Six Sigma in Software/IT

A Parallel Process View for Information Technology

The IT practitioners’ must see their world from two different perspectives – how the business uses their services, and how IT provides services to the business. Both views distill to one concept – the value stream, applied in two different ways.

A Software Project’s Cycle Time: Are We There Yet?

In the near term, most software organizations can realize meaningful cycle time reductions by adopting Agile methods. In the longer term, it remains important to address and measure all of the factors that contribute to longer cycle times.

Abstraction Factor Analysis: A Nonlinear Way to Improve Product Development

One way to extend the Lean Six Sigma toolkit is by introducing new, nonlinear approaches to improvement within the transactional improvement space particularly upstream in the areas of innovation, new product development and the software development life cycle.

Six Sigma in the Voting process

A six sigma voting process will result in not more than 3.4 defective votes for each one million cast. Since we can expect 100 million votes in the 2004 presidential election, that amounts to not more than 340 defective votes in the entire country. And if these defective votes are randomly spread among the 50 states it is highly unlikely that a recount in any state will change the outcome in any state.

Six Sigma in a small business

For your size of business you could use a Black Belt, a few Green Belts and a part-time Master Black Belt/external adviser to help get you going. While there are a bunch of consultants that will be happy to come in and take your money, I would recommend great caution selecting consultants; avoid them if you can.

Instead, try and grow your own expertise. I suggest you get one of your strong people enrolled in a Black Belt program and you go to a Champion session to get a feel for what this is all about. (I’m presuming you are the GM/CEO; if not, then take him/her with you to school — and sounds like you need to go since you seem to be the one interested in driving this effort.) You and your newly minted BB can train the GBs and/or you can send them to school as well.

There are some nice combinations of training and consulting support from some of the various state Manufacturing Extension Programs. They have reputable contractors who hold open enrollment classes and they have Black Belts/consultants on staff that can assist in the implementation process. Unlike a typical consultant, they are supported (to various degrees) by state and Federal funds so their fees are reasonable; but they are professionals and know what they are doing.

Why Six Sigma and not Deming as a quality system?

Deming taught that management must make a commitment to change and that they must promote and support the new mode of attacking problems. There must be continuous improvement, cooperation throughout the organization, and concentration on “quality” rather than “numbers”. He was very big on having “profound knowledge”. By this he was rreferringto knowing the processes and equipment, training people, and especially acquiring an in depth knowledge of statistics. He emphasized teamwork as part of the unified ongoing effort. This is my paraphrasing of his famous “14 points”. Of course, his claim to fame was that everything had to be measured and analyzed statistically. He taught SPC to the Japanese after World War II and was accredited with the revolution that turned Japanese products from being “junk” into the best in the world. He was accredited with the change in Japan to such an extent that he was honored by the Japanese by them naming their national quality award after him… “The Deming Prize”. Of cause the Japanese are due most of the credit. They believed what they were taught, they all supported the idea (as they do on so many subjects) and the entire nation made a marvelous effort and success at what they set out to do. So, Deming and six sixma has a lot in common. Six sigma has some extras. Deming insisted you need an in depth knowledge of statistics and taught statistics, but he did not sell a packaged structure of what you need to learn or how to do it such as six sigma does. Deming discouraged accounting and productivity reports insisting that if you concentrate on quality, the production and profits are automatic. Six sigma reviews the numbers throughout the company, sets them to a standardized comparison base (sigmas) so that the efficiency of each department and its affect on the whole can be evaluated. A benefit to this is to recognize where waste, and rework, is increasing or decreasing, department by department, so that the rolling throughput only improves in every department but the final output of the company as a whole (as a result of the individual fictions) all improves simultaneously. Deming was a master organizer, teacher, and statistician. But he did not have the honed, off the shelf, all encompassing, ready to go kit that six sigma is selling. I mean there are good brooms, but the door to door Eureka salesman has it all. My problem with six sigma is the idea that the expertise the title “six sigma black belt”

Why Six Sigma and not Kaizen or Breakthrough?

Six sigma over Kaizen may be as the following :

  1. They want breakthrough iimprovement not just continuous improvement.
  2. They hope they will improve faster.
  3. It is expected that Six Sigma has better capability to solve the problem which can not be solved easily by Kaizen.
  4. Six Sigma is more fashionable. It look good today to say “We have Six Sigma”.
Why Six Sigma and not TQM?

In six sigma each and every opportunity has to be identified as a project.It is basically a project management approach to achieve the well defined goal with a specified time frame.Examples are :New product cycle time reduction,Scrap reduction,Yield improvement etc. TQM events such as 5S,SOP etc can be used as a tool to achieve the goal of any six sigma project. Focused approach on each opportunity with the help of statistical tools. Project benefits has to be shared with team members on completion of projects. Independent full time team leader called “Black Belt” is unique feature of SS. SS is not only for mfg process and it is for all processes such as bill passing,telephone responding,attendance etc.

Why isn’t Six Sigma just a fad?

To think of it we know what kind of credibility did ISO 9001:1994 landed organizations into down the line, when many companies had certifications purely for market requirements and not for serious process improvement efforts. And yes there are registering bodies who ensured that there were more and more orgn. getting “certified” so as to increase the impression of the clientele list they serviced.

With Six Sigma, it is really to be seen to believe how some organizations have used it. Few have certainly, demonstrated major improvements in the earlier phases of DMAIC – and then there are others who have reported upto the Anlyze Phase alone and never really published down the Control Phase.

Why hire a Six Sigma consultant?

“Changing what we have the power to change, accepting the things we cannot change, and becoming wise enough to know the difference between the two.” It is a very old saying, and one that many people aspire to. But when it comes to implementing quality within your business, many feel they have or should have the power to effect change themselves. Sometimes, however, an outsider might be best to help lead the change.

What is the best Six Sigma book?

I am looking for the best book to teach incoming Green Belts on Lean Six Sigma. So far I like The Complete Idiot’s guide to Lean Six Sigma the best out of Lean Six Sigma; Lean Six Sigma Demystified, What is Lean Six Sigma and The Certified Six Sigma Green Belt Handbook. I welcome other opinions.

What is a Six Sigma champion?

Freddie Mercury, former member of the 1970s British rock group Queen, may not have been the most appropriate and politically correct when he wrote these song lyrics, “No time for losers, ’cause we are the champions….” However, fans understood the meaning and the excitement generated by being a champion. The same should hold true for a Six Sigma project Champion.

First of all, it is important to clarify which Champion is being referring to. In the Six Sigma methodology there are typically two – the deployment Champion and the project Champion. Here, the focus is on the project Champion, However, to make the difference clear, a quick overview of the roles of the deployment Champion must be provided.

What is the statistical explanation of Six Sigma?

I have the following calculation based on a normal curve. The central area is the area enclosed by the number of sigma. For example, the central area is about 68% when the area is defined by 1 sigma on both sides of the area. The side areas are the two small areas outside the central areas. The total area under a normal curve is 1. Therefore, the side area is obtained by 1 – central area. The DPMO is the side area divided by 2.

What are the costs and savings of Six Sigma?

Many people say that it takes money to make money. In the world of Six Sigma quality, the saying also holds true: it takes money to save money using the Six Sigma quality methodology. You can’t expect to significantly reduce costs and increase sales using Six Sigma without investing in training, organizational infrastructure and culture evolution.

Sure you can reduce costs and increase sales in a localized area of a business using the Six Sigma quality methodology – and you can probably do it inexpensively by hiring an ex-Motorola or GE Black Belt. I like to think of that scenario as a “get rich quick” application of Six Sigma. But is it going to last when a manager is promoted to a different area or leaves the company? Probably not. If you want to produce a culture shift within your organization, a shift that causes every employee to think about how their actions impact the customer and to communicate within the business using a consistent language, it’s going to require a resource commitment. It takes money to save money.

What curriculum / body of knowledge makes up Six Sigma?

Six Sigma receives many questions regarding the Six Sigma methodology and, more specifically, what each business change agent (Champion, Master Black Belt, Black Belt, Green Belt) should know in order to be effective. To help meet this need, I have created a reference document detailing what should be contained in a Six Sigma curriculum. Below is iSixSigma’s recommendation for a body of knowledge for Six Sigma. You may find it useful when selecting a Six Sigma provider or completing training to ensure you are learning all appropriate topics.

It is the belief of this author and iSixSigma that Master Black Belts and Black Belts should possess the same detailed knowledge of process improvement and statistical analysis, although the two roles vary significantly in other ways (see Organizational Architecture). For this reason, all of the key understanding areas listed under the DMAIC sections for the Master Black Belt and the Black Belt are identical.

What is Six Sigma?

Six Sigma at many organizations simply means a measure of quality that strives for near perfection. Six Sigma is a disciplined, data-driven approach and methodology for eliminating defects (driving toward six standard deviations between the mean and the nearest specification limit) in any process – from manufacturing to transnational and from product to service.

Why link Six Sigma to financial results?

The Quality profession has always been about improving processes, products and services. From TQM to PDCA to Six Sigma, all Quality methodologies are focused on eliminating defects and the root causes of those defects. It involves products that satisfy your customers, running processes at greater efficiencies, producing less waste and increasing business productivity. All of this, of course, is based on the fact that these processes are driving financial benefits.

If it didn’t make sense financially, would you still do it? In some cases you might, but as a rule of thumb you can’t sustain a business unless you bring in revenue and produce a profit. The Six Sigma methodology, in particular, emphasizes the financial results of a project.