Downgrading the applicability of Six Sigma

In a recent blog at Harvard Business School Press Online, Tom Davenport challenges the applicability of Six Sigma. You can read his post at

Coming from anyone else, a statement that Six Sigma “should only be used in product manufacturing, where the idea of reducing defects to one in six standard deviations really makes sense” might be dismissed out of hand. But Davenport has credibility as an expert on business process management and information technology.

Perhaps he’s right, and Six Sigma should be viewed as one among several toolkits to embed statistical methods and scientific thinking in managerial practices.

Comments 3

  1. James Considine

    His description of Six Sigma is inaccurate at best. I don’t know anyone in the field today that claims it to be a panacea.

  2. Amit Kumar

    Six Sigma, a significant tool for Quality enhancement, has over the last decade gained a colossal reputation and all companies in the world today are in the pursuit of getting their core and non-core competencies to a Six sigma level of performance. Such popularity cannot, of course be based on hearsay or assumptions. Being adopted by corporations like GE, Allied Motors, the substance of Six Sigma cannot be undermined.

    The aforesaid opinion has been given by a novice like me. Definitely an influential individual like Tom Davenport, would have access to more statistical data which essentially would be confirmation enough of the successful expanse of Six sigma. The points referred to by Mr. Davenport, can easily be refuted by the knowledge that I have, which modestly is quite at the threshold of the learnings that can be adapted from the application of this quality tool. For instance:

    As stated by Mr. Davenport, a Six Sigma proceeding entails the expertise of the elite team of Black Belts, however he disregards the fact that the inception of such a project stems from Green Belt projects which have individuals representing the very process in which the gap exists. So it is all encompassing, straight from grass root.

    Furthermore, Six Sigma undeniably involves innovation. The models, around which processes function for years, often undergo substantial wear and tear in the essence of its relevance and may render redundant. This leads to a dip in quality. To bring up the level of productivity or service, newer models have to be envisioned, which not only, necessitate the want for innovation but an extensive deal of brainstorming as well.

    Signing off, would just like to impress on the fact as noted by Dr. Mikel Harry, that Six Sigma now moves into it’s fourth generation of existence and is forging ahead while inculcating in it’s progress the upcoming and existing process improvement ideas and techniques as it is not merely a “Quality tool but rather a Management System.”

  3. Enrique Gabriel

    I do not think the same thing as Mr. Davenport, but is true that an implementation of Six-Sigma in non-manufacturing enterprises in more complicated. However, many tools of six-sigma (like SIPOC, Value Mapping) are easily applicable to design of services.

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