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<i>Dear Workforce</i> How Do We Adapt Six Sigma to Our Strategic Human Resources Management

April 20, 2006
Dear Aiming High:

Six Sigma is a methodology that focuses on understanding and meeting customers' needs by using a variety of tools, especially statistical analyses, to drive performance metrics. Although its roots are in manufacturing, there's no reason you can't adopt Six Sigma for your service environment.
You could use Six Sigma to tackle a variety of strategic human resources projects, such as:
  • Lowering turnover
  • Paring prescription drug costs
  • Reducing injuries at work
  • Improving recruiting time-to-fill
Six Sigma methodologies include a project plan known as DMAIC that is used to improve business processes within human resources. DMAIC is an acronym that describes the basic steps you take:
Define -- Identify the problem
Measure -- Establish metrics to quantify
Analyze -- Figure out what the metrics tell you
Improve -- Craft a solution based on your analysis
Control -- Find a way to sustain improvements
Let's take an example. Say you want to reverse a trend of high turnover. You would:
Define the problem: reducing unwanted turnover.
Measure: identify key measurements underlying turnover.
Analyze: understand key factors and trends that create turnover.
Improve: identify and execute a plan to address those factors.
Control: implement controls to lower turnover on an ongoing basis.
Historically, human resources professionals have helped with the heavy training requirements when their organizations adopt Six Sigma, either in whole or in part. So expect to play a pivotal role in equipping your workforce. Aside from training, other issues you may need to address include: setting rewards and recognition for project teams; staffing those teams geared toward improving your business processes, and instilling Six Sigma methodology as a staple of your workplace culture.
If you're like most human resources professionals, you initially might be uncomfortable with the statistical aspect of Six Sigma. Yet it enables you to get beyond merely measuring HR activities and focus on strategic goals. When integrated with your human resource management practices, Six Sigma should help you improve service levels and efficiency. For your customers, few things are more highly prized.
SOURCE: Scott Weston is a certified Six Sigma black belt and principal ofFalcon Strategic Group, San Francisco, June 3, 2005.
LEARN MORE:Building Frameworks for Six Sigma Success
The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.