The Future of Six Sigma

Over the years I have enjoyed the many articles that have speculated on the future of Six Sigma.This past month I have read three articles in particular that offered differing opinions on where Six Sigma is headed.

According to Thomas Pyzdek, in Cargo Cult Six Sigma. Is the fad fading?:

“As someone who follows Six Sigma news closely, it appears to me that the approach is nearing the end of its lifecycle.”

Thomas Pyzdek is a long time proponent of Six Sigma so it is surprising that he speaks of Six Sigma as a fad, and even more surprising that he alleges Six Sigma is nearing the end of its lifecycle.His evidence is a 10 step description of the lifecycle of a fad and he suggests Six Sigma is following these steps.

Roger Hoerl offers a completely different point of view on the future of Six Sigma in his article, One perspective on the future of Six-Sigma, published in the International Journal of Six Sigma and Competitive Advantage:

“Six-Sigma has maintained momentum for over ten years now, longer than many pundits expected. However, the key question remains: how long will Six-Sigma remain front-page news? The answer is that it will remain front-page news as long as it delivers front-page results.”Hoerl, R. (2004) One perspective on the future of Six-Sigma, Int. J. Six Sigma and Competitive Advantage, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp.112–119. PDF

Another recent article by Dr Jiju Antony in IEE Manufacturing Engineer shared Roger Hoerl’s view:

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“In my personal opinion, Six Sigma will be around as long as the projects yield quantifiable financial returns to the organizations’ bottom-line.” February/March 2005.Analysis: Six Sigma, A perspective on the future

I am in 99.99966% agreement with these last two articles.Six Sigma will continue as long as the methodology produces results.As long as there are results, companies will talk about them.As long as they talk, I will post the results on the “front-page” of

Articles and Links

What Is The Future of Six Sigma?, Six Sigma Forum Magazine, November 2001

Six Sigma, Fad or Fundamental,Quality Digest May, 2000

Who Needs Six Sigma, Anyway?, Quality Digest, May, 2000

Comments 4

  1. Thomas Pyzdek

    My article was intended to be a defense of Six Sigma, not an attack on it. You are quoting me out of context. E.g., you didn’t mention that I offered suggestions on how to keep Six Sigma’s momentum alive.

    You say that "front page results" will keep Six Sigma on the front page. There is plenty of evidence based on solid academic research that TQM and ISO 9000 are still yielding great results, but that wasn’t enough to keep them on the front page. It’s not enough for Six Sigma either.

    I’ve vigorously defended Six Sigma against many attackers in the past, including Fortune, see Ignore Six Sigma at Your Peril. Since I continue to believe in it, I will do so in the future. I believe the greatest threat now comes not from detractors, but from within. From those who can’t or won’t see that it is being distorted into Six Sigma Lite with instant Belt training, turned into a joke with half-hearted executive support, frequently applied where it shouldn’t be and misapplied where it should.

    Denial of reality doesn’t help. If you want to see Six Sigma continue to progress, you must go beyond cheerleading. It’s time to apply FMEA to Six Sigma itself.

  2. Michael Marx


    Thank you for your recent comments. I am sorry that you feel I quoted you out of context. Yes, you are one of the mighty defenders of Six Sigma and because of your devotion to the methodology I found it surprising that you would even consider Six Sigma a “fad.”

    The word fad has a negative undertone, in my opinion. I consider Six Sigma a business trend. Trends are positive movements with lasting effects that often spur future trends. Fads come and go and all you are left with is a pair of peg legged jeans stacked in a closet somewhere. As you are well aware, the Six Sigma methodology has been evolving over the past 10 years and will continue to evolve. That kind of behavior is not a fad.

    I never doubted your belief in Six Sigma. Your many contributions to the Six Sigma community are valuable and your articles about Six Sigma are thought provoking, but I will stand by my conviction that Six Sigma should not be labeled a fad.

  3. Shakti Singh

    I hope the six sigma’s future is so bright

  4. ripstaur

    I’d like to see the follow-on article. Can you provide a link?

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