What is Six Sigma? An Explanation From Instructor Don Lynch

March 2, 2022

by Cj Pettus

Understanding what Six Sigma means is the first step toward reaching your company’s goals.

What is Six Sigma? The term has become part of our everyday vocabulary as its popularity has grown in today’s business environment. For those who work in an organization that has embraced Six Sigma, the term is clear and the methodology is well understood. However, others are still trying to figure out exactly what Six Sigma is, and how it may be able to help them reach their goals.


Those unfamiliar with Six Sigma may not have a good grasp of the term because it can mean multiple things. ‘Six Sigma’ is used interchangeably to reflect a vision, philosophy, commitment, goal, level of performance, statistical measurement, metric, benchmark, methodology, systematic approach, set of statistical tools, and a vehicle for customer focus, breakthrough improvement and people involvement. These different definitions can be summarized in three main categories: the philosophy, the metric, and the methodology.


The philosophy comprises the ideas of Six Sigma as a vision, philosophy and commitment. Used in this fashion, it is a direction for everyone to follow and reflects a way of doing business. A customer is defined as anyone (internal or external to the organization) who receives a product, service or information. An opportunity is defined as every occasion to do something “right” or “wrong.” Six Sigma represents the commitment to our customers that ensures the results of each opportunity meet customer expectations.


The metric comprises the ideas of Six Sigma as a goal, level of performance, statistical measurement, metric or benchmark.This view is most popular from a quantitative point because it provides a standard unit of measure for calculating variation in our products and services.The metric is often even extended to represent a very specific goal of 3.4 DPMO defects per million opportunities). The standard unit of measure can be used to compare processes, business units and, furthermore, organizations.


The methodology comprises a systematic approach, a set of statistical tools and a vehicle for customer focus, breakthrough improvement, and people involvement. This viewpoint is really the “how” for the “why” – vision and “what” – metric. As a methodology, it is the step-by-step approach to reduce variation in everything we do and to improve customer satisfaction. This approach follows a methodology sometimes referred to as the Breakthrough Strategy and utilizes a set of tools to accomplish the results in a project environment with dedicated personnel.



These three categories of Six Sigma can be summarized into a couple of phrases. 

  1. Six Sigma is a business process that allows companies to drastically improve their bottom line, by designing and monitoring everyday business activities in ways that minimize waste and resources, while making fewer mistakes in everything they do, eliminating lapses in quality at the earliest possible occurrence. It provides specific methods to re-create the process, so that defects and errors never arise in the first place. 
  2. Six Sigma distinguishes itself as a business improvement methodology from prior quality improvement methodologies, in that it supports the improvement in quality and customer satisfaction only as a means to an end – to improve the bottom line of the organization.It accomplishes this by defining the goals of the business, and defining performance metrics that tie to the business goals. 
  3. Six Sigma uses performance metrics-based projects that will yield clear business results by applying advanced quality and statistical tools to achieve breakthrough financial performance. These results are attained using dedicated, focused, qualified personnel working in a project environment.

Now that you have the answer to the question ‘what is Six Sigma,’ you can dive deeper into the topic and consider earning your own certification. To learn more, read the full white paper by Nexus Instructor Don Lynch, PhD.

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