Slipping into the sixth sigma

Unless you've been living in a cave or coding COBOL for the past few years, you've no doubt heard of Six Sigma. Six Sigma is a procedure that strives to reduce waste, errors, and constantly improve quality through the services and deliverables an organization produces. Six Sigma was developed by some really smart people at Motorola who received the Malcolm National Quality Award in 1988 for their Six Sigma methodology.

Most software is created and tested, then the errors are fixed, patched, or ignored, and then the entire process starts over. Software development, for the most part, focuses on inspection to ensure quality; this is quality control. Six Sigma, however, focuses on preventing the mistakes from entering the process at all; this is quality assurance.

The Six Sigma program was invented by the smart folks at Motorola during the 1980s. Their creation paid off with an increase in profits, customer satisfaction, and quality awards. Their program went on to be adapted as a standard for quality assurance by the American Society of Quality (ASQ). Visit ASQ at

Figure 6-2 shows the range of possibilities for sigma. According to ASQ, most organizations perform at three to four sigma, where they drop anywhere between 20 and 30 percent of their revenue due to a lack of quality. If a company can perform at Six Sigma, it only allows 3.4 defects per million opportunities.

One Sigma from Mean


Figure 6-2:

Organizations operating at the Sixth Sigma allow only 3.4 defects per million.

Six Sigma from Mean

Sigma from Mean

The primary points of Six Sigma are

1 We don't know what we don't know. Makes sense, right? A lack of knowledge keeps organizations trapped in their current environment, losing revenue, and preventing progress.

1 We don't do what we don't know. If you don't know what you should be doing you cannot do it.

1 We won't know until we measure. Aha! The real action in Six Sigma is to measure in order to improve.

1 We don't measure what we don't value. Six Sigma looks at what does and does not need to be measured, and then prompts the developer or project manager to act accordingly. If you value your programmers' time, your software's errors, and your customer satisfaction, you'll measure them all.

1 We don't value what we don't measure. This is a call to action! What should you be measuring that you're not?

Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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