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According to The American Society for Quality the term Total Quality Management was first used by the U.S. Naval Air Systems Command to describe its Japanese-style management approach to quality improvement. The methods for implementing this approach, however, found their roots in the teachings of such leaders as "Philip B. Crosby, W. Edwards Deming, Armand V. Feigenbaum, Kaoru Ishikawa and Joseph M. Juran,"(ASQ). While the original title has fallen out of favor in the United States and has been redefined as Quality Management, Europe still holds to the original Total Quality Management.
According to Total Quality Magazine, Quality Management (QM) is a comprehensive and structured approach to organizational management. QM seeks to improve the quality of products and services through ongoing long-term refinements. Achieved in response to continuous feedback, each company defines QM for a particular organization based on their individual adherence to established company standards. QM found its beginnings in the manufacturing sector and has since been adapted for use in numerous types of organization. "QM requires that the company maintain this quality standard in all aspects of its business. This requires ensuring that things are done right the first time and that defects and waste are eliminated from operations," (Wikipedia Encylopedia).
The QM processes are divided into four categories: plan, do, check, and act. These four categories are based on the PDCA or PDSA cycle which was originally conceived by Walter Shewhart in 1930's, and later adopted by W. Edwards Deming, according to the The Clinician's Black Bag for Quality Improvement Tools. In the planning phase, people define what they intended to. Looking for areas that hold the most return for their effort, data is collected and the root cause for the intended change is defined. In the doing phase, a plan of action is implemented and the results are measured. The checking phase confirms the results through before-and-after data comparison. This phase allows us to monitor the course that will be taken in the final phase of action. In the act phase, after reviewing the information obtained in the check phase a decision is made to change, to abandon the course of action, or to run the QM process again.
One such QM-focused process is known as Six Sigma. This 35 year-old process for quality improvement has found success in many diverse forms of business including schools, management, and churches. Even NASA has seen dramatic improvement upon implementation of this process.
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The Six Sigma of today has its roots in the quality-focused leadership of Philip Crosby, according to his book Quality is Free. The Six Sigma that is seen today is actually a philosophy that builds on the time-proven techniques of Statistical Process Control (SPC) and Quality Management (QM).
The main features of Six Sigma
Six Sigma was originally suited for defensive organizational transformation. However, it has recently found success in business environments. In determining if Six Sigma is the correct intervention to use, an either/or approach is not always necessary since Six Sigma uses tools that are common to other forms of intervention and can be integrated with other quality control processes. In fact, implementing Six Sigma along with another form of intervention can often lead to faster results with a more focused end result. When implementing Six Sigma, a four phase approach is commonly used; orientation, preparation, roll-out, and integration. The emphasis when using Six Sigma should be on the finding the approach that best fits the client in order to achieve the needed results based on their unique cultures.
Six Sigma's objective is the gathering of measurable data and determining how far a given process deviates from perfection," if you can measure how many "defects" you have in a process, you can systematically figure out how to eliminate them and get as close to "zero defects" as possible, (General Electric ). The two types of data that can be found in business are hard data, defined as discrete data that can be counted, and soft data, defined as opinions and client/employee satisfaction that is acquired and reported to management in a meaningful way. The process of turning this data into actionable information is a two-fold process: knowing what to extract and knowing how to display, (George H. Chynoweth, Ph.D. and Six Sigma). Six Sigma uses such tools as checklists, surveys, and quantitative goals to gather data on process improvements and it's overall effectiveness in the business.
According to Six Sigma's definition of process quality, a product or process must not produce more than 3.4 defects or parts per million in a given opportunities. Six Sigma calls this product output variation' and focuses on lowering this over time. By using the checklists, surveys, and quantitative goal reviews, Six Sigma allows for a measurable plotting of improvement over time with reliable data. The smaller the deviation from the desired output, the more effective Six Sigma is judged to be.
Six Sigma follows the process of improvement defined in the QM goal for eliminating defects and waste through quality standards in all areas of a business. According to the book Six Sigma Simplified, Six Sigma achieves its objective through the use of two Six Sigma concepts known as DMAIC and DMADV. DMAIC stands for the process of defining, measuring, analyzing, improving, and controlling all parts of a process. This process is used for existing processes that fall below company specifications and are being looked at for small improvements. The second concept of DMADV is defined as the process of defining, measuring, analyzing, designing, and verifying an improvement system that will be used to develop new processes or products at quality levels that are defined by Six Sigma standards. The DMADV is used when a process or system requires more that just small improvements in operational systems.
Appropriate use for six sigma
Six Sigma supplies a specific answer to the question "how" by applying measurements and analysis to the problem solving process. Six Sigma places emphasis on both understanding and managing performance outcomes. Training in selection and application is also provided regarding appropriate statistical tools and methods. Determining which are the most applicable based on the needs of the client is necessary when describing and connecting the data at hand.
Non-appropriate use for Six Sigma
Six Sigma projects usually require a major expenditure of money, time, and a willingness to make some hard decisions. Before deciding upon what intervention to use, a client's culture should be considered. If there is a history of making data-driven decisions by the client Six Sigma is a good choice. If a client is not open to addressing specific outcomes desired, resources available, a timeline, and political constraints, Six Sigma may not be the best choice. Company managers must have sufficient authority in order to gain cooperation from departmental supervisors with out push-backs from department directors. If a company is not set up to promote Six Sigma correctly, problem-solving staff meetings, continuous quality improvement studies, and total quality management processes may be more appropriate.
Evaluation of success
One way we evaluate the success of a Six Sigma project is to measure the client's involvement in the project and the numbers of Six Sigma experts trained, and certified. Another way is to evaluate the project leaders to determine if their behavior and goals match up with that of the objective. One of the most important aspects of Six Sigma is the ability to measure the financial impact of implementation and action. Six Sigma recommends using guidelines to evaluating its effectiveness, such as: is executive ownership and commitment strong with regards to the action plan? Are clients selecting the right projects, project teams, and project contracts? And based on measured data, is the original goal or objective being reached?
Once this checklist has been reviewed, the business will evaluate the current effectiveness of Six Sigma and either chose to use another quality management intervention, or to fine-tune the Six Sigma process within their company to make it more effective. Either way, it spurs the company to take actionable steps towards process and quality management improvement.
Whether a company uses Six Sigma or another intervention, it is still important that they constantly work to improve the quality of their services and products. By utilizing the current tools (Six Sigma, ISO standards, etc.) in the marketplace today, companies can continue to work towards becoming effective quality managers and can improve their chances in the marketplace for years to come.
American Society for Quality. (2005). Retrieved June 4, 2006, from www.asq.org/learn-about-quality/total-quality-management/overview/overview.html.
Arthur, Jay. (2001). Six Sigma Simplified: Process Improvement Made Easy. Colorado: LifeStar.
Crosby, Philip. (1979 ) Quality is Free: The Art of Making Quality Certain. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Dartmouth Medical School: The Clinician's Black Bag of Quality Improvement Tools (2005). The PDCA Cycle. Retrieved June 4, 2006, from www.dartmouth.edu/~ogehome/CQI/PDCA.html
General Electric Company. (2006). What Is Six Sigma? Retrieved June 4, 2006, from http://www.ge.com/en/company/companyinfo/quality/whatis.htm.
Six Sigma. (2006) Six Sigma-What is Six Sigma? Retrieved June 4, 2006, from www.isixsigma.com/sixsigma/six_sigma.asp
Wikipedia (2006, June). Total Quality Management. Retrieved June 4, 2006, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Total_Quality_Managment#Definition.