My Pet Peeves About Six Sigma

The following items recur too frequently in my daily activities. I submit them as “pet peeves” to raise awareness of them. OK, let’s be honest – venting helps me too.

Pet Peeve 1: People who are more concerned with obtaining a Six Sigma certification than with what the newly acquired skills will allow them to deliver to their organization.

We work to deliver value to our business and to the customers of our business. The result of doing this well is professional growth. Shouldn’t business professionals get their priorities straight?

Pet Peeve 2: Six Sigma being equated to or viewed as little more than TQM.

To the uninitiated, Six Sigma and TQM may appear similar since many tools overlap. Others view Six Sigma as an evolution of TQM. I agree that Six Sigma has evolved from much of the work of TQM and many great minds. But for those who think there’s no difference, I submit that there may be no difference between the process capability of their thinking and that of our tree-dwelling ancestors. As Mikel Harry states, “We need to focus on the quality of business, not the business of quality.” Let’s evolve together.

Pet Peeve 3: Describing Six Sigma as solely a cost-cutting or productivity enhancement strategy does not tell the whole story.

Design for Six Sigma (DFSS) – what I like to call “the other Six Sigma” – can produce the same order of magnitude in financial benefits as DMAIC (as seen in the July/August research of iSixSigma Magazine). But it also provides the ability for an organization to change and innovate, and become a market leader.

Handpicked Content:   Predictive Index, Bob Wilson andamp; Associates

Pet Peeve 4: If I receive one more email asking if Six Sigma can apply to business processes other than manufacturing, I may yell.

Let’s recite the following together:

  1. Businesses produce products and/or services for sale.
  2. Products and services are produced through a set of processes.
  3. A process is a series of activities that use inputs, add value and produce an output.
  4. Although individual steps vary from process to process, any set of process steps can be defined, measured, analyzed, improved and controlled (Six Sigma).
  5. Six Sigma can apply to any product or service because they are produced by processes.

Pet Peeve 5: I’ve gone past the point of yelling when I receive questions like “What is Six Sigma?” or “How do I learn Six Sigma?”

Now I just shake my head slowly to myself. The entire iSixSigma editorial team has worked diligently for five-plus years creating the finest set of resources available for understanding Six Sigma. We even created a “New to Six Sigma” page that is in a visible location of every page, and we have a state of the art search technology on the website.

When it comes to learning Six Sigma, I can only say that people learn in different manners. Some can read a book and go implement effectively. Others may be able to take an online course and be ready. Like many others, I prefer to learn in the traditional college/university manner – in a live classroom and interactively with the teachers and other students. How you learn and what is required for you to learn Six Sigma depends on many factors including your educational background, business proficiency, leadership skills, culture change skills, project management, team leadership, conflict negotiation, etc.

Handpicked Content:   Hard Core Naysayers

I reserve the right to add more pet peeves as I see fit. The views expressed in this column are entirely mine and not those of iSixSigma.

Comments 2

  1. Scott Stein


    Crazy as this sounds, why not just say that we’re all looking to improve quality as a way of life? If I understand right, we’re all on the same page, believing that stressing the often looked-over truth that quality is the determiner of success, not number of pieces pushed through.

    I’m not new to quality, but it comes across looking like turf wars between Six Sigma, TQM, Lean, etc. Stupid me, but I use any and all of these tools to accomplish improved quality in a process/product with less waste. Seems like some Six Sigma folks are a bit “religious” about Six Sigma, so much so that it seems to breed contempt of others intersted in the same goals.

    Just my .02, and probably not worth that much.


  2. Manager Extraordinaire

    Six Sigma is hailed by many as "the ultimate quality improvement plan." But I can tell you from years of experience as a manager and executive in several large companies — NO ONE TOOL CAN FIX ALL OF YOUR PROBLEMS.

    Here’s the biggest problem with certifying managers and supervisors in Six Sigma: If the only tool you have is a hammer — pretty soon, every problem begins to look like a nail.

    In essence, many corporate inefficiencies are not due to the processes involved. Sometimes, processes are so *$&%ed efficient, that they don’t need improving.
    By working to "fix something that isn’t broken," you’re basically wasting a lot of time and effort in an attempt to create an insignificant and/or infinitessimal "benefit."

    The bottom line: Processes are conducted by people. Sometimes people are just lazy, innefficient, unmotivated, dumb, worthless, useless employees — who are experts at hiding thier true nature. And many of these people are Six Sigma proponents, going through the motions to make it look like they are actually contributing to the company.

Leave a Reply