Six Sigma has gained popularity recently as it has achieved dramatic benefits in organizations that have understood and implemented its rigorous processes. Some have asked me what the differences are between a Six Sigma system approach to information quality (IQ) and Total Information Quality Management (TIQM), the methodology described in my book Improving Data Warehouse and Business Information Quality.1
The term Six Sigma has two meanings:
- As a measure of quality, Six Sigma refers to six standard deviations and means a process performance of no more than 3.4 defects per million opportunities (DPMO).
- As a quality system, Six Sigma is a methodology of quality management and process improvement, originally developed by Motorola, using sigma-based process measures with a goal to achieve Six Sigma-level quality.
Reasons for Six Sigma Popularity
Six Sigma has become popular because it focuses strongly on a balance of:
- A focus on the customer. From the outset of Six Sigma, Motorola focused on the importance of customer satisfaction in product development and service delivery. The original six steps included three key points:
- 1. Identify your product or service.
- 2. Identify the customer(s) for your product or service; determine what they consider important.
- 3. Identify your needs to provide the product/service so that it satisfies the customer.2
- A value proposition of decreasing the costs of nonquality. Six Sigma projects seek projects in a Pareto fashion that are expected to recover returns from $100,000 to more than $1 million. After the first year or so of GE's break-even Six Sigma efforts, the payback has accelerated. The company recovered $750 million in 1998 and approximately $1.5 billion in 1999 -- with billions of potential recovery since then.3
- * A focus on process improvement and process design or redesign as the means of addressing nonquality. Define-measure-analyze-improve-control (DMAIC) packages the measurement processes with process improvement or design/redesign and control. It does not even consider measurement for measurement's sake. Nor does DMAIC discuss scrap and rework as a means of "improvement." It is centered around improving, controlling and performing processes to approach Six Sigma-level quality based on what customers care about.
- * Active involvement of top management who understand and champion the value proposition and the imperatives of quality principles and processes to accomplish the value proposition. The story of GE illustrates the importance of top management and its ability to transform even the largest of organizations. When Jack Welch saw the value of Six Sigma, he quickly became the champion, urging "his top lieutenants to become 'passionate lunatics' about Six Sigma. He has described GE's commitment to Six Sigma as 'unbalanced.'"4 The Motorola and GE experiences illustrate that even large organizations can make dramatic and radical culture changes if they want to.
- A rigorous set of processes and techniques to measure, improve and control the quality of the product, service or information based on what is important to the customer. The processes of measurement and techniques for improvement are not new to Six Sigma. According to one of the Six Sigma experts at Motorola, Motorola did not invent those techniques. Indeed, they are basically the same best practices that were developed by quality pioneers such as Shewhart (PDCA -- plan-do-check-act -- process improvement cycle) and Ishikawa (fishbone and cause-and-effect diagrams).
- Six Sigma improvement projects are sponsored, led and coached by personnel who are certified in the Six Sigma techniques master black belts, black belts or green belts, depending on the size and complexity of the projects.
TIQM, a full methodology for information quality management, uses the same types of techniques and processes as Six Sigma; they are just implemented in a different packaging. However, the TIQM processes and process steps have been mapped to the Six Sigma DMAIC phases. The TIQM process steps can be performed in the DMAIC cycle for information quality improvement projects.
Reasons for TIQM Popularity
TIQM was designed with the same characteristics as just described:
- A focus on the customer. TIQM says this about information quality: To define information quality, one must identify the "customers" of data, the "knowledge-workers" who require data to perform their jobs. Information quality is consistently meeting all knowledge-worker and end-customer expectations through information and information services, enabling them to perform their jobs efficiently and effectively. The goal of information quality is to equip the knowledge-workers with a strategic resource to enable the intelligent learning organization.
The drivers in TIQM are the information customers, both external and internal. One cannot improve information quality without first thinking about who the real information customers are and what their needs are in their information products.
- A value proposition of decreasing the costs of nonquality. The subtitle of my book, Improving Data Warehouse and Business Information Quality, is: Methods for Reducing Costs and Increasing Profits. This subtitle states the value proposition of TIQM: There is and must be only one purpose for improving information quality to improve customer and stakeholder satisfaction by increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of the business processes. Information quality is a business concern, and information quality improvement is a business issue.
IQ improvement actually reduces business costs by eliminating costly scrap and rework caused by defective data. It increases business profits by providing more reliable information products that result in more usage, better decisions and increased exploitation of business opportunities.
IQ is about business and manufacturing performance excellence by improving processes to increase quality information. When implemented, IQ results in:
- Increased customer satisfaction.
- Increased employee (knowledge-worker) satisfaction.
- Decreased costs and increased profits/surplus.5
- Reduced risks.