Is There A Place For Six Sigma As We Know It In The Future

I have been thinking about various topics regarding Six Sigma recently, and I keep coming back to a question that is hard to answer…if we “do Six Sigma” right, is there even a place for Six Sigma as we know it ten or twenty years down the road?

Consider this…..ten years from now, do you really want to have Black Belts doing project work? Or…do you want Six Sigma tools to be the status quo of how the business is operated by everyone? To me the latter is the end game, but does the “classical” approach to Six Sigma (Black Belts doing projects) fit the end game??…I’m not so sure.

How do we structure Six Sigma in general to better fit the end game of real culture change, instead of creating a bunch of “super problem solvers”?

Comments 15

  1. Ghost-Rider

    From my perspective, your end goal would seem to be the best forward-looking approach. If my company is any indication however, it would be a vast cultural shift to entrench 6S processes and make them commonplace. As for us, our executives are keen to have the super problem solvers only. They are fine with cultural change, as long it is not they who have to change. Just my two pennies worth.


  2. Kosta Chingas

    Jeff – what do you think the main drivers are behind your management’s reluctance to change? What prevents the organization from embracing 6S processes as the way to do business in your opinion?

    – Kosta

  3. Tom

    I believe we will still need the toolkit in some guise in the future. Although now we may "do 6S right", our customer targets and expectations will change, as will the market, so we will always need to improve processes in some form.

    As for the cultural change – we try to encourage existing BB’s and MBB’s to go back into operational roles and use their skills "back in the business". It’s a very long journey to shift the culture but we’re getting there, by embedding 6S professionals into day to day business roles.

  4. Kosta Chingas

    To Tom-

    I support the statement regarding the need for a toolkit in one shape or another in the future. The world isn’t going to sit still waiting for us to improve our processes….but….how effective are your integrated Black Belts on spreading culture change upon their return to core business? What are the roadblocks they face…I’m really curious.

    To DonKy-

    I think companies really do a good job of finance deployment – that’s one thing I’ve seen succeed over, and over, and over, and over…he he he…

    But seriously…(I’m sure I’ll get shot by purists by the following statement)…how much statistics do you really need in the mainstream in most circumstances? In my opinion…if the critical mass of engineers in the world could form a better problem statement, then it would probably be a better world. By the way..I am an engineer so I’m not being hypocritical here……

  5. DonKy

    This sounds like an interesting problem for a six sigma black belt! Without true and honest Define and Measure phases we can only speculate about the causes. My belief is that most companies are run by financial people. They think differently than quality professionals. To some, saying that a company uses 6S to do business is the same as saying that the quality department runs the business. There has always been reluctance to allow QA to be very large or have much control. Besides 6S is a scary thing, it invloves statistics so it must be complicated! And what is a "sigma" anyway right? Take 6S and change it from a quality deployment to an accounting or finance deployment, make it come up through all the finance people in the business and it will succeed. Of course I jest, this is just a perspective for some lighthearted discussion.

  6. Jim

    6S has formally been removed from my company, but the solid parts of it remain among those who were converts, like myself.

    Because change is certain to continue and bring new problems into the business, continuous improvement will continue to be a necessity. 6S, Lean Sigma, and other variants are driven by a sound philosophy. The philosophy can even be compared to the one that drives thriving casinos….always play the odds.

    As long as business people (even the finance ones) understand that 6S is just a way to improve the odds of "winning", then 6S has a future…assuming a failure carries enough of a penalty/accountability.

    If 6S becomes bloated and exclusive rather than streamlined and fully inclusive of operational parts of the business, too , its death is guaranteed. It’s strange, but once 6S was officially killed here, it was easy to identify exactly where the deployment worked…because they still use the tools today.

    My $0.02, your mileage may vary.

  7. Kosta Chingas


    There’s a lot of mileage in your statements…

    So maybe its as simple as tying "winning" into the use of a 6S type framework and culture…can any company afford not to win (if losing is defined as going out of business or bankruptcy)? I don’t think so.

    Maybe a deployment should be spun as "If we don’t do this, we will end up losing"….

    Exclusivity is "out"… "inclusivity" is what we need here.

  8. Kosta Chingas


    If we look at quality from a six sigma standpoint, do we need to be checking outputs so much once we improve our processes? I think a company can send a really bad message like you said, but I think its related to how the message is being said, rather than what is being said. For example, I can say "as a company, we don’t need to have certified black belts/master black belts in leadership positions anymore". What message does that send? It sends the message that six sigma and/or quality is not important. I can also say that "as a company, we are looking at how we leverage and integrate six sigma principles in our culture so we are the leaders in our market…we are doing this by……". What message does that send? It sends the message that 6S is of highest importance, and that there is commitment behind it. Part of that plan may well be reducing the number of dedicated black belts and MBB’s…but does that mean the company is less dedicated? In my opinion, no. Peeling back the onion further, isn’t 6S about business excellence? I don’t think the primary driver is salary improvement and career fast-tracking for practitioners…..(are you all ready to shoot me yet?? :))


    Go on and get that black belt. Brush up on statistics and let your mind be a sponge. My opinion is that 6S certification is still valuable. But the most value comes from the results you achieve with it..that speaks even louder.

    To address your last question, in my opinion, the companies that value 6S are the ones that have achieved benefits from it through a good strategy. The ones that achieve real culture change and recognize where they came from are the ones that will be the most successful with it.


  9. Siggy Sig

    GE’s head of LSS recently indicated that certification isn’t all that important to him, and that BB and MBB roles are not necessarily to be considered roles for hi-potentials and future leaders. Rather people should take them for the "intrinsic value" of doing quality work, vs advancing their careers. Good luck trying to fill quality roles.

    I can’t think of a worse message to send to the firm when it comes to quality. And as an insider, I can assure you there are many quality problems still there, and customers and competitors know it.

    After seeing the news about Toyota’s latest recall, I really have to wonder if all the Toyota and Lean worship out there is not misplaced.

    The global economy needs quality more than ever, but it doesn’t look like even the quality community (i.e. Lean and Six Sigma leaders and practitioners) are rallying around that need.

    Vast generalizations, to be sure, but it looks like we’re at a crossroads.

  10. Jennifer H

    I have enjoyed reading your comments. I am considering the 6S Black Belt course and would appreciate anyone’s comments. I am an owner of two small businesses that will be closing this month. (mortgage and title in SWFL) I am not a degreed person, but I have a high aptitude for learning. While I am unable to acheive a 4 year degree at this point in my life, I would like to have official management training that will help me acquire a good job with a good company in the near future. As I am finding, given the current economic environment, even though I am qualified for positions, I am competing against highly educated people. My questions are: Do you think a 6S Black Belt certification will help me in my pursuit of employment and Do you really think 6S will continue to be sought after by companies? Thank You.

  11. Jennifer H

    Thank you so much for your comments. I am very excited about this program and look forward to the challange. I have found that two colleges in my area offer the 200 hour course. And, I have a teenager that can run mathmatic circles around me for support.

    Once again, I appreciate your input. Wish me luck!


  12. Kosta Chingas

    Best of luck to you Jennifer!

  13. Mike C.


    Congratulations on your new learning adventure. You will find that process improvement skills will always be in demand. I’m a quality director at a large company, and two authors have shaped my thinking over the years: W. Edwards Deming and Keki Bhote – their books have been around for a long time now, but seem as relevant today as when they were written.

    As another starting point, here is a site that provides a good top-level overview of DMAIC .

    Good luck.

  14. Kosta Chingas


    Thanks for your comment on my other post.

    I’m not so sure that the confidence level is even that high. Like I eluded before, my belief is that we need to get 6S out of the specialists domain. It really needs to spread organically throughout the organization.

    I’m really struggling with the optimum scenario to achieve this growth. It has to go beyond only the specialists.


  15. Narayan

    If we can generalize and say some patterns of problems have some generic solutions, then the experts need not be working on them. This sort of work can get internalized.

    Has any one done a six sigma project on effectiveness of six sigma deployments? May be there is a lot to learn from the most frequent failure modes.

    Finally there are a lot of assumptions we make and the confidence with which we arrive at conclusions is perhaps not high enough. To me in many situations it appears to yield a 60 to 70% confidence solution only. Unless the confidence levels go up, six sigma will not take roots among the common employees. It will remain a specialist’s domain.

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