Quality management and process improvement don’t just help organizations achieve better results. They also help those who specialize in those areas achieve more lucrative careers.

That’s the finding of the latest American Society for Quality (ASQ) Quality Progress salary survey.

For the third year in a row, salaries for quality professionals – such as those who specialize in Six Sigma and process improvement – increased. For 2017, salaries went up 1.5% over 2016. The average salary now has reached $93,036.

That’s in the United States. In Canada, average salaries also increased, rising to $87,569 (in Canadian dollars).

Salaries for quality professionals have increased every year since 2005 with just two exceptions, in 2012 and 2014.

ASQ chair Eric Hayler told Quality magazine: “With the economy seemingly recovered from the Great Recession, it’s nice to see a trend of increasing average salaries for quality professionals. And as quality professionals continue to impact their organization’s bottom lines, companies will continue to recognize and reward them accordingly.”

Top Salaries

ASQ creates the Quality Progress Salary Survey by gathering information from more than 5,800 professionals who work across many different industries. While full-time employees made up more than 95% of those surveyed, they also surveyed self-employed consultants, part-time employees, and unemployed, retired or laid off workers.

The survey found three titles that commanded the highest salaries:

  • Vice president or executive ($170,131)
  • Master Black Belt ($148,198)
  • Director ($132,780)

Certifications and education were drivers for many of the higher quality professional salaries. Experience also plays a role. In the U.S., those with less than one year of experience earned $63,752, while those with more than 20 years’ experience earned $109,264. The numbers in Canada echoed that, with experienced workers making $106,370 and those with less than one year of experience making $52,633.

Clearly, there is an advantage in training for quality improvement positions early on and then sticking to that path.

Benefits of Six Sigma

The survey also found a direct correlation between attaining Six Sigma certification and increased salary.

Master Black Belts not only rank among the top three highest paid quality professionals, they also earn a staggering $57,000 more than those without Master Black Belt certification, according to ASQ,

However, this benefit extends to all levels of Six Sigma training, experience, education and certification. The survey reported the following numbers.

  • In the U.S., those with at least one level of Six Sigma training made an average of $17,762 more than those who had not received Six Sigma training
  • In Canada, the average salary for those with Six Sigma training was $5,861 more than those without it
  • Also in Canada, Master Black Belts made an average of $44,636 more than those without a Master Black Belt

The survey offers more proof of the benefits of Six Sigma and process improvement. They benefit an individual as much as they do an organization.

Implementing a Customer Satisfaction Metric

Organizations evaluate themselves by measuring customer satisfaction with their products or services. As organizations evolve, the measurement of customer satisfaction across the entire organization becomes imperative. The first step is for an organization to implement a metric for tracking customer satisfaction.

To develop a metric, an organization should explore these questions:

  • Who are its customers?
  • What type of survey should be administered to them?
  • How will satisfaction be measured across the organization?

The answers to these issues, along with an understanding of the Servqual survey framework and a voice-of-the-customer (VOC) matrix, will aid in the implementation of a customer-satisfaction metric.

Understanding the Customer

A rule for implementing a satisfaction metric is that customer satisfaction must be measured for every function and every service of an organization. There are usually many interlinks among the services and products within an organization. For instance, a typical information technology (IT) company provides a variety of different products in the market and, in addition, a number of services for those products, such as help-desk or desk-side support, IT infrastructure, and network security.

In such a complex IT organization, the services get classified into functions, such as sales and operations. Thus, the first step is to identify the customers, both internal and external, for each of the functions throughout the organization.

For example, for the application development team, customers would include the application users, along with some internal people to whom services are catered.

Dimensions of Customer Satisfaction

The next step is to determine the strategy for collecting the VOC. The challenge is to develop survey questionnaires to measure customer satisfaction with the various aspects of a product or service, such as the actual product, the processes followed (for instance, for a warranty), and the quality of service.

There are different theories for understanding customer needs and arriving at specific factors for measuring customer satisfaction. One widely used framework for measuring customer satisfaction is Servqual, developed in the 1980s by Valarie A. Zeithaml, A. Parasuraman and Leonard L. Berry. The method is also known as the RATER model, because it prescribes measuring satisfaction in these five dimensions:

  • Reliability – A company’s ability to perform the promised service dependably and accurately
  • Assurance – The knowledge, competence and courtesy of employees and their ability to convey trust and confidence
  • Tangibles – Physical facilities, equipment and appearances that impress the customer
  • Empathy – The level of caring, individualized attention, access, communication and understanding that the customer perceives
  • Responsiveness – The willingness displayed to help clients and provide prompt service

The Servqual dimensions can be used as the high-level survey categories in a questionnaire. Other guidelines to follow when developing a questionnaire:

  • Use a Likert-scale rating (a respondent’s level of agreement with a statement) for customer responses for all questions.
  • Assign an importance weight to each dimension of the survey. The importance weight, combined with the customer rating, helps an organization identify areas for improvement. Because the questions and the assigned weights might differ for each survey, it may not be possible to aggregate the total score at the dimension level. In such a case, assign function-level and organization-level weights to the dimensions in order to prioritize the dimensions to be focused on (Table 1).
Table 1: Sample Importance Weights at Function and Organization Levels
Dimensions (Based on SERVQUAL Framework) Organization-Level Weights Function-Level Weights
Reliability 3 5 3 1 3 5 4
Responsiveness 5 3 2 1 5 4 4
Assurance 5 4 4 4 5 3 5
Empathy 5 4 4 5 5 5 5
Tangibles 5 2 5 1 3 5 1
  • Include an overall satisfaction question. This can be aggregated at every level – functional as well as organizational – in every survey.

The customer satisfaction level should be measured for every function of a business using surveys designed with these guidelines. Each team within the function should develop its survey questionnaire in the same fashion to ensure consistency. This way measurement is consistent across the organization.

Developing the VOC Matrix

One of the tools used for customer-satisfaction assessment across an organization is the VOC matrix shown in Figure 1. This analysis tool helps in evaluating the relative customer value of the service provided, determining the key performance drivers for meeting customer requirements and deciding the potential focus areas for improvements.

Figure 1: Voice of the Customer Matrix

Figure 1: Voice of the Customer Matrix

The prioritization matrix examines the relationship of various service areas or process steps with prioritized customer requirements. The purpose of this tool is to determine which processes have the strongest correlation to the requirements. It uses inputs from the customers on not only their requirements but also the relative priority ranking for each area. The steps for developing a VOC prioritization matrix are:

  1. List the company’s service areas across the column headings
  2. List the dimensions and the survey questions in the rows
  3. Put the customer’s ranking of relative importance for each survey question after each question
  4. Put the total score as the last column in the grid
  5. Determine the total score for each question by multiplying the rating for each function by its importance weight and adding the products together
  6. Repeat building this matrix at all levels or business functions

Figure 2: Sample VOC Matrix for the Business Function Customer Support

Figure 2: Sample VOC Matrix for the Business Function Customer Support

Analyzing the VOC Matrix

Using the Servqual survey mechanism and the resulting matrix, it is possible to calculate metrics to be implemented organization-wide. The metrics are:

  • Satisfaction rating – This can be aggregated by question or dimension. Table 2 shows a satisfaction rating gathered within a single question; Table 3 shows a satisfaction rating aggregated from responses to all questions within a single dimension.
Table 2: Sample Satisfaction Rating at the Survey Question Level
Please Rate How Well the Product Met Your Requirements
Response options (1 = Poor, 5 = Excellent) 1 2 3 4 5
Number of responses 5 0 8 23 22
Percent of responses 8.6 0 13.8 39.7 37.9
Table 3: Sample Satisfaction Rating at the Dimension Level
Response options (1 = Poor, 5 = Excellent) 1 2 3 4 5
Number of responses 12 7 11 25 45
Percent of responses 20.7 12.1 19 43.1 77.6
  • Satisfaction score – This is the efficiency score (rating x weight) for each question. It is used to determine the focus area for potential improvement. The highest-ranked service areas indicate the strongest performance in meeting customer requirements; the lowest indicate areas that do not meet customer requirements.
  • Composite satisfaction index – The composite score is derived by calculating an efficiency score (rating x weight) for each function, based on the mean of ratings from the questionnaire and the weights given to each dimension at the function or organization level (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Sample Composite Satisfaction Index

Figure 3: Sample Composite Satisfaction Index

Dimensions with high scores are satisfactory or need to be further strengthened; low-scored areas with high weight are dissatisfactory and should be further analyzed for root causes and to develop an action plan for improvement.

Tools that support this root cause analysis are correlation analysis, logistic regression, ANOVA or chi-square, or design of experiments. The VOC results are also necessary inputs for developing a control plan or FMEA (failure mode and effects analysis).

Successful Implementation

Implementing the customer satisfaction metric across an organization requires a well planned execution. In order to produce meaningful results, importance must be placed on areas related to completeness and accuracy of data during the survey process. Techniques such as Servqual are ideal for building effective survey systems; however, these need to be supplemented with tools such as the VOC matrix to capture the quality and importance of a service from the customer’s perspective.

The lifecycle for these initiatives starts and ends at the customer. Even though a variety of tools and techniques are available, success truly depends on consistency and accuracy in measurement across an organization.

A Reason to Do Lean and Six Sigma Executives Will Embrace

What is the actual, demonstrated output of your organization’s system (production parts or service hours)? Does it change from week to week, day to day, even hour to hour? If so, then you are dealing with “capacity leaks” that will result in significant profit losses.

Early in my career, some 30 years ago, I had a conversation with my boss that went something like this:

Boss: “Yeah, Dyer, what do you want now?”

Me: “I was reading in the latest issue of IndustryWeek magazine (the company provided subscriptions to all of the engineers) that in Japan, they are now using teams of shop-floor employees to help them solve their quality problems. I think we should give this a try.”

Boss: “What!?! Take shop employees out of production so they can work on problems? That is the dumbest thing I ever heard. We pay our employees to use their hands to make stuff, not think! (Yes, this was actually said back then) Isn’t solving problems why we pay you engineers? What would be the benefit of taking people off the shop floor?”

Me (somewhat naïvely): “Think how much morale will be boosted if the employees have a say in how their processes are improved.”

Boss: “Improving morale and a quarter will buy me a cup of coffee. Now, get out of my office and back to work!”

A few weeks later, I gave it another try.

Me: “Boss, I have been thinking about your question of what the benefit would be to the company for using teams of workers to solve problems. The people who do the work are closest to the problems and will have ideas on how to fix things. By reducing our defects, our customers would be happier with our products and service. That would lead to more sales!”

At this point, my boss tossed me a thick report. On the cover was a chart with bars getting taller each month.

Boss: “See that report? That shows our backlog. It keeps growing, so our customers already love our product. We don’t need to make them any happier. Now, get out of my office…”

Me: “I know… get back to work.”

After several more weeks of pestering my boss, he finally gave in and allowed a team to be formed of engineers and shop-floor employees. We met several times and started solving some major quality issues that had been plaguing us for years. This team was having a real impact and then we hit a brick wall. The people who repaired our defective product (the highest paid position in production) became fearful that if we fixed too many quality problems, they would be out of a job. So, they put pressure on the workers to stop attending the improvement meetings. The team was disbanded shortly thereafter.

Boss: “Told you this was a bad idea. But the brass upstairs heard about the progress your team made in reducing quality defects and wants to know if you would be interested in digging deeper into this whole “team-based problem-solving” approach?”

Ten years later, after having the opportunity to benchmark several companies that were excelling in making improvement happen, attend classes taught by Dr. W. Edwards Deming, Brian Joiner, and Steven Covey, and completing the original Six Sigma training at Motorola University, my answer to “What is the benefit?” had changed considerably.

The example that follows is based on what happened next.

“Ok. Everyone settle down and find a seat. We need to get this staff meeting started,” said Jim Brown the new leader of the XYZ business unit. “I want to introduce a friend of mine, Jane Robinson, from corporate who I have invited in to help us with our output problem. As you all know, our backlog has been growing steadily for over a year, and it does not appear to be getting any better. We need some help in figuring out how to deal with this situation.”

After all of the introductions were complete, Jane asked the following: “So, what is the capacity of your system to produce product on a daily basis?”

“Well. We have made over 2,300 units in a day,” said the director of operations.

“Ok. The demand for your product seems to be around 1,800 a day,” said Jane. “So, why is the backlog growing?”

“We don’t hit 2,300 very often,” said Jim. “Our daily output seems to be all over the place. I am not even sure we know what our daily average is, especially when we factor in the fact that the first few days of every month, the output drops significantly.”

“That is because we drain the supply chain in order to try and hit the end of the month production targets,” said one of the production line leaders.

“Do you have the output numbers for the past several months?” asked Jane. “I would like to put the data on a control chart to better understand how much variation there is in the numbers.”

“Isn’t a control chart used to track variation in product quality?” asked Jim.

“Actually, it can be used to analyze any form of random data,” said Jane. “And it sounds like your data is pretty random.

After the information was gathered, Jane created a control chart and presented the results at the next staff meeting.

After passing out the chart, Jane went to the white board and wrote the following:

“So, based on this chart, the most output we can guarantee (within reason) to our customers in a day is only 300 units, and since the average (mean) is only 1,300 units, it is easy to see why the backlog continues to grow. So, we have two issues according to this data. One, the output has way too much variation. It is impossible to know from day to day how much product is going to be sent to our customers. This variability must be wreaking havoc on our supply chain. And, two, we clearly have a lot of capacity leaks causing the average to be significantly below what our customers need.”

“Capacity leaks? What do you mean by capacity leaks?” asked the director of operations.

“There are many examples I have already seen of capacity leaks in this facility,” said Jane. “The easy ones to identify are related to the constraint or bottleneck of our system. If the bottleneck is ever starved of parts or has a quality issue or is not running for whatever reason, we lose system capacity that can never be recovered. After the bottleneck, if a part is scrapped or we make something that is not needed, that will also cause capacity leaks.”

“So, how do we stop all of these leaks?” asked Jim.

“We need to immediately begin training our employees in the tools and methodologies of lean and Six Sigma and begin forming improvement teams; one per process that impacts the output of our system,” said Jane.

“Wait a minute!” exclaimed the director of operations. “We already can’t keep up with demand and you want to take people away from their work stations? That is going to cause us to get even further behind.”

“Look,” said Jim. “We have to do something and do it soon if we want to keep our customers. They are sticking with us for now, but complaints are starting to increase. So, I will take full responsibility for any negative impact to output as we do the training and team meetings. Also, I want to review these output charts with all of our employees and post weekly updates so every employee can keep up with our progress.”

Several months passed, the training was completed, and employee teams were formed. All of the employees were taught the importance of identifying and eliminating “capacity leaks” using the lean and Six Sigma tools. Large scoreboards were installed so employees could see, in real time, how they were doing with key safety, quality and output metrics. The first time they finished the day with zero safety issues, 100% good quality, and made 100% of the daily schedule, the entire plant erupted in applause and cheers.

“Ok, everyone find a seat and let’s get started,” said Jim to his staff. A year had passed since their first meeting with Jane. “Do you have the latest graph showing our output?”

The director of operations presented the following chart:

“Looks like there has been significant improvement in the variability of the output of our system,” said Jane. We can now guarantee over 2,250 units a day to our customers.

“Wait, what happened? Why did our output drop a few days ago?” asked Jim.

“We are all caught up,” beamed the director of operations. “No more backlog. So, now we are only making what our customers order.”

“Hmmm…” thought Jim. “It seems I need to go to the sales group and see what we can do to get demand up.”

“Shouldn’t we start the process of laying off a quarter of the workforce?” asked the director of finance. “We owe it to our parent company to cut our costs and clearly, we no longer need so many workers.”

“Wait a minute!” exclaimed Jane. “The workforce you want to get rid of is what saved our bacon. If we lay off a single person, then don’t expect to get another idea for improvement!”

“No, we won’t start laying anyone off,” said Jim. “Our current profit margin is about 10%. Think about this… we know we have the people and equipment to make up to 2,250 consistently. So, for every unit we sell above our current average demand rate of 1,800, the only additional cost is the raw material and a little bit for power and supplies. The equipment, overhead and labor costs are already absorbed. So, the profit margin on these additional units will be over 40%! We could run a special price cut for our best customers and still produce margins three times the current rate. What a fantastic opportunity! This would not have been possible without a stable, predictable system.”

The Grand Slam Home Run of Improvement

So, back to the question at the beginning of the article… What is the actual, demonstrated output of your organization’s system (production parts or service hours)? If your system of producing product or services is unpredictable, then finding the bottleneck becomes difficult. And, if the system’s constraint cannot be easily identified, then it is nearly impossible to know how your capacity matches up with current customer demand (See article “Understanding the Demand/Capacity Curve” for more information). So, the idea of getting rid of waste needs to be expanded to “How do we get rid of ‘capacity leaks’ to create stable, predictable systems?”

Once this is done, then the order fulfillment team can sit down with the sales and marketing organization and discuss growth strategies that can actually be planned. The profit margins on this additional output (assuming the product or service can be sold) will be amazingly high. Or, another way to think about the results is that the sunk costs will now be spread over a larger quantity of parts, resulting in lower total costs per unit sold. This will generate excitement and support with the business leaders.

What about the systems that have mixed models, seasonal demand and other unpredictable inputs? Some of these are valid concerns and will make it more difficult (but not impossible) to create a predictable system. However, some of this “chaos and complexity” is self-inflicted. When your company leaders do their strategic plans each year, how much time do they spend discussing ways to de-complex their order fulfillment system? For example, one company that swore it was a seasonal producer, supplied product to schools and universities that only did retrofits during the summer months (or so the manufacturer believed). The leaders decided to launch a lean and Six Sigma initiative as part of their business strategy. When they were able to reduce the delivery times from 10 weeks to two days, their customers started buying product throughout the year because they could begin planning retrofits on the weekends. This smoothed their demand considerably.

Keep in mind that these principles also apply to service providers. Recently, I had the opportunity to spend several days in a major downtown hospital. The doctors and nurses were amazing and the care could not have been better. However, when it came time to be discharged, it took over five hours. The hospital was full with several patients waiting for open rooms. This five-hour “capacity leak” gets multiplied many times each day, resulting in the equivalence of several rooms of capacity being wasted.

Equipment Utilization

Finally, for those of you who have kept up with my articles for IndustryWeek, you know that one of my pet peeves is using employee and equipment utilization as key metrics. In fact, I have proclaimed that if utilization is one of your company’s metrics to indicate order fulfillment performance, then lean will never be a reality. However, in a system that produces a stable, predictable output, employee and equipment utilization is actually an indicator as to how demand is holding up. So, as more companies have successful lean and Six Sigma initiatives, the idea of measuring utilization needs to be updated and shifted from operations to tracking the impact of sales and marketing.

A better metric for operations to track is “linearity.” Linearity is an indicator of what percentage of the schedule did you actually build that day (both volume and model mix). If your company achieves “make to order” status, then linearity is a critical piece of data to track. And, if linearity stays near 100%, then several other key metrics, such as on-time delivery, will also be robust.

The idea of identifying capacity leaks fits with lean tools such as value stream mapping. As teams map their processes and identify non-value-added steps, they can also identify where “chaos and complexity” is occurring resulting in capacity leaks. Once these leaks are reduced or eliminated, a stable system begins to emerge, making it much easier to plan ways to meet your customers’ needs (and create amazing profit margins). That is a reason for making lean and Six Sigma a part of your company’s strategic plan your leaders will enthusiastically support.

Make Happen in 2018 with Six Sigma!

Not everyone is a great chef, but if you can follow a recipe, you can produce a delicious meal.

Not everyone is a great businessperson, but if you follow Six Sigma’s methodologies and tools, you will make your business a success.

Our Six Sigma courses provide you with the knowledge as well as the tools to make you an expert at solving issues at your business or company. These issues include eliminating waste, reducing process variation and improving process capability.

Make 2018 the year you start turning issues into solutions!

Take one of our premier Six Sigma courses. We offer online courses, classroom, onsite as well as blended courses at your choosing. We are currently offering a multitude of Six Sigma courses right in your town or city.

Make it your New Year’s resolution and sign up now! Go to, pick the course and make it happen.

Happy New Year from all of us at!


Two small businesses, a city government and two healthcare organizations have all received the 2017 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, which recognizes exceptional work in process improvement and customer service.

The annual award is given by the U.S. Department of Commerce. It recognizes organizations for excelling in innovation, thought leadership and administrative process improvement. The idea is to recognize achievement and give businesses across the country an example to emulate.



The two small businesses which won an award are Bristol Tennessee Essential Services of Bristol, Tenn., and Stellar Solutions of Palo Alto, Calif. The city of Fort Collins, Colo., also was awarded. The two healthcare companies are Castle Medical Center in Kailua, Hawaii, and the Southcentral Foundation of Anchorage, Alaska.

“This program is about much more than recognizing successful organizations or winning a single award,” Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, who announced the awards, said in a news release. “The organizations which are given the Baldrige Award embody the competitive spirit which drives the American economy forward.”

Process improvement and customer service are key for all the award winners. Both also are central goals for Six Sigma.

Criteria For the Award

Organizations can compete for the award in six categories: manufacturing, service, small business, healthcare, education and nonprofit. The latter category also includes government agencies.

Applicants for the award go through a tough process. Each applicant is judged by a panel of experts from the private sector. The process is overseen by the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Each is judged by the standards of the Baldrige Excellence Framework. Those standards fall into the following categories.

  • Leadership
  • Strategy
  • Customers
  • Measurement
  • Analysis and knowledge management
  • Workforce
  • Operations
  • Results

It’s a competitive award. To win, candidates must demonstrate they have excelled in the above areas.

The Winners

The Baldrige Award winners this year came from a variety of sectors in the U.S. economy. They are the “best of the best” in U.S. business, according to the NIST.

Bristol Tennessee Essential Services – This company provides the fastest internet service in the country, working for customers in eastern Tennessee. With only 68 employees, the company has received near-100% satisfaction awards from customers for many of their services and products. They have reliability ratings that are two times that of the industry average.

Stellar Solutions – In Palo Alto, this woman-owned company provides aerospace engineering services. They focus on customer satisfaction and growing employees’ careers. They have seen revenue and profits grow each year. Customer satisfaction is so high that 100% of clients say they would recommend Stellar Solution to others.

City of Fort Collins – Local government is not generally an area where customers report high satisfaction. That’s not the case in Fort Collins. The city has used ideas from the Baldrige Performance Excellence Process to greatly improve services. City leaders decreased energy use by 12% even as the population grew 7%. The city also ranks high on lists of best places to live and work, as well as quality of cultural attractions, recreation, attractiveness and air and water quality.

Southcentral Foundation and Castle Medical Center – Both of these healthcare organizations operate in unique places. The Southcentral Foundation is in Alaska, while Castle Medical Center is located on the island of Oahu. Despite unique geographies and patient communities, both rank in the top 10% nationally for patient outcomes and quality services. Both have also grown revenues while controlling costs by leveraging ideas from the Baldrige process.

These organizations offer notable examples of how process improvement is possible no matter what the industry or the location. As Robert Fangmeyer, director of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, said in the news release:

“This year’s honorees demonstrate clearly that organizations of all kinds can achieve sustainable high performance.”

Six Sigma and Work-out Reduce Ambulance Diversions

A recent study by the National Center for Health Statistics found that, on average, an ambulance in the United States is diverted every minute to another hospital due to emergency room overcrowding. The study underscores the fact that this is a nationwide problem, and that emergency department (ED) diversions often produce a negative chain reaction in the system.

At Providence Alaska Medical Center, change management tools and support from a new emergency department manager helped a Six Sigma team address the hospital’s diversion problem and achieve widespread benefits.

Years ago, the rising number of ambulance diversions at Providence had surfaced as an issue. By 2000, the ambulance divert rate increased from 3 percent to 5 percent, and tripled in the following year to 16 percent.

In 2002, the divert rate peaked at 21 percent and the hospital embarked on an ambitious improvement initiative to address the issue. The results of the initiative led to the implementation of a series of policy and process changes. The hospital also developed a Web-based inpatient capacity tool to assist with patient throughput.

The efforts led to some success – reducing the divert rate to 12 percent in 2003 and to 8 percent in the first three months of 2004. The organization assumed that policy and process changes were effectively decreasing the incidence of diversions.

Renewed Focus

Despite the improvement, considerable variation persisted. In the second quarter of 2004, the diversion rate tripled to 24 percent; in July it peaked, with the ED being on diversion 51 percent of the time.

To analyze and correct this issue, a Six Sigma project was chartered in June 2004. Along with the focus on metrics, a change acceleration process (CAP) and Work-out sessions were introduced to address cultural issues and help facilitate effective decision making based on credible data.

The project focused specifically on reducing diversions as a result of “critical care at capacity” to zero, and reducing diversions as a result of “ED at capacity” to 3.4 percent. The established timeline to achieve the target rates was 1.5 years, or by the end of 2005. The project was actually completed well ahead of schedule in January 2005.

Examining the Data

Department mangers were initially skeptical of the project since diversion was seen as a way to control patient flow on the inpatient floors and in the ED. Physicians had mixed reactions. Some felt the hospital should never divert for any reason, and others felt diversion was a reasonable tool to promote safety, especially during times of high capacity and stress. Change management tools and support from a new emergency department manager helped the team gain consensus and sustain improvement.

Early analysis estimated the average cost for one hour of diversion was $3,400. Realizing this financial impact helped to change the perceptions of senior management and line staff. The data also clearly indicated that the solution must be focused on the critical care unit.

During the initial phases of the project, the Six Sigma team first had to reconcile sources of information. Multiple data sets on the same episodes of diversion led to varying interpretations of the meaning of diversion data.

Before the new standard operating procedures were put in place, there was little rigor around accurate data collection within and among various data sets. Different departments maintained multiple data sets on the same diversion episodes. Definitions and time stamps were not standardized, and access to the various databases was restricted.

The use of CAP and Work-out enabled the team to reach agreement on a common data set to be kept in one location that could be easily accessible by all stakeholders. This transparency helped reduce incorrect interpretation of diversion data.

Clear definitions were established for each type of diversion. Data entry was simplified. Raw data entries were all saved in an electronic record. Time stamps were agreed upon and became part of the standard operating procedure (SOP) for generating the summary diversion sheet.

In addition, the electronic data entry page was designed to reduce entry errors. An SOP was developed so the raw data could be accurately summarized, and the summary sheet was made available on the hospital intranet. The roles of the individuals responsible for data entry and the creation of the diversion summary sheet were clearly defined to reduce variation in the interpretation of the raw data and its translation to the summary sheet.

Data-Driven Solutions and Results

With correct data, the team was able to focus on solutions for the most significant and frequent causes of diversion. Most dramatic was the demonstration that disproved a previously held assumption regarding critical care diversions.

It had appeared that the majority of diversions occurred because no critical care bed was available. Further investigation, however, revealed that the majority of the time “no bed available” was indicated, it was actually because there was no staffed bed, which would signify staffing issues, rather than a physical bed limitation issue.

Figure 1: Critical Care Diversions 2001-2005

Figure 1: Critical Care Diversions 2001-2005

A summary of the solutions the team identified and implemented included:

  • New SOPs were created for the collection of diversion data.
  • An electronic data collection tool was developed.
  • SOPs were developed for the translation of raw data to a summary sheet.
  • Diversion summary data was published on an accessible hospital intranet site.
  • Goals and targets for diversion were established.
  • Staff was educated on the importance of length of stay as a contributor to staffing needs in the adult
    critical care unit.
  • A high census policy was developed to correct resource issues before a diversion becomes necessary.
  • An interventional cardiac recovery unit was developed to reduce burden on the critical care unit.
  • Alternatives were established for placement of critical care patients with prolonged length of stays.
  • The team recommended proper use of float pool staffing for unexpected vacancies rather than supporting core staffing.

Figure 2: Percentage of Hours ED at Capacity 2004-2005

Figure 2: Percentage of Hours ED at Capacity 2004-2005

The hospital was able to decrease diversions due to “critical care at capacity” by an average of 26 hours per month. This increased net revenue by $1.04 million on an annualized basis. Keys to success included adherence to a well-defined diversion policy with very clear definitions, and determining the average cost of an hour of diversion. The transparency of data also helped to reduce misinformation and its impact on the organization.

Summary of Key Project Benefits

  • Net revenue increase of $1.04 million annually.
  • Better patient access through decreased diversions due to “critical care at capacity” by an average of 26 hours per month.
  • Significant new opportunities for organizational learning, collaboration and growth.

Organizational Learning and Growth

Among the qualitative results coming from the project, the team benefited from substantial organizational learning through the trials and the successes achieved. This occurred in cycles of reflection that created the platform for the next discovery and learning, and built an awareness of several important considerations:

  • Value of accurate data and transparency
  • Importance of understanding and communicating the cost of diversions
  • Power of uniting around a clear, unified goal
  • Impact of a policy change on outcome
  • Effect of leadership focus and skills to drive culture change

This project also illustrated that unexpected events are sometimes helpful. The new critical care manager was not a predicted event. However, her determination and commitment drove a culture change within the critical care staff to provide the right care at the right time in the right setting. This change positively impacted diversion rates.

In conjunction with other projects targeting the house-wide admit and discharge process, the ED ambulance diversion effort helped to provide greater access to patient care. It was part of a larger Six Sigma initiative at Providence Alaska that trained six Black Belts and ten Green Belts. The organization has since trained its own Master Black Belts and also is incorporating Lean into its performance improvement toolset.

Branding Is the Essence of Your Business


Establishing a strong brand is one of the most important things you can do for your business. But what is branding? By definition, it is the practice of creating a name, symbol or logo that for a product or service, creating an image in the consumer’s mind. A strong brand should differentiate a product or service from competitors and also provide the promise of quality and reputation in your market. When done effectively, a strong branding strategy will give your company the competitive edge.
Incorporating Six Sigma Methodology with Branding Efforts
The Voice of the Customer (VOC) is extremely critical in understanding what your brand is and its value.  Through the DMAIC process and the Define phase, you will begin to understand the customer’s voice, and be able to define the customer’s needs, wants and expectations for your brand.
By knowing the VOC, you can develop a branding strategy that will fulfill your target customer’s expectations and requirements as well as distinguish your business from your competitors. If you don’t take care of your customers, your competitors will. By using the VOC when you begin your branding strategy, you will be able to target the right customers for your business.
Your best defense in understanding your company and developing your brand is to sign up for one of our Six Sigma courses. They are a sure-win investment in the future of your business. One course we are very proud of is our Jumpstart course, which we recommend if you are a visceral type of learner. Our Jumpstart will provide you with a vast array of knowledge to get you started in Six Sigma projects. So by learning the basics that are in our White and Yellow Belt courses, and learning the first part of the Green Belt curriculum, the Jumpstart course will provide you a strong baseline.


You Can Buy More Time by Using Six Sigma’s DMAIC


Believe it or not, there is a way of prioritizing tasks that is considered correct, meaning there isn’t idle or wasted time from one task to the next. Each task is layered on top of the previous one, with the end resulting in a well-constructed process for your business.

Is it possible to run your personal daily activities or weekend errands in the same effective, well-managed way that you run your business?

Yes there is! Set your goal one errand or task at a time: get XYZ finished by a certain time. , you would put this in the Define portion of the DMAIC.

Why Use Six Sigma in Your Life?

Many people seem to complain that they don’t have enough time in their life to get important things done. Well, it isn’t that they don’t have enough time, it is that their mindset is not organized for accomplishment.

Part of the reason behind this is that most of us don’t feel that our personal lives or having spare time to do what we want is important. But our need to lead a stress-free life is extremely important.

Remember, stress can cause many health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and obesity. So, when you take the time to run through the Six Sigma methodologies for Define-Measure-Analyze-Improve-Control and use them to free up time in your personal life, you’ll have the added bonus of getting all your errands done —which will free up all that stress!

Since the goal is to get certain thing done by a certain time, your creative survival mode will kick in and figure out how to do this. But what is also very important are the reasons why and measuring the time it takes you before you implement DMAIC. So make sure you go through the entire DMAIC process for assured success and the correct mindset.

For more information on our Six Sigma training courses and services, please visit

Best of iSixSigma: 2017

The best of iSixSigma 2017 features the highlights of this year’s content – as determined by our readers.

U.S.A.F. Uses Continuous Process Improvement on the B-2 Bomber: Part 1

In this case study, the 509th Maintenance Group of the U.S. Air Force used an eight-step continuous process improvement approach to balance its resources and meet both flying hour program requirements and aircraft availability needs. Part 1 looks at steps 1 through 4.

U.S.A.F. Uses Continuous Process Improvement on the B-2 Bomber: Part 2

Part 2 looks at steps 5 through 8.

The Five Fundamental Assumptions of Six Sigma

Six Sigma can be reduced to five fundamental assumptions. If these simple concepts are understood, all the tools, all the tollgate deliverables, and all the statistics and jargon are put in their proper supporting roles.

Developing Key Performance Indicators

KPIs are critical to ensuring a project team has the performance data it needs to evaluate and sustain improvements.

A Study of Estimates of Sigma in Small Sample Sizes

The options for estimating standard deviation with a small sample size are investigated in this comprehensive and thorough article.

Lean Six sigma master black belt JOB- Associate/Senior Associate -(Technical)

Apply Button will redirect you to recruiters resume management system

Designation Technical Resource Executive
Job Description We require 3 technical resources to be based out of (2 in
Delhi and 1 in Chennai).

–  Bachelors Degree in Engineering required
–  Lean Six Sigma Black Belt certified (Master
Black Belt Certification preferred)
–  5 + years of experience in Lean Six Sigma project execution
–  Should have handled and guided Lean Six Sigma
Green belt projects (Black belt projects will get preference)
–  Experience in Banking, Financial, Manufacturing industry
–  Masters/Advanced course in statistics preferred
–  Strong verbal and written communication skills
–  Willingness to travel approximately 70-75%
–  Willingness to relocate any of the locations (Delhi/NCR, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Hyderabad)
–  Hands-on experience in MINITAB, SPSS, Crystal Ball, MS Project, Excel, Visio, PowerPoint and SharePoint skills

Roles & Responsibilities:
–  Must be willing to be deployed for long term or travel for short engagements across national/international locations
–  Deliver Lean Six Sigma Green Belt, Black Belt and Master Black Belt trainings for diverse senior/middle level corporate customers
–  Be competent in preparing technical presentations
–  Be competent in handling technical queries for clients
–  Participate in solution design, approach note design and work on pre-sales activities
–  Work under strict timelines and travel all across
–  Drive projects at clients end. Should be able to guide teams from clients in Financial, Banking, Manufacturing sector.
– Be able to coach clients team
–  Manage the client relationship end to end
– Develop, update and maintain curriculum for training (Lean, Yellow Belt, Green Belt & Black Belt). Standardize industry
specific module
–  Communicate complex ideas clearly and concisely and ability to facilitate to a variety of audience and levels of leadership

Desired Profile
Experience 5 – 8 Years
Industry Type Accounting / Finance
Role Associate/Senior Associate -(Technical)
Functional Area ITES, BPO, KPO, LPO, Customer Service, Operations
Employment Type Full Time , Permanent Job
Education UG – B.Tech/B.E. – Any Specialization

PG – Any Postgraduate – Any Specialization

Doctorate – Doctorate Not Required

Compensation:  Not disclosed
Location ChennaiDelhi
Keywords lean six sigma certified black belt, minitab, excel, master black belt, green belt crystal ball, team management, project execution.