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Asking The Right Questions Is The Key To Six Sigma Data Collection

Jun 27, 2008
The most important factor in getting the relevant information is asking the right questions. The right questions help the respondents to understand it and answer accordingly.

Consider a situation where a help desk technician receives a call from a frantic customer saying she has spilled coffee onto a keyboard. The technician in this situation should think and dig deeper for more information about the keyboard. The technician then instructs the customer to clean it with water, as the keyboard is easily replaceable.

Within an hour, the technician receives a call from the customer's manager, demanding to know who suggested putting water on an expensive brand new laptop. The technician in this situation should have asked for more information about the keyboard, such as the brand, its specifications and so forth.

When data collection is to be done for the purpose of a Six Sigma project, it is necessary to keep a few things in mind:


The most important thing to bear in mind is to keep your questions simple so that customers will understand them correctly and not misinterpret them. If you are using a form for data collection, design the form so that data is collected in a column format, similar to software spreadsheets.

This will help to prevent conversion or exporting problems later on.


There should be clarity as to why you are collecting the data. You should develop good questions that relate to the information you need for the project. You should also be clear as to how you are going to use that data. An equally relevant factor to keep in mind is the fact that you have to decide how much data is needed and how much time you want to allocate to it.

Use the appropriate data analysis tools and make sure that the data you are collecting is in line with the requirements for those tools. You should the get accurate information from your respondents.

Inform the Respondent

Additionally, all respondents should also be informed about the reason that you are collecting the data, so that they respond accordingly. They will then not have any misunderstanding or fear about your intention when it comes to collecting that data.

Information about the Problem

If you are aware that factors such as location, shift, equipment, and suppliers are a part of the problem under consideration, ensure that you plan and develop the data collection form accordingly.

You do not want to miss out on any data and repeat your collection efforts, because your customers may not react positively the second time around.


The data collectors should be well-trained on the guidelines to be followed for data collection. The training will be dependent upon the complexity of the data collection effort and the expertise of the individual collectors.

You can also conduct a trial run of the data collection plan to examine the teams' understanding of the type of data expected. The results will help the team to refine the questions further and to pay special attention to missing information.

Simple Information

When it comes to data collection for Six Sigma, you should ensure that you are including additional space to collect information, such as the collector's name and the time and date that the data was collected. Though this seems to be no-brainer, you never know when this information may be useful when analyzing the data collected. Any feedback needed would be easily available.

By keeping these simple, basic things in mind and planning for Six Sigma data collection, you will ensure that a similar story, like the IT Technician one above, does not happen. Asking the right questions is the key to perfect Six Sigma data collection.
About the Author
Tony Jacowski is a quality analyst for The MBA Journal. Aveta Solution's Six Sigma Online offers online six sigma training and certification classes for six sigma professionals including, lean six sigma, black belts, green belts, and yellow belts.
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