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Six Sigma is an integrated, disciplined approach for reducing defects and producing measurable financial results. With its roots in statistical engineering, the Six Sigma concept embodies a data driven methodology focused on driving down process variation so that no more than 3.4 defects are produced per million opportunities. It has long been associated with Lean Manufacturing. While Lean serves to eliminate waste, Six Sigma reduces process variability in striving for perfection.

Pressures to adopt Six Sigma are primarily driven by the need to improve operational performance in order to reduce costs and push financial results to the bottom line. While over 50% of respondents in Aberdeen’s Lean Six Sigma survey, as well as in past studies, indicated Six Sigma programs were implemented, we found less than 16% of “Six Sigma” companies and less than 8% of all respondents are holding true to the rigorous program with the stringent quality goal, structured problem-solving approach, dedicated training and prioritized projects that are the hallmark of the original Six Sigma philosophies.

Key Business Findings
Adapting to the rigors of Six Sigma requires significant culture change for most companies and many find it a challenge. Companies are finding innovative ways to address this issue along with the usual training programs and by attempting to introduce change gradually. However, training needs to reach the mind, heart and soul of a company and must be an ongoing effort.

Not all challenges are cultural though. With its statistical engineering heritage, Six Sigma methodologies are indeed dependent on data, so data collection can present significant obstacles. Automated data collection and Information Technology (IT) solutions can play a key role in resolving these obstacles, yet findings indicate insufficient use of automation and analytics to support Six Sigma activities.

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