Six Sigma is a data-driven method that allows an organization to review, assess the entire process, identify defects, and work on solutions for project goals achievement. This comprehensive procedure involves a tool called the six sigma process map!

This post will discuss Six Sigma, process mapping, and frequently asked questions to give you a comprehensive view of the methodology, particularly the Six Sigma process improvement methodology. 

six sigma
Six Sigma methodology is aimed to improve organizational performance.

Six Sigma Process Map - A Complete Guide

What Is Six Sigma? 

Six Sigma is one of the six process improvement methodologies to increase productivity and the scale of a business. 

It relies on a data-driven approach to improve the entire organization's performance by reducing defects. In particular, it’s aimed to eliminate waste and decrease variation in design, manufacturing defects, and service operations.

Motorola was the first to apply this approach, from their General Electric department to all manufacturing and organizational current processes. Subsequently, ensuring defect-free products and services. 

Six Sigma comprises two sub-methodologies, DMAIC and DMADV.

six sigma
DMAIC - part of Six Sigma

DMAIC is the abbreviation for defining, measuring, analyzing, improving, and controlling the five steps in this sub-method. In particular, it sets a business process improvement goal for the current process analyzes it to determine defects, causes, and resolutions.

DMADV consists of five steps: define, measure, analyze, design, and identify. While these steps are similar to DMAIC, DMADV focuses on considering different factors to design an ideal process that supports the company’s overall strategy. 

All in all, Six Sigma relies the most on data and statistics of all process improvement methodologies.  

Advantages Of Six Sigma Process Map 

While it may generate tangible business products, a process is an abstraction that is hardly understood and applied. Therefore, process maps are created as a tool to make it real so a project team can apply Six Sigma. 

A process map brings several advantages to the Six Sigma method:

  • Identify steps in a process that need simplifying
  • Compare the existing process with a future state process.
  • Give people outside the project team an understanding of it.
  • Determine areas in a process that requires further data investigation

A Six Sigma process map can come in handy when a project has just started or when it’s already running. 

How to Create a Six Sigma Process Map? 

Select a process

First of all, you need to choose a process you want to change. 

Determine the process boundaries

In the second step, determine the start and end of the process. For instance, the purpose of an emergency room is to reduce the waiting time for patients. The process may then start when someone gets to the emergency room and ends when they are discharged. 

List all the steps in the process

After identifying where the process starts and ends, you need to list all the steps included in it. Also, remember to list the inputs and outputs of each step, such as what data goes in and what outcomes to expect.

In the emergency room, for example, the listed steps may include greeting the patient, having them fill out forms, entering their information into the computer, having them diagnosed, etc. 

Place the steps in order

You can either list the steps in order or list them all out, then put them in the correct sequential order. It helps with determining what needs improvement. 

Check your work

Once you have completed all the steps above, check the entire map again. Now, you should review each area and see if its description on the map is correct.

It will help if you seek help from other people involved in the process to analyze the road map. They can provide you with different approaches and help ensure everything has been included. 

Diagrams for Six Sigma

Ishikawa diagram/fishbone diagram

The name fishbone is derived from its shape, which features a main straight line with smaller branches like the fish skeleton. It helps one quickly list potential causes of a defect. 

The head of the “fish” states the problem in focus; the branches indicate potential categories of causes. 

fishbone diagram
The fishbone diagram.

SIPOC analysis diagram

The SIPOC analysis diagram looks into different parts, including the suppliers, inputs, process, outputs, and customers. 

Business Process Mapping

This type of diagram outlines the whole business operation, covering factors like goals, account roles, and responsibilities. It’s useful for analyzing all activities in an organization to increase productivity.

Value stream map

The value stream map focuses on analyzing product capabilities and product delivery. It illustrates the current state of the process, especially the valuable and non-valuable added activities. 

value stream map
The value stream map.

Swimlane diagram / Deployment flowchart

In a swimlane diagram, a process is divided based on the person or group in charge. Notably, it showcases where handoffs take place, which other types of process maps don’t show as clearly. 

High-level process map

A high-level map tends to present only basic steps in a process rather than details. It helps viewers quickly understand the process as a whole. 

Therefore, it’s suitable for use by high-level members, such as managers, executives, or project leaders.  

Using the Symbols Correctly 

The majority of the Six Sigma process maps utilize the same symbols, each indicating a different action. Using consistent symbols throughout the map helps everyone understand it easily. Here are the six most commonly used symbols:

  • Terminator: the start and the end of a process
  • Rectangle: a step to perform during the process
  • Oval: the inputs and outputs
  • D: a delay in the process
  • Arrow: a movement with direction showing where to proceed from each step
  • Diamond: a decision must be made

Six Sigma Process Map FAQs 

Is process mapping part of Six Sigma?

Yes, it is. It’s a technique in the Six Sigma methodology, illustrating the steps of a process that is being analyzed in the form of a step-by-step flowchart.

Why is it called six sigma?

The methodology is given this name based on the bell curve in statistics, with one Sigma representing one standard deviation from the mean. When a process exhibits six Sigma, the defect rate is very low, about 3.4/1000000. 

What is an example of Six Sigma?

Motorola is the first company to implement Six Sigma in the early 1980s. The methodology generated fruitful results, improving the product quality and services simultaneously that is also relevant to be adopted in other departments. 

Microsoft is another company that successfully used Six Sigma to boost services and products. It helped the company thrive to become one of the largest tech firms on Earth and maintain its reputation until today.


To wrap up, the Six Sigma process map is a flow chart drawn to illustrate an existing process of an organization. Its purpose is to look for potential defects, find the right solutions, and eventually improve the overall performance by fixing the flaws. 

There are five steps to create a Six Sigma process map: select a process, determine the process boundaries, list the steps, place the step in order, and check your work.

The last step is extremely important since that’s where you may discover what you miss out on in the previous steps. Depending on what you aim at when choosing the process, make sure to apply the correct diagram for the Six Sigma process map