The fourth installment in a series of articles about the on-going research of advanced strategies and trends in deploying and team-training Six Sigma.

I am pleased to present another article on Six Sigma trends that concerns enhancing traditional Six Sigma methodologies and tools with the systematic innovation management known as TRIZ (pronounced “TREEZ”, the Russian acronym for the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving).

In this article, a summary of current Six Sigma deployment roadblocks and limitations are identified. Many of these roadblocks can be eliminated with the use of TRIZ, which can lead to a much more advanced and productive version of Six Sigma. Finally, lessons learned from real-world training are shared.

Why has it taken so long to accept and to start implementing TRIZ? Why only now is the interest growing at such a fast rate, especially within Six Sigma professional circles and deployments? The answer sounds obvious: We are currently facing a new reality when Voice of Customer has become a moving target which needs to be identified, predicted and influenced under growing competitive pressure. There is no time for traditional trial and error decision making methods and endless discussions. TRIZ may be the methodology “missing link” from your Six Sigma deployment.

Six Sigma Bottlenecks and New Demands for Future Deployments

Just-in-Time Six Sigma Deployment
There are often significant delays in Six Sigma projects and intermediate deliveries. One of the most frequent reasons is decision-making errors that lead to rework and time-consuming data collection activities. Other reasons are listed below in relation to Six Sigma project phases:

Define/Identify Phases

  • Poor project selection and/or problem formulation
  • Non-exhaustive list of potential directions for change and/or for innovation
  • Underestimated secondary problems which may arise during and/or as a result of primary problem solving
  • Poor definition of alternative causes and effects and screening of significant inputs
  • Failures caused by narrowing the scope of the projects in the wrong direction
  • Non-exhaustive failure analysis

Measure Phase

  • Time-consuming data-collection and measurements
  • Lack and/or high variability of measurement systems (gage R&R)
  • Failure in finding root cause

Improve/Design Phase

  • Lack of really productive and/or innovative ideas for improvements (upgrade to 4 sigma level and higher) or lack of competitive design or redesign
  • Time and labor consuming DOE

Verify/Control Phases

  • Non-systematic and non-exhaustive failure prediction

These reasons lead not only to delays, but also increase the cost of poor quality (COPQ) due to rework. Repeated idea collection, endless meetings and discussions, screening the alternatives, measurements and analysis also significantly deteriorate overall acceptance and support of further deployments.

The need for additional efficient analytical techniques and tools, which not only accelerate the above decision-making activities but also

  • Make decision-making and problem-solving activities error-prone,
  • Increase their productivity and reduce cycle time, and
  • Increase roll throughput yield of innovative and competitive solutions through the whole Six Sigma process,

is apparent and urgent.

Low-cost Six Sigma

Small and medium size companies or business units, who actively enter the Six Sigma community, have additional limitations when deploying Six Sigma methodology:

  • Personnel are limited and often working overtime.
  • It is often difficult (if not impossible) to find suitable candidates for Black and Green Belt positions to lead Six Sigma projects on either a full-time or part-time basis.
  • Resources, both financial and human, for Six Sigma projects are extremely limited. Black and/or Green Belts are often left to conduct their projects on an overtime basis.
  • Innovative products and services are critical to business survival and should be introduced or updated as quickly as possible.
  • Big capital investments are often avoided or postponed, even when their return on investment is very high and financial justification convincing.

Therefore, the need for a successful, just-in-time Six Sigma deployment becomes especially critical when:

  • Methods and tools for efficient generating low-cost Six Sigma solutions must be readily available.
  • Solutions have to be innovative and competitive if they relate to (re-)design of new product, technology or service.
  • Cycle-time of Six Sigma projects must be further reduced.
  • Costly errors in decision making, especially at the early phases of Six Sigma projects, which lead to rework (e.g., extra and/or redundant measurements), must be avoided.

Zero Defect Challenges for Forecast-Based Business Processes

There are core business processes where the cost of defect or failure is extremely high and critical to the overall business longevity. These include:

  1. Forecast-based business development strategic decisions
    • Should the company focus on new products or other growth strategies?
    • What role do new products play in the overall growth strategy?
    • Which know-how/processes should remain in the company and which one have to be outsourced?
  2. Forecast-based intellectual property protection decisions
    • How should the company develop a high-quality patent umbrella, which provides long-term protection for the current and future product lines?
    • How should the company develop patents efficiently (within a reasonable time-scale and budget)?

The application of analytical tools, which support analysis of trends and patterns of market development, are in strong demand. Such tools are complementary to the quantitative data-driven statistical tools and also make use of qualitative data to analyze and predict further evolution of technology, market, etc.

Detect and Eliminate Root Causes

This is a typical task for any Six Sigma project. Nearly each company has some painful areas, where many man-years of multiple trials and errors and even application of Six Sigma tools did not lead to an insight into the root causes of problem areas.

The application of alternatives (e.g., analytical knowledge-based tools for anticipatory failure analysis and prediction) supports efficient and effective problem solving in such situations.

TRIZ Can Help You Avoid Six Sigma Bottlenecks

TRIZ is an established science, methodology, set of tools, and knowledge- and model-based technology for stimulating and generating innovative ideas and solutions. It was invented by Henrich Altschuller, who published many books, technical publications, and patents on this topic from the early 1960s up to 1985. TRIZ basic postulates, methods and tools, including training methodologies invented by Henrich Altschuller have been further developed and significantly enhanced by his followers, researchers and trainers (from 1985 to present). These enhancements are known as the I-TRIZ generation of methodology and tools.

TRIZ is ubiquitous in Eastern Europe, particularly in the countries of the former USSR. Since the early 1970s, TRIZ has been part of many university-, college- and school-education programs. Now, more and more European, and particularly German, universities in cooperation with industries successfully integrate TRIZ into their curriculum. Recently, it has been successfully used in different industries and also in Pacific countries.

Originally TRIZ was primarily used for analysis and innovative problem solving for manufacturing processes (e.g., process/product/performance improvement, failure correction, innovative design, etc.). TRIZ science extends traditional system engineering approaches and provides powerful systematic methods and tools for problem formulation, system- and failure analysis, for both existing and future issues, by using system patterns of evolution. Many software vendors offer TRIZ tools as either a stand-alone package or in combination with other software.

The following table shows differences and novel aspects in TRIZ in comparison with traditional innovative or decision-making techniques used in Six Sigma:

Six Sigma and Traditional Problem Solving Versus TRIZ
  Traditional TRIZ
Problem definition No systematic approach •Intensifying contradictive requirements instead of avoiding or compromising contradictions at the early stages of problem formulation (i.e., Define phase).•Inverting of problem formulation, which is especially efficient in cause-effect and input-output analysis and detection of root causes of failures.
Decision-making for generating directions of innovation and/or innovative solutions A) Idea-collection techniques: data-based and process-modeling.They are often not efficient enough for complex problems and/or for finding low-cost efficient innovative solutions in a short time and/or finding solutions to upgrade the performance from 2-3-4 to higher sigma levels.B) Idea stimulation techniques: psychological techniques (such as brain storming, six hats, morphological analysis) and DOE.

May be time-, labor- and cost-consuming.

A) Idea-collection techniques, andB) Idea-stimulation techniques: a systematic and powerful set of analytical knowledge-based techniques and tools for both idea collection and innovative idea stimulation (e.g., Altschuller’s matrix for solving contradictions, substance-field models, system evolution patterns, etc.).

These techniques are particularly applicable at the Define/Identify and at the Improve/Design phases.

Idea-generation process Traditional idea-generation process consists of three steps
1. Generate alternatives
2. Screen alternatives
3. Evaluate top conceptsThese steps involve a lot of not sufficiently structured or directed discussion and are time- and labor- consuming.
TRIZ offers efficient knowledge-based tools for accelerating these process steps and supports error-prone decision making and evaluation.

I-TRIZ Is an Advanced, Productive Enhancement to Six Sigma

I-TRIZ is a research-based enhancement of classical TRIZ science, methodology, tools and applications which:

  • Expands the TRIZ methodology to non-technical areas (business, management, scientific research, transactional processes, etc.) and adopts it to the Western world (i.e., mental-, cultural-, language-, business-, teaching-models, etc.).
  • Provides knowledge-based integration of classical and new TRIZ tools and lines of evolution for higher repeatability, reproducability and re-usability of innovation processes and results.
  • Expands classical TRIZ way of thinking towards so-called directed evolution.
  • Provides advanced decision-support knowledge-based tools and e-learning.

The I-TRIZ methodology and tool set is the subject of further research by private corporations, universities and research teams all over the world. Broadening the application of I-TRIZ in Six Sigma deployments provides valuable user-feedback for adopting tools and knowledge bases and stimulates its further “directed evolution.”

The Expected Impact of Combining Six Sigma With I-TRIZ

Advanced I-TRIZ methods and tools can be used for enhancing Six Sigma methodology (DMAIC and DMADV or DFSS) especially when Six Sigma methods and tools have proven to be inefficient and/or insufficient. These methods and tools can save time, find efficient low-cost improvement solutions at the Define or Identify phase, efficiently screen measurements, avoid errors and reduce rework and consequently the cost of poor quality of Six Sigma.

Integration of I-TRIZ and Six Sigma methodologies generally leads to significantly:

  • Increased effectiveness of Six Sigma deployments, especially in small and medium business units.
  • Increased efficiency in terms of reduced lifecycle time and resources used, as well as higher ROI of Six Sigma projects.
  • Reduced or avoided “expensive” errors in decision making, especially at the early stages of the deployment (i.e., Define or Identify phase).
  • Reduced cost of poor quality of Six Sigma due to the rework (i.e., repeated and/or redundant measurements, etc.).
  • Increased roll throughput yield of Six Sigma projects especially at the Improve/Design phase (i.e., percent of innovative competitive solutions/amount of collected ideas).

Once we have enough measurements, we may quantitatively justify that I-TRIZ integration increases Sigma Level of Six Sigma Deployments, despite the fact that this may seem a paradox to the readers of the article.

Six Sigma Training Update with I-TRIZ

Six Sigma training with integration of I-TRIZ tools is a reasonable approach and will be effective across the whole Six Sigma Infrastructure.

Tools are modularized and may be matched with:

  • Six Sigma Process areas
    • DMAIC
    • DFSS
  • Phases of Six Sigma project lifecycles
  • Six Sigma user categories (Champions and Belts), their roles, tasks in projects and background
  • Target Business processes
    • Traditional processes, like manufacturing, transactional, etc.
    • High-risk human-machine systems
    • Forecast-based core business development processes

From our European experience, training has proven more efficient when it is administered as a series of progressive modules of one to two days duration. Starting with Champions and Master Black Belts, the training may begin with a presentation at the beginning that highlights:

  • The whole spectrum of tools and their applicability.
  • First set of tools which are generic for all above mentioned applications and are simple enough to be taught in 1 to 1½ days.

I-TRIZ tools are being introduced in a gradual fashion into the whole Six Sigma training program and are also offered as part of an annual Six Sigma update for Champions, Black Belts and Master Black Belts.

The allocation of efficient tools and methods of training is customer specific and should be incorporated into the existing Six Sigma infrastructure and any business improvement projects. A specific set of e-learning and software tools on I-TRIZ is available and used both at the universities and in industries.


There is no doubt that the integration of I-TRIZ tools with the Six Sigma methodology significantly improves the overall potential of Six Sigma in business improvement and development. However, success depends on a user-centered design of training concept and materials and tools and their evolutionary deployment and overall commitment of the Six Sigma leaders.

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