Six Sigma for book publishing is something which is not common and which is not mostly thought about. Six Sigma has its roots in core manufacturing and then it started entering the service sector. But it still carries with it 'the perception of a corporate philosophy and methodology' which can only work in the corporate sector. The truth is far from it. Six Sigma can actually be used in everything. It is not only about the achieving the defect-free products but it is also about improving the existing state of affairs for the better.
Six SIgma is a methodology that helps you improve the processes for the better. (though normally, we use the word 'business processes', but I have not deliberately used it without the word 'business', since I believe it is not limited to 'business process', you can improve any life process with Six Sigma.There are 5 main stages of using Six Sigma DMAIC - Define, Measure, Analyze, Control and Improve.
Six Sigma uses hard core data of the past transactions and analyzes it with several statistical tools to draw the conclusions.
Six Sigma brings with it the famous DMAIC framework that stands for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control. This framework has become so universal that it can be used and applied on anything. Either it is on business or on your personal life.
The Six Sigma for book publishing definitely makes good sense. Though book publishing is commonly considered a creative domain, but interestingly, the art of writing may be a creative process, but the process of formatting and final production is based on the solid steps with meticulous discipline involving many technical procedures. If you don't take enough care to complete these production steps systematically , you can easily bump into a poor quality final product i.e. a book.
Let's now delve into what Six sigma for book publishing can reap benefits.
We will divide the book publishing process into the following
1 - Book Writing (mostly creative)
2 - Book Editing (systematic)
3 - Book Proof Reading (systematic /and automatic)
4 - Book Formating (technical, /systematic/, and automatic)
5 - Book Publishing / Printing ( technical /and systematic)
Out of the above 5 stages, Six Sigma can be applied in the 4 stages easily to improve the efficiency and improved outcomes.
The four stages we are talking about are the Book editing, proofing, formating and printing
Let's now take the Six SIgma DMAIC framework and put the above 4 stages into this framework
Define - Define the problem or issue
Booking writing, editing, proofing taking too long and with identified 10% errors (typos, grammar and formatting)
Obtain the similar 5 books in the same genre, study the writing style, editing and formating and the interior designing. Also study the 5 books published by another company to compare the final outputs. Try to find the similarities and dissimilarities, especially in the number of errors and defects in each book. Check out the staff engagements on the book editing, proofing and also check the existing tools being utilized by the staff for editing, proofing and formatting.
Take all this data and record it with its cycle time, processing time and the cost of the process.
Check out the existing manual processes as well as the tools for writing, editing, proofing and formating. Compare the manual or semi automatic tools to help fasten the process.
Check out the document organizing tools for better productivity.
Determine the roots cause of the long and delayed process.
Use the Fishbone diagram to identify the real culprit factors in causing the errors.
Use the Scatter diagram and the correlation to see if any particular cause has any effect on the output.
After identifying the roots causes of the unnecessary delay and errors, change the process by taking the help from the technology or tools to provide a better easy insight to show the errors and make the book publishing process faster.
Once you have the required tools, you need to stabilize the process with continuous monitoring. The idea is not to go back to the previous process, which was giving you the undesired outcomes. The new process requires its own training for the concerned stakeholders by showing them how the things will be done differently.
Book publishers are trained to do things their own ways, sometimes the resistance to change is the real culprit to adopt new things. Six Sigma for book publishing can help you to show you things with a new paradigm shift. But you should be ready for such a transition. If you already think that there is no issue or problem and you are doing every thing right, then certainly there can be no room for any improvement.
Book publishing is a big industry dominant by the big 5 publishers of the world who own about 60% of the book publishing products. They know what they are doing. This is what they believe. But as we all know, that in every sphere of life there can be room for improvement. Six Sigma for book publishing can prove to be a helping tool to further improve the quality of their final products i.e. books.
Though in this example we specifically talked about the book publishing process life cycle. however, as we should also understand that book publishing house is also a company with hundreds of staff including account, finance, marketing, HR and operations. They have their own revenues expenses and profits to report every year.
Application of Six Sigma may not only limited to book publishing life cycle rather it can also be stretched to improved the internal business processes in operations and accounts as well as in marketing. This can also further help to boost up the profits for the company in addition to having quality books.
Though this article just touched the tip of the iceberg, but I do hope that book publishers can also take a better idea and insight from this article ‘Six Sigma for book publishing’ and can see what Six Sigma can do for them.