Planning for the data collection activity provides a stable and reliable data collection process in the Measure phase.
A well-planned activity ensures that your efforts and costs will not be in vain. Data collection typically involves three phases: pre-collection, collection and post-collection.
Pre-collection activities: Goal setting and forming operational definitions are some of the pre-collection activities that form the basis for systematic and precise data collection.
1. Setting goals and objectives: Goal setting and defining objectives is the most important part of the pre-collection phase.
It enables teams to give direction to the data to be collected. The plan includes description of the Six Sigma project being planned. It lists out specific data that is required for the further steps in the process.
If there are no specific details as to the data needs, the data collection activity will not be within scope - and may become irrelevant over a period of time.
The plan must mention the rationale of data being collected as well as the final utilization.
2. Define operational definitions: The team must clearly define what and how data has to be collected. An operational definition of scope, time interval and the number of observations required is very important.
If it mentions the methodology to be used, it can act a very important guideline to all data collection team members.
An understanding of all applicable information can help ensure that there no misleading data is collected, which may be loosely interpreted leading to a disastrous outcome.
3. Repeatability, stability and accuracy of data: The repeatability of the data being collected is very important.
This means that when the same operator undertakes that same activity on a later date, it should produce the same output. Additionally, it is reproducible if all operators reach the same outcome.
Measurement systems should be accurate and stable, such that outcomes are the same with similar equipment over a period of time.
The team may carry out testing to ensure that there is no reduction in these factors.
After planning and defining goals, the actual data collection process starts according to plan. Going by the plan ensures that teams achieve expected results consistently and accurately.
Training can be undertaken so as to ensure that all data collection agents have a common understanding of data being collected. Black Belts or team leaders can look over the process initially to provide any support needed.
For data collection over a longer period, teams need to ensure regular oversight to ensure that no collection activities are overlooked.
Post collection activities
Once collection activities are completed, the accuracy and reliability of the data has to be reviewed.
It is important that it achieves expected results; and if not, then Six Sigma leaders should design it to suit the needs of the business. By reviewing operational activities with participants and conducting an in-depth comparison, misinterpretations can be eliminated that have been the cause of breakdowns.
Incorporating these steps in the data collection plan increases the chances of getting reliable and crucial data, which in turn will bring out the best result from the Six Sigma project.