Six Sigma Theories – how can they be applied to law firms?

Six Sigma is a business management strategy, initially implemented by Motorola, that today enjoys widespread application in many sectors of industry. Six Sigma seeks to improve the quality of process outputs by identifying and removing the causes of defects (errors) and variation in business processes.

To put this into a nutshell, it saves money.

It uses a set of quality management methods, including statistical methods, and creates a special infrastructure of people within the organization (“Black Belts” etc.) who are experts in these methods. Each Six Sigma project carried out within an organization follows a defined sequence of steps and has quantified financial targets (cost reduction or profit increase).

Six Sigma asserts that –
• Continuous efforts to achieve stable and predictable process results are of vital importance to business success.
• Business processes have characteristics that can be measured, analyzed, improved and controlled.
• Achieving sustained quality improvement requires commitment from the entire organization, particularly from top-level management.

Up until 2006 Motorola reported over US$17 billion in saving from Six Sigma. By the late 1990s, about two-thirds of the Fortune 500 organizations had begun Six Sigma initiatives with the aim of reducing costs and improving quality.

The main method of Six Sigma is called DMAIC:

• Define high-level project goals and the current process.
• Measure key aspects of the current process and collect relevant data.
• Analyze the data to verify cause-and-effect relationships. Determine what the relationships are, and attempt to ensure that all factors have been considered.
• Improve or optimize the process based upon data analysis using techniques like design of experiments.
• Control to ensure that any deviations from target are corrected before they result in defects. Set up pilot runs to establish process capability, move on to production, set up control mechanisms and continuously monitor the process.

There are many practitioners of Six Sigma but usually the senior practitioners are called Master Black Belts, the practitioners called Black Belts and the more junior workers with an understanding of the work are called Green Belts. In industry a Master Black Belt commands a salary or package in the region of £65,000-£110,000, depending on the level of experience.

If you would like to benefit from the services of a Master Black Belt you can contact a range of consultants who usually charge around £1,000 per day for their services on a one-off basis. Their success is measured in savings and so can be quantified quite easily.

Kaizen Sigma Lean Consulting are independent cost-cutting consultants who can assist your firm or business to look processes, save money and cut costs.