Six Sigma and TQM

Benchmarking results consistently identify examples of Six Sigma success. Even so, getting “naysayers” on board is a continuous challenge. What do you tell them?

Nayism 7: Six Sigma looks like repackaged TQM.What makes you think its ‘staying power’ is going to be any different?

When people first hear about Six Sigma, some may see it as repackaged TQM. Skeptics frequently draw conclusions based on ineffective TQM efforts. There are notable differences that should be discussed. So, here’s what I say . . .

Although there are many similarities between TQM and Six Sigma, there are several standard and required key attributes that give Six Sigma more staying power. These include having a more structured step-wise methodology, rigorous financial validation and documented accountability for process improvements.

The structured methodology of Define-Measure-Analyze-Improve-Control (DMAIC) provides an organized method for applying tools and statistics to identify the root cause of problems. The tools and statistics are not new, but the organized consistent methodology brings a more systematic approach to the problem solving process.

The intense involvement of the financial department in validating savings has added credibility to the hard savings that can be achieved by Six Sigma projects.Done properly, this validation substantiates that savings are measurable, tied to the actual improvements and to the bottom line. There are no smoke and mirrors here.


Control plans assure that gains are sustained. Periodic monitoring of key variables is required by the “control phase” of a Six Sigma project and is an ongoing verification that process improvements are actually being maintained.

Although some TQM initiatives had pieces of or possibly all of these attributes, an effective Six Sigma deployment will assure that these items are deployed with the rigor and standardization required to assure continued success.

Leave a Reply