Six Sigma Q&A

Six Sigma Q&A

You may have heard about Six Sigma at FSCJ - at Convocation, during an OnPoint call or by email. What is it all about? Dr. Kip Strasma, Executive Director of Project Development and Management and Six Sigma Black Belt is here to answer your questions.

What is Six Sigma?
Six Sigma is a collection of roles and methods for managing changes in processes at an institution. Project teams are created by leaders to review and improve processes that involve many functional areas of the College, such as human resources, information services, finance, government compliance, etc. Think of Six Sigma as an opportunity for project teams to transform existing processes so they function more simply and with greater efficiency.

How will Six Sigma help FSCJ?
Dr. Avendano has voiced his goal that FSCJ establish itself as a national leader in education. Six Sigma will help the College do that by continuously improving the ways it helps students find success. Processes that support College entry, persistence and matriculation can all benefit from regular reviews for greater efficiency. In other words, students spending more time and effort on their learning and less time and effort on everything that comes before and after it.

Say that again? What is Six Sigma really about?
Each College employee is involved in daily activities. Each activity, from reporting work hours or creating a new course or advising a student, is part of a larger process, like a spider’s web. Six Sigma looks at these larger processes and works with College representatives who know them well in order to change them for the better and make them work more effectively every day.

Six Sigma comes from manufacturing, right? What does it have to do with education?
That's true. Six Sigma has its history in manufacturing but has more recently been used in education to improve the processes that support education such as application, enrollment, financial aid, learning materials, purchasing and many other processes that students experience each term.

How does it work?
When a process is identified for improvement, a team is established and supported by College Leadership, in particular a Project Champion, who helps provide resources for the team and overcome challenges and a Process Owner, who takes over the new process when the team is finished and keeps it functioning effectively. The team has a leader (usually identified by Six Sigma certification--more on this in a minute) and members representing key areas of the College involved in the process. Using a method called DMAIC, the team reviews the process and improves for the future.

Oh no! Not another acronym--What is DMAIC?
Sorry...yes, indeed. DMAIC is a chronological, five-step method for reviewing a Collegewide process. Each letter is a step in the method that leads to a review of work accomplished so far (called a "Gate Review") and entry to the next step. While each step has many parts and tools, I've listed and summarized what basically happens in each.

  • Define-Review of existing process map and quick opportunities for improvement
  • Measure-Study of data about the process demonstrating the need for change
  • Analyze-Study of why "things are as they are" and exploration of long-term opportunities
  • Improve-Formulation of new process that significantly "makes things better" for everyone involved in it.
  • Control-Plan for keeping the new process functioning correctly--so that it does not, like a rubber band, return to its original shape.

What are the Belts again? Why the Martial Arts jargon?
The belts are a sequence in training just like in martial arts where an individual practices more and more refining their skills. The belts also represent certifications for the gradual development of skills needed to lead and manage a project team.

  • White Belt-Understand the terminology and methods of Six Sigma
  • Yellow Belt-Practice the tools utilized on project teams
  • Green Belt-Work on or lead project teams
  • Black Belt-Lead project teams and support other projects

How can I get involved?
Look for opportunities to learn more through FSCJ's planned Professional Development White Belt Training that will be announced soon. Attend an announced WebEx Event Gate Review for one of the Strategic Plan college-wide projects reviewing six processes:

  • Application
  • Drop for non-payment
  • Financial aid
  • Hiring time to fill
  • Document workflow and authorization
  • Work entry for overload and adjunct pay

You can also review your own area and its processes to recommend projects to your supervisor. They are all around us, just think about something that seems "wasteful" or takes more time or effort than it should. These might be good candidates for future projects. Finally, you can study up with additional reading: