Six Sigma Success Metrics

Improvement Insights Blog

Six Sigma Success Metrics

Most companies measure success of Six Sigma using simple, easy to understand metrics. Are you using these measures of success?

“Hi, I’m Jay Arthur, author of “Lean Six Sigma for Hospitals” and QI Macros [software]. Today I want to talk to you about success metrics.

“Back in the late 60s I was in high school. I had a paper route and this was during the Vietnam War, and every day I would fold 120 papers and deliver them. The headlines always on the Tucson Daily Citizen was that we’d killed so many Viet Cong and so many Americans had died, so we had this body count metric every single day, Monday through Sunday. Every day I folded papers there was the metric of the body counts on either side. As you can tell, the body counts do not necessarily prove that you’re winning or losing the war.

“With the COVID-19 pandemic, I see a lot of the same sort of metric: every day they tell us the cumulative number of cases and deaths. Well, that’s not telling me whether I’m winning or losing, right? That does not tell me anything, right? We need to know how many cases per day, are they going down or are they going up? When we do a better job of testing they’re probably going to go up because we’re better at testing, not because there’s more cases, so you have to be a little cautious with some of these metrics, you have to understand them a little better.

“I want you to think the same thing is true in Lean and Six Sigma: a lot of people track how many green belts they’ve trained and black belts they’ve trained and how many teams they’ve started. Those are easy metrics; that’s a body count metric, right? That’s easy to track. But I’m telling you that it does not matter how many belts you have or how many teams you started; the only thing that matters is how many teams cross the finish line and deliver meaningful and dramatic improvements in productivity, profitability and in health care patient safety, and reducing patient harm. These are the kinds of things that you have to be doing, otherwise they will think that you’re not doing anything, right?

“I can tell you I’ve been getting…(it’s towards the end of May in 2020) I’m getting emails from people that are saying, “Well, I’ve been furloughed,” or “I’ve been laid off.” Well, if your Quality [Improvement effort] isn’t delivering something and delivering something fresh all the time, guess what? You’re history, right? Quality Improvement is not about how many teams or belts or whatever you have, it’s about bottom-line profit and productivity enhancements. It’s about reducing patient harm in health care… which, according to the IHI, one in every two patients suffers some sort of preventable harm. Well, that’s not very good, all right?

“So that’s my Improvement Insight for this week. Focus on what matters: bucks, productivity, patients. Let’s go out and create a hassle-free America and hassle-free health care. Let’s go out and improve something this week.”