
    • Moving files in and out of archive
    • Flying to destination for a meeting
    • Sign-off of articles between one team and and another

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Value Stream Mapping (VSM)
Value Stream Mapping takes process mapping to another level. Its completion generates a lot of lean measurement data which can be utilised to baseline and then improve upon.

Some people can get very caught up in the ‘right’ symbols to be used – we have once heard this referred to as having a PHD in symbols but driving no value!

So the key here is not to over complicate this – but do be sure to use symbols that are consistent with teh organisation and certainly consistent within the process.

Variance
Variance is often regarded as the enemy. So much so that a process is better to perform at a low standard consistently than one that jumps in an out of low, stable and high performance. It is this consistency that gives us something to build and inform our customers with confidence how long something will take.

There are two types of variance:

  1. Controlled  Variance – a natural pattern of behaviour that is within predictable limits.
    1. For example a teams call handle time is consistently between 5 and 6 minutes
  2. Uncontrolled Variance – where the pattern changes and is unpredictable
    1. For example a teams call handle time that varies wildly day to day

Statistical Process Control (SPC) charts are a tool for measuring variance.

Visual Management
Visual Management is a simple yet powerful tool for showing when items are on or off track. There are examples of visual management everywhere – think of an airport with all that signage or emergency exit signs.

Visual management is also a key principle of a performance board – if we can visually see how we are performing we can more easily focus in. In addition, you do not need to be an expert in any area to know that a red sign means not on track and a green means all good.

Visual management can also be used to show where items go or when items are in stock or not. The most common example here would be a tool box with an indentation for where the hammer should go.

Voice of the Business (VoB)
Voice of the Business (VoB) is one of the ‘voices’ that we listen to in a Six-Sigma project. The others being Voice of the Customer (VoC), Voice of the Employee (VoE) and the Voice of the Process (VoP).

VoB represents the business requirements often considered from a financial and or strategy perspective.

Voice of the Customer (VoC)
Voice of the Customer (VoC) is one of the ‘voices’ that we listen to in a Six-Sigma project. The others being Voice of the Business (VoB), Voice of the Employee (VoE) and the Voice of the Process (VoP).

VoC represents the customers requirements and their perception of the product or service.

Voice of the Employee (VoE)
Voice of the Employee (VoE) is one of the ‘voices’ that we listen to in a Six-Sigma project. The others being Voice of the Business (VoB), Voice of the Customer (VoC) and the Voice of the Process (VoP).

VoC represents the employees requirements and consider their views and engagement.

Voices
Voices is the collective term for the set of ‘voices’ we listen to within a Six-Sigma project. These are the Voice of the Customer (VoC); Voice of the Business (VoB); Voice of the Employee (VoE) and additionally the Voice of the Process (VoP)

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Waiting (Waste)
Waiting is one of the 8 lean wastes and refers to:

  • People, Teams, Machines, Parts etc that have to wait for a task or activity to be completed examples
    • Batches awaiting return
    • Waiting for a spare part to return
    • Waiting for a response from a supervisor before you can respond to a customer
Wastes
Commonly there are 8 wastes (up from the previous 7 to include skills or non-utilised talent). Wastes are effectively anything the customer is not willing to pay for and therefore classified as Non-Value Add. There are a couple of acronyms to remember the wastes by:

Downtime

  • Defects
  • Over-Production
  • Waiting
  • Non-Utilised Talent
  • Transport
  • Inventory
  • Motion
  • Extra Processing

TIMWOODS

  • Transport
  • Inventory
  • Motion
  • Waiting
  • Over-Production
  • Over-Processing
  • Defects
  • Skills
White Belt (WB)
There are layers of Six-Sigma proficiency represented by belts – similar to those used within karate. White Belt is the introductory level of knowledge and awareness – its the minimum standard.

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Yellow Belt (YB)
There are layers of Six-Sigma proficiency represented by belts – similar to those used within karate. Yellow Belt – Basic level of knowledge – participates as a team member delivering everyday continuous improvement

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