Six Sigma By Any Other Name…

Here’s a synopsis of a recent conversation I overheard:

“We do Six Sigma, but we don’t call it that.”

“Why not?”

“It would scare people off.”


“If we called it Six Sigma, that gets interpreted by people as this strange, large, project “thing” with lots of data and statistics and change and being monitored and a lot of other negative things. So we don’t call it Six Sigma.”

“What do you call it?”

“Oh, whatever we want. Streamlining project or waste reduction project or fix-it project. It really doesn’t matter; once we get the team involved, we follow the DMAIC methodology. We just don’t get hung up on titles or special jargon.”

“Does it work?”

“Oh yes, it’s very effective. Just don’t call up our company and ask whether we’re doing Six Sigma!”

Question of the day: Does Six Sigma by any other name smell as sweet?

Comments 9

  1. qualityg

    Quality Tool/Technique –> WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED about Gas/Oil Prices and Six Sigma? – ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!

  2. Dan Margolien

    I think this may be a good approach. We are working to integrate the tools and concepts into everyday work. People do think of Six Sigma as a special project, or work out of their normal scope, or figure when this project is over they are done. We want them to use the tools for everyday work. Making a decision about a supplier? – get out the C&E. Running a test to see if the new machine is like the old- better, worse? Get out the T-test.

    Depending on the organization, I suspect it is far more important to integrate the tools into employee’s lives than the name of the process. Some organizations might need the title to get the organizational commitment to keep going, to continue the training and educational aspects, to find a place to capture the savings.

    The important thing for companies to do is create a culture of never ending improvement, of scrutinizing systems, of asking why?


  3. Sue Kozlowski

    Thanks Dan for your comments. I agree that the "attitude" is more important than the "appellation." I love to work with people who can learn to see waste or see opportunities, and then get fired up when they see the potential for a better way to do things.

    I’ve said myself – if it takes an initiative like Lean or Six Sigma to motivate people to get involved in change, then let’s go!

  4. zola cao

    hehe, we actually doing that way…

  5. mahtaa

    Your question of the day…..exactly what I’’ve just started to surf for. Many non-6 Sigma companies are succesful – why? Is it the behavioural changes that 6 Sigma requires that drive success, rather than 6 Sigma itself? Would those non-believers always be non-performers in a non-6 Sigma organisation.

    If we can isolate behaviours that deliver results in non-6 Sigma companies, we could look for those behavioural "drivers"in the methodology. If we focus then on those drivers and promote those as the DNA rather than 6 Sigma, can we perform even better?

    I’m considering researching this for my MBA dissertation. Any thoughts or literature around this would be welcomed.

  6. britta bibel-cavallaro

    Hi Andrew, I just saw your comment on Six Sigma for you MBA – remember GE/Hannover?
    pls contact me for further discussion if you are interested: [email protected]

  7. brooks margolien

    Would your 6th sigma be able do determine how often we should clean up our tools? It seems a waste of time to walk 3o ft. to put a screwdriver back in its place, but what if we have to look for the screwdriver every so often? Is it all about the cost benefit? Does it matter how we make our product if it is profitable at the end?

  8. Sue Kozlowski

    Thanks for your comment – this is a question that many leaders ask.

    The whole concept behind Six Sigma – and Lean – rests on the assumption that it DOES matter how you make your product. Every savings – in time and in reduced waste – counts towards your profit margin.

    One of the issues that many associates have is that they have an individual way of doing things "better" than others. Unfortunately when everyone is doing their own thing – like putting a hammer back in their own preferred spot – the team as a whole can’t function effectively. When you introduce standard work, it’s easier to teach the job function and to maintain the standards for the work. It also reduces variability that you may have because "Betty" puts the hammer in a different place than "Tommy" does.

    If you poll your operational improvement colleagues, I’m guessing they’ll agree with this philosophy, if not the exact wording!

    Thanks for asking.

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