SIX SIGMA TOOLS
Projects, both planned and unplanned, can get out of hand, producing undesired or no results after waste of huge resources and time unless they are monitored accurately with the appropriate tools.
The pitfalls of not using Six Sigma tools are extremely complex in nature. It becomes impossible to manage the quantum of data in a systematic way that facilitates pragmatic analysis as desired by the project goals.
If you look at it from another angle, which is from the administrative side, pressures like time, lets-see-next-time from management and project cost overruns can help things grow out of hand.
Six Sigma Tools: Three Distinct Groups
Six Sigma tools can be broadly categorized into three groups as per their utility and nature:
- Statistical tools
- Software tools
- Judgmental tools
Even though software tools are based on statistics, there is not much difference between them and statistical tools in Six Sigma as they just differ in they way they are made use of. The third one, the judgmental tools, are entirely distinct from the other two, and draw significance by way of aiding decision-making throughout the project phases.
The first one under this head, CPM (Critical Path Method), is not exactly a dedicated Six Sigma statistical tool but it still finds its way owing to its ability to contribute to project management. Working under pressure and concurrently running several projects requires a timetable to be put in place. Enumerating the defined critical events on the path you can predict the key dates you cross each hurdles and completion date. Key events are typically break down structures of projects. CPM is basically a planning tool.
The next set of tools can be sub-grouped as analytical tools which aid decision making. For example, the FMEA, Failure Modes and Effects Analysis, helps anticipate problems through analytical interpretations.
Translate vague remarks by customer into measurable functional requirements toning up the ability of the team to design and deliver results that satisfy customers. VOC Requirements Translation and Kano Analysis suffice here. There are tools in this segment to deal with customer data like Customer Segmentation and VOC Data Collection etc.
The Ishikawa Root Cause Analysis Diagram (Fishbone diagram,) is handy to look at reasons for initial problems at a Six Sigma initiative, identify data collection areas and more importantly, to answer why projects are off track and not producing results.
There are several other tools falling into this category, such as the Thought Map Regulation Diagram, Brain Storming & Affinity Group Tool etc. For more complex and non-linear problems, it is not advisable to depend on the Cause and Effect Fishbone Diagram, which is more suited for linear complications. Then there is the Thought Map Relations Diagram for handling complex non-linear issues.
But by far, Brainstorming is still the more dependable final tool for analyzing the data.
Software tools do not just speed up things, but also eliminate errors from the analytical stage. Most popular ones in the category are available as Spreadsheet applications. However, notable ones are:
- The RapAnalyst which simplifies DOE and many predictive modeling activities in data mining
- There are total packages like MiniTab, SixNet Intelligence for enterprise-wide deployment
- The simplest hand tool is the Six Sigma calculator