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Encompass Blog

October 12, 2017

An Introduction to Six Sigma

By Evan Benjamin

Six Sigma is a disciplined process and logical style of project management that focuses on developing and delivering near-perfect services consistently. It uses statistical tools and project work to achieve quantum gains in quality. You apply these tools to review and improve the processes used to accomplish your tasks. 

Six Sigma began in the manufacturing field but is now used in a wide variety of businesses to improve efficiency and reduce costly mistakes. In the legal arena, Six Sigma can be used to reduce costs associated with e-discovery in particular and litigation in general by:

  • Improving manual processes by increasing accuracy
  • Providing a framework against which to defend your processes
  • Helping to define your processes so anyone in your organization can understand them and improve their own workflows 

There are five phases in Six Sigma:

  1. Define the processes you want to improve. While mapping all your workflows, determine what is really important for success?
  2. Measure the performance of your process. Do you have a plan for your process? How do you measure progress against that plan? 
  3. Analyze the data you collect to determine the root causes of your mistakes and any opportunities for improvements. Check for high rates of false positives or false negatives in your search results.
  4. Improve your efforts to eliminate random errors and other variability. Design solutions to fix or prevent problems. Whatever you do, actively implement any improvements.
  5. Control and monitor your process to sustain these improvements. Resolve never to return to old habits or technologies that gave rise to mistakes. Implement continuous monitoring to realize your goal of continuous improvement.

The acronym to remember is DMAIC—Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control.

To use the Six Sigma method, you need to:

  1. Visualize your entire case workflow and identify sources of waste (time, budget, people, process, technology).
  2. Provide a common language for process discussions and develop appropriate process flows or maps.
  3. Describe how existing processes can or should change.
  4. Perform activities only if they add value.

In the e-discovery context, Six Sigma can be used to improve quality and efficiency, deliver greater value to their clients, and better align both client and counsel interests. It will yield faster responses and turnaround times and increase productivity with fewer resources while freeing up valuable resources that can take on other work.

For more information on Six Sigma, visit the following websites:

1. http://asq.org/sixsigma  - The American Society for Quality provides training, certification, and a great knowledge base.

2. https://www.6sigma.us/   - The official website, which provides training and certification resources.


This article was published in its entirety in the Fall 2016 edition of Peer To Peer: The Quarterly Magazine of the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA).  It was condensed and modified for this post.

Evan Benjamin is the production administrator for Nelson Mullins Encompass. 

In addition to being a Computer Forensic Examiner and CEDS Certified Relativity Administrator, Evan has earned Six Sigma Green Belt and ITIL certifications, contributed to the ACEDS Exam Prep Manual, and helped create and review items for the CEDS exam.

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