Why is it so hard to apply Six Sigma to the oil and gas industry?

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It is quite interesting that you find Six Sigma to be “very difficult” in terms of application.  Typically, such a perspective is fairly common among those who have had limited exposure to or experience with Six Sigma.  Either you have convinced yourself that Six Sigma is very difficult (to deploy, implement, and apply), or someone else has. 

To help overcome your mental block, consider the listed set of pragmatic observations.  I call these observations the “Universal Axioms of Six Sigma.”  Recognize the list is not comprehensive – owing to limited space.  Also be aware that each axiom is highly compressed and not prioritized.  In other words, the list is a generalized “snapshot” of a larger, more detailed discussion.

Universal Six Sigma Axioms:

1) Business is the mutual exchange of value.
2) Corporations are “in business” to make money.
3) Shareholders invest in corporations to make money.
4) Management seeks to exercise judicious control to satisfy a myriad of needs.
5) The customer has at least one “need.”
6) The provider has the capacity and capability “to do.”
7) Each need-do pair constitutes an interaction.
8) Any given need-do interaction constitutes the consummation of business.
9) The customer is associated with the primary base of a transaction – money.
10) The provider is associated with goods and services.
11) The relation Y = f (X) is universal.
12) We acknowledge Y as the dependent variable – the symptomatic focus.
13) We acknowledge X as the set of independent variables – the problematic focus.
14) We acknowledge f as the process by which X is transformed into Y.
15) A change in Y can only be realized by a state change in X, given constancy of f.
16) A state change in X results either by chance or through causality, thereby altering Y.
17) The relationship prescribed by f can be shaped by conscientious design.
18) The customer defines Y and the provider impels X by way of f.
19) A fact is something that can be shown to be true, to exist, or to have happened.
20) Measurement is the strongest form of fact.
21) The form or nature of a business does not limit the science of measurement.
22) The available quantity of measurements is largely circumstantial by nature.
23) Numbers serve as the basis for reporting measured observations.
24) All variables can be measured – on at least one scale, to some extent.
25) We must always seek to define Y, X, and f in a quality way.
26) We must always seek to monitor Y, control X and optimize f.
27) We must always seek to improve Y by way of X and f.
28) We do not know what we do not know.
29) We will not know what we do not question.
30) Questions lead and answers follow – design the question to create the knowledge.

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These axioms will always hold true, regardless of corporate composition or place in the value stream.  For example, the axioms are not constrained by the size of an organization or its configuration.  The axioms are not bound by type of organization – industrial or commercial.  The axioms are not dependent upon the geographical boundaries of a corporation – local or global.  Finally, the axioms are independent of culture – business is a universal language.

Owing to the above, it should be apparent that the principles of Six Sigma can be applied to anything, anywhere, at any time – even when fighting fires.  Related to this, it should be well engrained in one’s memory that, above all, Six Sigma (as well as DMAIC) is about the improvement of core business processes.