What started out 20 years ago as a way to reduce variation is now the hottest game in town – Six Sigma. Although it has been reshaped through the years to meet constantly changing business needs, the definition is still the same: “Near perfect performance”. . . and customers still demand it.

When first introduced, Six Sigma was pegged as a “one-card” game – DMAIC. Over the years, it became clear that those willing to draw some new cards were stacking the deck in their favor when it came to achieving near perfect performance. And so the game evolved as DFSS, Workout, Lean, Kaizen and a host of other methods were shuffled into play. Even some Change Management and Innovation “wild” cards were introduced and a full deck of cards is now available. Winning is just a matter of knowing which card to play for the situation at hand.

So what do you call the new game? I call it Six Sigma. Why? Because it is still about achieving near perfect performance (99.9997% good). When I was first introduced to Six Sigma, it was all about eliminating defects and a defect was defined as anything that kept you from achieving near perfect performance (i.e., variation, waste, lengthy cycle times, errors, no process, etc.). So even though some new cards have been added, it’s still all Six Sigma to me.

I’m thinking that people with strong roots in Lean or Kaizen may have a different view. We could spend years debating what to call it but one thing’s for sure. Today’s marketplace demands that you play with a full deck if you want to stay in the game. If not, you will surely get “trumped” by a competitor.

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