Sad News for the Six Sigma Community

Paula Parmeter, a Six Sigma advocate and pioneer, recently passed away. Everyone that knew Paula is tremendously saddened. Below is a tribute, written by Ilona Kirzhner.


    iSixSigma has been nice enough to allow us to pay a Six Sigma Tribute to Paula (Feldman) Parmeter.

In my knowledge of Six Sigma consultancies, practitioners, trainers, and leaders, there are few who have managed to make a substantive contribution to the field. I am quite saddened to inform you that one of those contributors has passed away.Paula died on December 29, 2006 at her home in Thatcher, Arizona. She will be incredibly and deeply missed not only by her family and friends, but by her business colleagues, peers, and most notably, her clients. Although she is not with us any more, her contributions to streamlining the process by which an organization creates a sustainable Six Sigma Deployment, called Initialization, are truly important and unique.

In order to understand Paula’s contributions, one must understand the origins of the Initialization process. During the AlliedSignal rollout in 1994, ProSupport Inc. was retained to handle all of the logistics and coordination of their Six Sigma deployment. Initially, the task at hand was not fully understood. A Six Sigma 1-800 help line was established and communicated to all the members of the Six Sigma community. Instructions were clear; call with ANY questions. As you might expect, the phones rang off the hook. Black Belts called with questions about how to track savings. Finance reps called with questions about how to calculate hard versus soft savings. Champions called with questions about project selection and tracking guidelines. HR called with questions about Black Belt compensation. IT reps called with questions about Minitab, and so on. All of the questions were accumulated, categorized by function, and were slowly used to facilitate Allied through developing the necessary answers. Eventually, a manual process was created through which key functional business leaders of any organization, called the core team, would come together BEFORE the first belt was trained to understand the questions and customize the answers to meet the needs of their unique business. This process was called Initialization and was (and still is) the first and most important step to any scalable Six Sigma deployment. The core team’s output from an Initialization process was the Six Sigma Handbook, or the one stop shop of all Six Sigma governance related procedures, policies and guidelines. Unfortunately, this process took three to six months to implement and required tedious manual revision control and communication of the latest governance documents.

Paula’s contribution was to bring the dated highly manual Initialization process and the corresponding handbook into the 21st century. Paula not only revolutionized the entire Initialization process, but she also incorporated the ability for a core team to customize, apply revision control, and deliver the handbook completely and totally on an organization’s intranet at an extraordinary pace. Information on a Six Sigma deployment and its supporting infrastructure would no longer be only available to individuals within Six Sigma circles. Instead, it could be partially or entirely added to an organization’s internal and external website readily communicating its Six Sigma program and progress through Paula’s all new eHandbook. She took a three to six month process down to a four day facilitated workshop. She took several 3-inch binders full of templates and best practices down to an organized, updated, rev-controlled, and highly efficient library of customizable documents, all available online through the corporate intranet.

Subsequently, Paula, single-handedly led dozens of organizations and core teams through the modernized Initialization process, including Tamko, Standard Register, Siemens, and countless others. To this day, I would estimate there are fewer than ten individuals in the world that have led such Six Sigma infrastructure building events completely on their own. Her facilitation workshops created the best Six Sigma governance systems out there. If you happen to have been fortunate enough to know Paula, this would come as no surprise. Because she performed her job, as she lived her life, with incredible integrity, commitment, passion, and strength. She touched many lives, both professionally and personally, and we will all miss her dearly.

I welcome anyone who knew Paula to say a few words regarding your knowledge of her contribution to six sigma and to your particular organization.


Ilona Kirzhner
Cofounder and Former COO of Breakthrough Management Group Inc.
Paula’s Friend, Peer, Colleague, and Former Employer

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Comments 3

  1. Ana Lydia Bonillas

    I had the opportunity to meet Paula during my work in BMG Mexico. She was an excellent person, very smart, friendly and with great attitude. She helped me with her advices and with her point of view about the Six Sigma Deployment. It was my thesis to get my Master of Science in Quality and Productivity Systems.

    I will miss to Paula and I thank to the life to give me the opportunity to meet this wonderful woman that always is going to stay with us in her contributions and values.

    Best regards,

    Ana Lydia Bonillas

  2. Michael S. Slocum

    I worked with Paula for several years and we became great friends and business partners. Paula had a talent for putting others needs before her own. She did this time and time again because she had a passion for helping others succeed. She has had a tremendous impact on the lives of those she touched. I will never forget the impact Paula had on me and my family and I will remember her always.

    I think about Paula every day and I try to help others as she would.

    Michael S. Slocum

  3. Bruce Hayes

    I recently learned of and was shocked by the death of Paula Parmeter. Ilona’s comments resonated with me as I had the chance to work with Paula on several assignments, we always found time to meet up at conferences and talked frequently on the phone. On one memorable assignment in Chicago she talked me into going to her Mothers to meet her, and then on to a wonderful dinner with the two of them in a neighborhood restaraunt. If you ever met Paula’s mother you quickly knew where Paula "got it". Paula was a very thoughtful person who worked hard at creating and maintaining a balance between friendship, business and family. It is an incredibly difficult balance, as many of us who toil in this business know. Ultimately I will remember Paula as a hardworking, tireless, friendly and happy person who tenaciously networked for the mutual benefit of all she knew. We will miss her…

    Bruce Hayes
    Six Sigma Advantage

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