Six Sigma Green Belt—Define: Process Management vs. Traditional Management

“If I had an hour to save the world I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute finding solutions.” Albert Einstein

1. Introduction: Define, the “D” of “DMAIC”

The Six Sigma process has five steps or stages, which are listed in the diagram below. The initials of these stages form the acronym DMAIC, and it is the “D” or “Define” stage which will occupy the next series of posts.

2. Business Process Definition

Six Sigma is a tool for attacking problems that impact a company’s bottom line. It does this by improving processes as part of Process Management. But before we discuss Process Management, let’s take a moment to define what a business process is: it is a series of activities that produces a specific product or service for customers.

There are inputs and outputs to each activity in the process, so the entire process can be diagrammed as a flowchart similar to that of a computer program. Except here, the beginning point of the process would be the raw materials or components received from suppliers and the end point would be the shipment of the finished product to the customers.

There are three types of business processes: the core processes that add value to the company’s bottom line (purchasing, manufacturing, sales & marketing), the support processes that support the core processes (accounting, technical support, call centers), and management processes that govern both the core and support processes (corporate governance and strategic planning).

3. Process Management vs. Traditional Management

With the above definition in mind, let’s turn to one of the reasons why Six Sigma is recognized as an effective tool in management, namely that it brings better results than traditional management.

Traditional management focuses on the different silos or departments within an organization so that the focus shifts from what is good for the entire organization to what is good for that particular department. This is called parochialism and can be one of the barriers to success for an organization. In fact, Tom Rieger, in his book Breaking the Fear Barrier refers to it as one of the three barriers (along with territorialism and empire building) which can divert an organization’s resources from fighting the competition to internal battles between departments.

This is why Process Management, as part of the focus of the Six Sigma method, can help break down this parochialism by focusing on the processes no matter which department is responsible for them. It involves management, core, and support-related departments together in finding the solutions to problems, and that is why it has proven to be an effective tool in improving the bottom line for organizations.

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