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It is the aim of great manufacturing companies (starting with Motorola in the 1980s) to remove substantially all error from both their fabrication and business processes—their goal is to achieve 6 sigma; that is, an error or defect rate that is equal to or less than: (1 – 99.99966%). Looked at another way, this implies that only one in every 294,118 things that a six sigma company does is defective and has to be either discarded or done again.

Now most service businesses can not possibly come close to matching a fabrication company but they should be able to achieve a 3 sigma state. Unfortunately, many service firms are in effect 1 sigma enterprises: that is, they have a level of proficiency with an error rate that is, basically, equivalent to two out of every three things they do are wrong (actually, it is 2 in 2.899 but at that point who cares, it’s pathetic.)
If you did nothing other than focus on getting your error rate down, which means doing things right the first time, practically every time, you could significantly increase your productivity and bottom line even if sales (top line revenues) didn't budge. A service business should aim to be at least 3 sigma not 1 sigma enterprise.

One way to help you get there is to start measuring things to see what your error rate is in the first place. You can not hope to improve unless you know your original state. The Hawthorne Effect suggests that as soon as you start to measure a thing, people will alter their behavior to improve their scores often resulting in significant increases in production and productivity.
by ProfBruce April 02, 2011
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