Six Sigma Techniques

Instructor: James Kuhn

Jim has taught adults for more than 20 years and has a Masters Degree in Christian Leadership.

Six Sigma methodology includes a variety of tools that are used in quality initiatives. This lesson provides an overview of the most common Six Sigma techniques and their appropriate use in the project cycle.

Six Sigma Techniques

Six Sigma methodology incorporates many powerful tools to use in continuous improvement projects and programs. The primary toolset includes a mix of statistical tools and data analysis, process mapping & design, and improvement techniques designed to achieve the desired impact. This lesson will focus strictly on the third of those areas, Six Sigma techniques.

There are dozens of useful qualitative and quantitative Six Sigma techniques that are part of the Six Sigma toolbox. While many of the techniques are utilized for a specific purpose, this lesson will review the key techniques that are most commonly used during a Six Sigma project. These frequent techniques include:

  • Brainstorming
  • Voice of the Customer
  • Root Cause Analysis (5 Whys)


Brainstorming Technique

The brainstorming technique is a critical part of all Six Sigma problem solving exercises, and is required before other more specific tools and analysis are conducted. Brainstorming technique involves a facilitator (typically the lead Black Belt or Green Belt), and a small, but diverse, group of participants who gather together for an 'open-think' session to generate ideas and solutions to the problem under review. The main purpose is to encourage creative thoughts in an environment free of negative feedback and argument (as moderated by the independent facilitator).

The brainstorming session uses a formal approach to ensure that all participants have a chance to contribute, but also is loose enough to allow the team to build on one another's thoughts and ideas. The Black Belt/facilitator can use several methods in conducting the brainstorming, such as the use of idea rotation (everyone contributes in order until no more ideas) or word-association, to stimulate the brainpower of the group. Use of this technique is very helpful when the activity under review has 'always been done this way,' and is used to break the status quo of existing routines. Brainstorming is most commonly used during the 'Improve' phase of the Six Sigma DMAIC cycle (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control).

Voice of the Customer

Voice of the Customer
VOC Technique

Within a Six Sigma initiative, the voice of the customer technique is used to gather feedback from customers with regards to their experiences with the process you are working to improve. This proactive technique includes all customers--both internal and external--and helps the team understand all requirements the customers may have for your product or service. For example, if your team is working on improving product time, you may be getting feedback from not only the end consumers (the external customers/clients), but also those within your own organization who are involved in the process (like warehouse/shipping, accounting, and service departments). The graphic gives an example of the different types of customers you may have in a supply chain project like you are working on.

The voice of the customer technique is most commonly utilized during the 'Define' phase of the DMAIC project cycle, in an effort to further define the problem to be resolved. The most common method of conducting the technique is via direct conversations or interviews with the appropriate customers. However, surveys (online or offline), as well as group discussions/focus groups, can also be utilized to conduct voice of the customer exercises. From this feedback, the Six Sigma team can gather and document specific criteria to include in the product or service being improved.

Root Cause Analysis (Five Whys Technique)

5 Whys Technique
5 Why Technique

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