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Six Sigma conceptual drawbacks

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  • #44230

    Vlad
    Member

    Hello, I am doing a MSc  degree that is connected with Six Sigma. One task was to identify some conceptual (the ones that could affect the company negatively even though the projects were completed successfully, in financial terms) Six Sigma drawbacks. Having studied relevant sources I came up with the following list (in the order of importance):
     
    1) Six Sigma can be too focused on quality improvements. Whereas, in addition to quality, the company also needs innovation to be successful. Six Sigma may lead to the situation when innovation is suppressed by focus on fixing internal problems. Moreover, Six Sigma projects are very much focused on financial results and it makes experimenting (which is a crucial element of innovative company) almost impossible.
    It is especially vital for the companies that operate on fast changing markets (computers, different electronic devices etc). This statement can be supported by several examples:
    – Lucid Technologies that decided not to adapt Six Sigma due to its focus on developing new innovative products (Abramowich, 2005:6);
    – GE CEO Jeff Immelt (2005) highlighted  ‘I don’t think every manager can do both [Six Sigma and innovation]’.
    – IBM (where Six Sigma was widely practiced in 90s) example that has been forced out from network equipment and hard drives markets by CISCO and EMC respectively that managed to develop innovative products.
    Thus, Six Sigma can hardly be applied when the company priority is creativity, entrepreneurship and breakthrough innovation (Goh, 2002);
     
    2) Six Sigma tends to limit learning to single-loop learning, which implies fixing problems rather than revaluation of the whole system. DFSS, which can be seen as an example of double-loop learning that changes the ‘governing variables’, is not widely practiced especially on the stage of choosing projects. Projects are traditionally chosen basing on the anticipated returns rather than on long term perspectives.
     
    3) Six Sigma is built on a very rigid belt structure, which is very much command and control one. This can limit learning within small portion of belted employees and isolate the ‘others’ non-belted employees from learning. This may lead to the fact that the capacity of the company is limited by the capacity of the belts, whereas the involvement of the non-belted employees tends to be neglected.
     
    I would be happy to discuss this list and I would appreciate every opinion about it.
     
    Best Regards, Vlad.

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    #141397

    Brit
    Participant

    I’ll provide comments to each – by the way, this should generate some discussion.
    First – I don’t know how you can have negative outcomes from successful projects if the system is designed to meet strategic goals. That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Unles the company skips iplementation steps, this should not be able to happen. 

    Thus, Six Sigma can hardly be applied when the company priority is creativity, entrepreneurship and breakthrough innovation (Goh, 2002  This is a false hypothesis.  A whole ‘division’ of Six Sigma, DFSS, is dedicated to design/re-design.  Adapting this for an innovative or entrepreneurial organization is a small step.  Even DMAIC could be used.  The way it is implemented might be challenged in terms of time for completion, but the system is certainly conducive to innovation.
    Six Sigma tends to limit learning to single-loop learning, which implies fixing problems rather than revaluation of the whole system.  I think yo uare confusing  the system of Six Sigma with doing a project.  The analysis phase of DMAIC or the DMADV handles the whole system issue as does the scoping in the project charter.  If the problem requires a systemic look, then it is done.
    Projects are traditionally chosen basing on the anticipated returns rather than on long term perspectives.  This is a failure of the management that does it, not on the six sigma system. This proves to me that you have not done much research of both effective and ineffective deployments.
    Not sure about the command and control comment.  But, the system by itself does nothing to limit learning.  Actually, if implemented properly with goals tied to strategic goals, then it should foster learninig, especially in industries who are traditionally non stat-savvy, such as healthcare.  95% of my projects are team based which refutes the last statement about non-belted employees being neglected.  In most six sigma companies, the design for projects is team-based, requiring teaching of key concepts to those who do not know them.
    All-in-all, I really think you are on the wrong track.  I am a bit biased, but from a data point of view, it looks like you hypothesized and searched for defects rather than both defects and success.  This is empirically wrong and will not help you support your guess. 
    Good luck, and I hope others respond – both for and against your hypothesis.

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    #141401

    Hans
    Participant

    Brit,
    I don’t want to make assumptions about Vlad’s original ideas, but knowing a bit of the academic six sigma literature, it appears as if they were derived from the academic literature and Vlad’s interest is to validate the academic critique with practicioners’ experience.
    Goh’s (2000) article reviews the relationship between six sigma and strategy. Within the strategy literature two general schools of thought have become prominent: (1) Porter et al. view strategy under the premises of the fit of an organization in its competitive environment and emphasizes environmental factors (niche market, rate of innovation, differentiation vs. cost strategy etc.). (2) During the 1990s an alternative approach was developed currently known as “core capabilities” which emphasises core competencies including processes, systems, IT etc. The critique that Vlad mentions is a critique leveraged by the environmental school of thought. I think that Brad’s comment is to the point. Thus, when organizations compete based on environmental factors then six sigma has to be deployed very differently
    The second critique, as far as I understand it, is leveraged by the TOC (Theory of constraints) movement and what is currently known as “knowledge management” (Vlad, correct me if I am wrong). This issue should be addressed by the deployment plan, which also includes project selection. I think that this critique is more serious because many organizations that I know select projects ad hoc. Hoshin planning is one of the tools used to avoid the problem, but I am not sure to what degree organizations truly embrace this concept. I haven’t heard much about hoshin planning in the last few years and I am a strong believer that six sigma could benefit from closer ties to TOC.
    In regards to point three, I agree with Brit. Deployment is key. But then again, American companies’ strengths (and weakness) is its short-term approach. American companies simply don’t have the tie to the government, banks and the tax system that would allow them to do the kinds of long-term planning that German and Japanese can do.
    The fourth point is a critique from the general management and organizational behavior literature (Vlad, again correct me if I am wrong). This is a 100-year discussion that originated in a controversry between the scientific management and the social relations movement. Again, to what degree employees are involved is a question of deployment as you correctly point out. However, pushing six sigma down to the levels of employees is a challenge that most organizations struggle with (I think).
    Vlad, I hope this helps clarify some of your points. Also, keep in mind that very few academics ever worked a six sigma project. As a result the literature is somewhat biased towards the older TQM literature and the critique leveraged against TQM is also leveraged against six sigma. Good Luck!

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    #141403

    Brit
    Participant

    Hans:
    As always – a very enlightened response. 

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    #141405

    Mikel
    Member

    Vlad, I hope your post was to spark controversy and doesn’t really represent having studied all relevant sources as you said. Your list reminds me of a certain religion’s propensity to take things out of context to craft a message.
    Your points –
    – Lucid Technologies that decided not to adapt Six Sigma due to its focus on developing new innovative products (Abramowich, 2005:6);
     
    Are you sure you did not Lucent in mind. Lucid is a supplier for hobbyist and can hardly be held as an example for anything with respect to Six Sigma. Lucent was part of the AT&T meltdown and they made terrible decisions about all sorts of business. What they did or did not decide about Six Sigma does not matter.
     
    – GE CEO Jeff Immelt (2005) highlighted  ‘I don’t think every manager can do both [Six Sigma and innovation]’.
     
    One thing for sure is that certain personality drivers make certain people excel at some things and not others. It would be just as appropriate to say that not everyone can do strategy and innovation, or IT implementation and strategy. To say that some people are better at some things and not others is kind of a no sxxt type of statement.
     
    – IBM (where Six Sigma was widely practiced in 90s) example that has been forced out from network equipment and hard drives markets by CISCO and EMC respectively that managed to develop innovative products
     
    For starters, anyone who believes that “Six Sigma was widely practiced in 90s” is smoking some excellent herbs. To say it was widely talked about would be accurate, but practiced? No way. What business other than main frames has IBM not been forced out of?
     
    On Professor Goh –
    Goh Thong Ngee is Professor of Industrial & Systems Engineering at the National University of Singapore.  He obtained his BE from the University of Saskatchewan, Canada and PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Prof Goh has been internationally recognized for his expertise in quality engineering and management; he has been elected Fellow of the American Society for Quality as well as Academician of the International Academy for Quality.  He was also named “Educator of the Year” by the IEEE Engineering Management Society in 2005.
     
    Professor Goh has trained numerous practicing engineers in a wide spectrum of industries in the application of statistical techniques such as Statistical Process Control, Design of Experiments, Taguchi Method, Six Sigma, and Design for Six Sigma. He is also a frequent invited speaker at professional conferences and corporate meetings. Prof Goh has been active internationally by being advisory board member, external examiner or reviewer for universities and research agencies in Asia, Europe, North America and Australia. 
     
    Prof Goh was formerly Dean of Engineering, Head of Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, as well as Director of Office of Quality Management at the National University of Singapore.  Currently he serves on the editorial boards of several leading international professional and research journals, e.g. Quality and Reliability Engineering International, International Journal of Reliability, Quality and Safety Engineering, International Journal of Production Economics and The TQM Magazine.  He is an Associate Editor of Quality Engineering Journal of the American Society for Quality as well as a member of the Founding Editorial Board of the International Journal of Six Sigma and Competitive Advantage.
    It seems that you chose to quote him where he was setting up a solution, within Six Sigma, for the problem he talked about.
     
    On Professor Abramowich –
    Edward AbramowichDirector of Six Sigma, Global Sales Organization, Sun Microsystems
    Edward Abramowich has more than fifteen years of experience driving major strategic change and profit improvements through Six Sigma and Lean Enterprise in leading multinational companies. He has worked with Allied Signal (Honeywell), Johnson Controls, Johnson & Johnson, General Electric, and major aerospace and high technology companies. He was a senior member of the strategy practice of IBM Business Consulting Services (PWC Consulting). Currently Edward has global responsibility for the Six Sigma initiative in the sales force at Sun Microsystems.
    Edward specializes in applying Six Sigma methods to drive top line growth through solution selling, sales force effectiveness, channel optimization and inter-organizational growth projects.
    Seems to me the two professors would reject your hypothesis.
    Six Sigma, done right, is very much a cycle – aligned with strategy.
    To pick Six Sigma to pieces because there are a load (<80%) of really bad implementations is missing the point. What is failing in most companies is the inability to see clearly who you are and who you need to be. Ask the question about how many really get help from what is defined as a champion within their organization. A good champion is the rarest of all species and quite often gets killed by the organiztion they try to help.

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    #141408

    Hans
    Participant

    Stan,
    As always I enjoy and appreciate your superior expertise and knowledge and your extremely sharp mind!
    I would like to keep in mind though that Vlad is writing a Master’s thesis and that he has to go through the ritual of a literature review that contains primarily academic and not practicioner articles. I can attest to the fact that some of what he wrote is quoted directly from literature (so those omissions I think could and should be criticized). His questions relate directly to some misconceptions in the academic literature. In my view, it is thus only fair to discuss these misconceptions in the context of this forum. In any case, as always, thanks for your enlightening comments.

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    #141409

    Mike Carnell
    Participant

    Vlad,
    I don’t find the 3 comments particularly surprizing considering it is primarily an academic exercise and has little to do with reality.
    The comment on innovation is nonsense. The output of a SS project is hopefully and controlled process that has little variation. That is exactly what a company wants. If I am making tires the last thing I want is a line operator grinding a mold because he has an idea that square tires will sell well. The process to get to the end product is very much an innovative process although it is very popular right now to sell consulting in innovation. When a team first assembles there are people with all kinds of ideas about the problem and the solution and they typically come from an environment where they can pound the table about their 30+ years of experience (no definition around the quality of the experience) and they have seen this before and this is the solution – that is the predominate problem solving methodology without SS and THAT kills inovation, empowerment, morale and the probability of an improvement. It virtually guarantees you more of the same crap you have had for 30+ years. The SS process will early on shake everybbodies foundation when they do MSA. Few pass and when people realize that everything they know about the process has come from some device that is virtually a random number generator the inovation begins. Hypothesis testing is a great tool to test the axioms of Mr. 30+ and that tilts the deck of the ship a little further. At the end of the day the SS process by using data will do more to free up peoples minds than any of the latest and greatest pntification on innovation.
    I’m not going to address your quotes or sources because most aren’t particularly credible on the subject and you have taken liberties with others such as the quote from Immelt. I thinks Stan addressed these sufficently.
    The second issue is only slightly more ignorant than the first. There is a hierarchy in a decent deployment of belts. The MBB’s should be operating at the system level. Take a look at Blooms Taxonomy. Belts should be at the Application Level and a MBB should be at the top. It is a system of mentoring that cascades down. A MBB with several BB’s under them would take a system level issue and break it up into smaller more manageable projects and they manage the higher level. Obviously your source has never worked a successful deployment and that my friend puts them in the lowest two catagories of Bloom’s Taxonomy. That is like a proctologist commentsing on your dental work from their typical point of view.
    The third issue sounds more like some rambling from Karl Marx – “death to the borguoise” and all that nonsense. Projects are run with teams. Belts are not necessarily the leader of the team. Every team will probably have 6-8 members who may or may not be a belt of some level. You do the math. A average BB will do 5 projects per year so that would be between 30 and 40 people per year on teams of one belt. Then there are Process Owners who may or may not be belts. The Benifits Capture Manager and the supporting cast of accountants from business units who are not belts, etc. The statement is about as devoid of practical experience as the second issue.
    Do yourself a favor and get yourself off the bench and maybe not get into the game but at least go watch it rather than read drivel from other people who have not watched it either.
    There is a wonderful part in the movie “Good Will Hunting.” Mat Damon has made some esoteric comment from some book about the Cistine Chapel. Robin Williams says sure you have read about it but can you tell me about how it feels. Have you ever experienced it?
    Hans gave you a pass because you are continuing the ritual dance to get some type of degree. You get excused from being held accountable for anything factual because you are just the next partner in the dance. Personally I don’t buy it and that probably doesn’t matter to you and we can both live with that. Show some intestinal fotitude and break out and go find out for yourself what is going on and stop reporting on what someone else thinks about what some other guy said. See what the Cistine Chapel smells like.
    Just my opinion.
    Good luck

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    #141410

    Hans
    Participant

    Mike/Stan,
    I think we have now all witnessed the expulstion of a student with good intentions from the esoteric circle of this six sigma forum. In Plato’s academy a student had to go through 20 semesters of mathematics before he could move from the exoteric to the esoteric circle (i.e. the inner forum of the academy). So, I guess Vlad has learned an important lesson in life.
    What I am missing though from the discussion thread is a constructive response to the key question that Vlad asked: What are some of the drawbacks of Six Sigma as it is currently practiced? The essence of what I get out of the replies is that if Six Sigma was correctly deployed, there would be no challenges. That to me is at the best a tautology or at the worst a platitude. In any case, it appears to be an immunization strategy and they tend to work only in the short run. Respectfully!

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    #141411

    Mikel
    Member

    Hans,
    Good question.
    My short answer is that most Six Sigma/Lean/TOC/TQC/(insert favorite label for change management) implementations fall far short of what is possible. Most change agents do not get the time or organizational support they need to do the job they are being asked to do.
    Why? My top 5 –
    1) Most consulting companies sell training, not implementation. The money is better and the consultants that can do training outnumber the consultant that can do implementation by 100:1 (probably conservative).
    2) Management is threatened by change.
    3) Management is rewarded for things other than change.
    4) Many companies playing in niches make great money by have huge waste.
    5) Many companies are doing Six Sigma because they hired a guy from GE who comes in and sells Six Sigma as the solution to a yet unknown problem.
     

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    #141414

    Hans
    Participant

    Stan,
    Thanks for your response. I agree, you are touching on the things that I see as well. Have a great week-end, Hans

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    #141423

    James Barton
    Participant

    Vlad;
    You stated: “Six Sigma tends to limit learning to single-loop learning, which implies fixing problems rather than revaluation of the whole system.” 
    To this point, you must remember that the overarching aim of Six Sigma is (by nature) a stretch goal.  In pursuit of such a goal, people are forced to reexamine existing work methods.  Very often such reexamination leads to a work redesign.  So the act of setting very high corporate-level goals (like Six Sigma) is intended to lead to a redesign of the baseline systems.
    This is the true purpose and aim of Six Sigma and people often forget this or dillute it by setting “realistic” improvement goals.  By setting lower more “realistic” goals, people wind up relying on old ways to tweak-up the existing system, but when the goals require a great deal of”stretch,” those same people come to understand they must do it differently, not just better.
    James Barton, MBB

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    #141424

    Mike Carnell
    Participant

    Hans,
    I guess the problem I don’t have with Six Sigma is because for me DMAIC is a problem solving strategy, period, end of story. It is a methodology that has a flow of tools and it is neither good nor evil. If you put it in the hands of and idiot you get idiotic results. If you put it in the hands of competant well meaning people you get something that can help a company grow.
    A lot of the ancillary effects are coincidental. They are the right people in the right circumstance at the right time. It has nothing to do with Six Sigma’s power, enlightenment etc.
    People need to understand what it is used for and use it for that. You can get some more leverage out of it by combining tools and initiatives (intelligently – don’t go looking for a receipe – there isn’t one – you take the time to figure out what is needed and do it not apply the preordained solution).
    The whole thing will work a hell of a lot better when people understand it isn’t about statistics it is about effective and efficient change.
    No problem With Stan’s point particularly if management refered to is more middle management that the infamous “top management” that has become everybodys excuse.
    Just my opinion.
    Regards

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    #141426

    Hans
    Participant

    Mike,
    A very clear position from someone who, from what I can tell, has been with six sigma almost from the very beginning. The way you put it, there is little to no argument against it. As always, thanks for sharing your insights. Have a great week-end, Hans

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    #141429

    yfx
    Member

    Hello Vlad,
     
    If I may, I would like to offer some opinions:
     
    Six Sigma can be too focused on quality improvements. I would not present this as an argument for your paper.  Six sigma teaches that quality specifications are defined by the customer.  Therefore quality improvements translate into customer satisfaction.  Is there such a thing as too much customer satisfaction? 
     
    Whereas, in addition to quality, the company also needs innovation to be successful.  Six Sigma may lead to the situation when innovation is suppressed by focus on fixing internal problems.  The definition of innovation is a creation (a new device or process) resulting from study and experimentation.  Six sigma is a scientific method laden with study and experimentation; therefore it can be safely correlated to innovation.
     
    Moreover, Six Sigma projects are very much focused on financial results and it makes experimenting (which is a crucial element of innovative company) almost impossible.  Focusing on financial results is key to getting executives to adopt new methods or processes.  I do agree that most deployments of Six Sigma fail when too much emphasis is placed on financials.
     
    It is especially vital for the companies that operate on fast changing markets (computers, different electronic devices etc). This statement can be supported by several examples:
     
    –         Lucid Technologies that decided not to adapt Six Sigma due to its focus on developing new innovative products (Abramowich, 2005:6);  I agree with Stan on this point, the Bell companies have been great innovators and horrible business operators. Correlating failed Six Sigma deployment to their demise is not sound.
     
    – GE CEO Jeff Immelt (2005) highlighted  ‘I don’t think every manager can do both [Six Sigma and innovation]’.  I would not try to correlate GE and “Six Sigma draw backs” as there is too much evidence to contradict this argument. Support of GE’s success can be found in their annual reports and many other printed sources.
     
     
    -IBM (where Six Sigma was widely practiced in 90s) example that has been forced out from network equipment and hard drives markets by CISCO and EMC respectively that managed to develop innovative products.  IBM’s problems started long before Six Sigma, although I am not a fan of Bill Gates, they should have implemented his proposals.
     
    Thus, Six Sigma can hardly be applied when the company priority is creativity, entrepreneurship and breakthrough innovation (Goh, 2002);  Search Fortune’s most admired list and you will find plenty of Six Sigma companies that are regarded as great innovators.
     
    2) Six Sigma tends to limit learning to single-loop learning, which implies fixing problems rather than revaluation of the whole system. DFSS, which can be seen as an example of double-loop learning that changes the ‘governing variables’, is not widely practiced especially on the stage of choosing projects. Projects are traditionally chosen basing on the anticipated returns rather than on long term perspectives.  Some of this is valid; executives do not have patience with DFSS as it is a long term strategy that can take years to unfold.  Most executives are focused on short term single year efforts/goals.
     
    3) Six Sigma is built on a very rigid belt structure, which is very much command and control one. This can limit learning within small portion of belted employees and isolate the ‘others’ non-belted employees from learning. This may lead to the fact that the capacity of the company is limited by the capacity of the belts, whereas the involvement of the non-belted employees tends to be neglected.  I believe this argument would apply to any learning process.  Looking at most college institutions, why is it that one must have a masters degree or a PhD to teach? 
     
    In my opinion, Six Sigma can fix many defects but it cannot fix people or poor leadership.  Six Sigma is nothing more than a tool that takes skill to operate.  I am not a carpenter, so if I purchase the latest and greatest power saw do I automatically become a carpenter?  No, I become a carpenter when I want to learn how to use the tool and when I see the value of using the tool. 
     
    In short, Six Sigma fails when people fail to use the tool correctly, place too much emphasis on the tool and not enough importance on leadership, or when they fail to see the value of the program.
     
    Good luck
     
     

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    #141430

    Anonymous
    Guest

    Y = …
    I don’t agree with you when you state ‘Six Sigma’ can fix many defects – implying it is only a quality improvement methodology. Six SIgma is about business process improvement through the reduction of variation. (There is only one ex-quality engineer on this forum who persists in the belief it’s all about defect reduction.)
    Further I don’t agree ‘Six Sigma’ inhibits creativity, unless of course it follows the rigid and implausible additions proposed by Dr. Harry.
    The original Six Sigma as praticed by Austin’s waferfabs did not suffer these limitations. In point of fact in 1990 Motorola Intellectual Property made 10% of the entire SPS profits. How’s that for some data!
    How do I know – because I worked in Patent Works, which was one of the first applications of transctional Six Sigma within Motorola, and I kept in touch with Ron, the VP intellectual property.
    You can read more about it here:
    http://www.asq.org/pub/sixsigma/past/vol1_issue3/inthebeginning.html
    Therefore, the notion that the original six sigma prgramme was no creative is a stupid notion as Motorola engineers had to solve many problems that even MOS 7 (Japan) said could not be solved, including Yosinoba Kosa, ex-Hitachi’s R&D director, who joined MOS 8 in 1987.
    Just because Motorola’s most senior management were stupid enough not to realize what they had, does not imply anyone was not creative – just idiots like Hector!
    Andy
     

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    #141435

    James Barton
    Participant

    Andy:
    Six sigma was never designed or intended to be an “innovation program;” however, it was created as a “quality program.”  Why does the quality profession keep insisting that six sigma is about innovation when its about process improvement, especially when key executives in the business community largely agree with this perspective.
    No offense Andy, but you keep pointing to your involvement in a wafer fab from over 16 years ago!  It seems almost crazy to keep pointing to a “has been” company to make your point.  Maybe you could refer us to some of your work that is more recent; where you have provided the leadership for a corporate initiative aimed at innovation (using six sigma as a vehicle).
    To my knowledge no large corporation has instituted a program of innovation based on six sigma.  I hope I’m wrong about this, but if not, it sure says something to the favor of GE’s CEO (you can’t do both).  Six sigma might help “here and there” with innovation, but it is not well positioned to become a major tool of innovation.
    Just out of interest, have you read the recent article in Fortune magazine entitled Sorry Jack (the article on Jack Welch’s leadership points).  This article would seem to suggest that the “shakers and movers” in the world of business are giving six sigma its final rites (because its not about innovation).  Maybe this is so, but regardless, its the perception among business leaders; and perception is reality in that world!
    James Barton, MBB

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    #141436

    yfx
    Member

    Hello Andy, thank you for responding to the post.  Please allow me to clarify two points:
     
    Y = …
    I don’t agree with you when you state ‘Six Sigma’ can fix many defects – implying it is only a quality improvement methodology. Six SIgma is about business process improvement through the reduction of variation. (There is only one ex-quality engineer on this forum who persists in the belief it’s all about defect reduction.) 
    1). I believe you and I are aligned as I agree that Six Sigma can help improve large scale business processes if people use the tool correctly. 
    The purpose of my post was to help a person who is writing an academic paper regarding the draw backs of Six Sigma.  Based upon my experience, the key draw back of any Six Sigma program is when it is not deployed correctly by people.  Since arguments need to be very clear in academic writing, I am being clear in the feedback I provide to Vlad.
    Six Sigma is not a miracle drug or a super tool, it is only as good as the person who is using the technique.  The process cannot begin until it is initiated by people. 
    Because a person passes a “certification exam” does not make them a black belt.  Six Sigma is not an academic exercise; I have seen too many programs fail because people place too much faith in the method of six sigma and not enough emphasis on selecting the right people to be part of the program.
    Further I don’t agree ‘Six Sigma’ inhibits creativity, unless of course it follows the rigid and implausible additions proposed by Dr. Harry.  Since this post is directed to me, I feel compelled to address this point. 
    2) Since your post is directed to me, I feel compelled to advise that I did not state “Six Sigma inhibits creativity”, and if you read my post again you will find I did not make this comment.  Please provide data from my post that reflects I made this comment. 
    That being said, I agree with you Andy, Six Sigma does not inhibit creativity.  Although many people can provide opinions as to why it does inhibit creativity, I have not seen data that validates this hypothesis.    
    Thank You,

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    #141437

    Andy Urquhart
    Participant

    James,
    The reason I refer to past history is because that is where the error first occured.
    I’ve explained the error on numerous occasions and my ‘testimony’ is broadly consistent with others, such as Mario Perez Wilson, and Keki Bhote.
    So now people are saying Six Sigma was never designed to be innovative? What ignorance? In 1988 everyone in Motorola was told to put the six sigma logo on their overhead slides – does that sound like Six Sigma was invented to you?! Why do you think there were such close relationships with Hitachi and then Toshiba?
    Don’t be offended but you’ve been suckererd .. what you’ve learnt as Six Sigma isn’t what made Moto successful. No wonder they’re in a mess to today they actually bought their own crap ..
    The notion that people can improve first time yields and in some cases from 10% to 80% without creativity is ignorant and could only eminate from someone who has never been responsible for process improvement, design, or a product development.
    You want to know what I’ve done recently? Not very much, which is why I’m changing my profession. Why would I tell you this – because unlike many others in Six Sigma – I’m not into BS: even if it gives you the ammunition to shoot me down.
    If you want to know what I’ve achieved as part of a team – research the Sumo Image Setter and Sarantel as these are the most innovative products I’ve been associated with.
    Regards,
    Andy
     
     

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    #141438

    Anonymous
    Guest

    Please accept my apologies ..
    Best regards,
    Andy

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    #141439

    Mike Carnell
    Participant

    Andy,
    1990 seems to have been a good year for you guys in IP at SPS.
    August of 1990 was the year I got to recall about 1000 SBEC (Single Board Engine Controllers) because I had some power devices from SPS with wire bond failures that I was picking up in vibration testing. It had a thing called a PIP II (Performance Improvement Package II – how ironic) that was put in place by SPS without an SREA for the change. It cost Automotive Sector a lot of money in rework and sorting since we had to figure out which units had them and the units were potted for underhood application plus we had to send crews to Brampton, Canada to remove questionable units and return them to Seguin to screen. We won’t even discuss the fine for shutting down a B&A line for 24 hours. I’m glad you IP guys did well – the shareholders may have broken even. There is some data for you.
    We could go into what it cost us the two years before 1990 for the silicon wafers we were using to build SCAP (Silcon Capacitor Absolute Pressure) devices for ignition modules.
    I use Six Sigma for more than defect reduction so that is an interpretation of covenience for you. This thing is about results and you can find that stated repeatedly in many of my posts.
    Characterizing Six Sigma as variation reduction is a purely lazy definition. If we look at Juran’s work from 1964 where he differentiated between Control (lack of change) and Breakthrough (dynamic change) and look at the diagram in that section it is driving to a more optimal place to run the process – actually more in line with Taguchi. People seem to like to call it variation reduction simply because they have seen themselves in the variation reduction business for years so sticking SS into that bucket makes life much easier because you get to say you have known this all along.
    If I am doing variation reduction and that variation reduction is not leading to a defect reduction then why am I doing it? I don’t see anyone in management who has ever employed us for a little recreational variation reduction. The things that cost them money are those things that affect a customer either internal or external. If they are critical they should be specified and if they are operating inside the specification then we have contained the customer issue. The next level is to get the capability up. There aren’t many people who have to worry about this much beyond that.
    I don’t have to worry to much about my consistency with Mario. We worked together on FMU 139 (the production line that his book Six Sigma is built around) so Mario and I know each other quite well. In the two years we worked together I don’t believe we ever had an issue with staying consistent with each other. By the way that production line – part of GED was recognized twice with the CEO Quality Award. Back then it was the only one that had done that. We also got the Navy Quality Award so I guess the customer liked our application as well.
    Just my opinion.
    I was a quality engineer in my early years at Motorola and I don’t have any reason to apologize to anyone for that. The part I always enjoyed about quality engineering was I was involved in the game.

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    #141440

    Inside GE
    Participant

    Read this article and ask more specific questions.
    http://www.superfactory.com/articles/Micklewright_Lean_Oxymoron.htm

    0
    #141441

    James Barton
    Participant

    Andy:
    Thanks for your very nice reply.  Your post was really heartfelt and honest.  I really respect your candid confessions, but that does not change or mitigate the larger issue about innovation. 
    I don’t think anyone would argue with the idea that six sigma can be used quite effectively to reduce variation (and consequential defects), but there is a strong case that it is not an appropriate tool to directly foster innovation in a global sense.
    What I mean is this: If a corporation wants to move the needle of business and the constraint is quality, then six sigma (and its related methods/tools) would be appropriate and well suited to the task.  But if a corporation wants to move the needle of business and the constraint is innovation, then six sigma would not be the global initative to effedtively drive this need.  I’m not sure what kind of initiative would be needed, but I do know that six sigma would not be a good fit.
    You say that Dr. Harry’s approach is rigid, but his DMAIC strategy and Black Belt system is supposed to be rigid so as to ingrain a disciplined approach to quality improvement.  His approach has worked well in the corpoate world.  Should he now “loosen” his system to now fit the need for innovation or should a purposefully designed system of innovation be invented?
    I am not a high level corporate executive, just a simple Master Black Belt that is reasonably competent (much like you).  We know how to fix a broken process or reduce variation, but we don’t know how to best run large corporations.  Just as most MBB’s are reasonably competent, so are most senior executives. 
    As we generally believe that certain “tools” should not be used to fix certain types of process problems, senior executives believe certain types of “initiatives” should not be used to fix certain types of corporate problems.
    As I read some of the posts on this forum, it would seem that a few “six sigma players” keep wanting to refer to some of the worlds best business leaders as “idiots” or profess these executives don’t know what they are doing, yet I never read of any senior corporate executive calling some six sigma player an “idiot” or say some particular MBB is incompetent.  Makes me wonder where the real idiots really come from; and its sure not the C-Suite.
    People like you and I (and other frequent posters on this site) are just contributors.  We are not corporate shakers and movers, just simple technical people who fix problems at the process level of an organization (and do so in a professional way).  Somehow I strongly suspect that the real experts (those with deep profound knowledge that provide industry leadership) are not hanging out on this obscure website hawking for consulting business or calling proven business executives “incompetent” or “idiots.”
    If anyone on this website believes that six sigma can be morphed into a tool that can generate global innovations for a large corporation, then let them post their methodology and show their success.  Please don’t point to isolated pockets of limited innovation, but rather show us something substanitive (on a corporate scale) that can move the needle of business.  Maybe then, we’ll listen to them and follow their lead.  Until then, we are just a bunch of individual contributors or mom-and-pop consultancies trying to survive by feeding on what others have created.  As much as we might like to say six sigma is about innovation, its just our wishful thinking. 
    Remember that when you own a hammer, everthing looks like a nail.
    Andy, like you, I will probably get blasted for being honest and posting my opinions.  But that’s OK because their “blasting” just reinforces my point.
    James Barton, MBB

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    #141443

    Anonymous
    Guest

    Mike,
    The reason I used the ‘variation reduction’ argument was to distinguish between Six Sigma and TQM – which was all about about ‘defect reduction.’
    I think Richard Schroeder did capture the essence of Six Sigma in his ‘Five Snakes to Kill’ presentation – perhaps you remember it? The one where he described Six Sigma as variance reduction to business targets?
    I’m not sure what your comment about Mario was all about? Perhaps you feel some of my comments were directed toward you. I don’t know why because my comments were directed towards the previous poster .. the one who put MBB behind his name!!! I assume this wasn’t you because you’ve always struck me as a Texan ‘straight-shooter.’
    As for quality engineering, I’ve always shown the greatest respect those working in R&QA, but not those working in the facility – for the simple reason many of them couldn’t be bothered to learn the process. But you don’t strike me as being one of those … because you’ve already mentioned your facility work on Flow Soldering; so I guess you’ve got nothing to apologise for.
     

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    #141444

    Anonymous
    Guest

    James,
    I am happy now to concede the point on creativity to you .. in the context you describe.
    But I should like to claridy my name calling …
    I’m not claiming every executive is an idiot. On the contrary, as you point out many are more competent than I am. I’m merely pointing out some very, distinct idiots – such as the one who caused the MOS 5 debacle and then abandoned the sinking ship and went to Mostek, and then came back – worse luck.
    Please also accept my apologies for taking the p..ss out of the MBB behind your name. But it is evident you don’t need it :-)
    Andy

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    #141445

    lin
    Participant

    TQM was not “all about defect reduction.”
    As Dr. Deming said, “Improve constantly and forever.  Constantly strive to reduce variation.”
     
    Bill

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    #141447

    James Barton
    Participant

    Andy:
    Thanks for your feedback and comments.  Your apology is certainly accepted (although not needed).
    Please understand that my comments were not directed specifically toward you, but more towards those executive wannabees on this site that keep bringing up 20 year old examples from Motorola to suggest that six sigma can be used as a model for innovation or attempt to use their quality-based background as a rope for swinging through the air like some kind of Business Tarzan. 
    While these individuals might get a speaking engagement at a six sigma conference (and well deserved if they do), it seriously doubtful that any of them will be offered a CEO position at GE or be given a Harvard MBA professorship any time soon. 
    My message is simple: I wish these executive wannabees would stick to providing good six sigma leadership (which they do quite well) and quite cluttering this site with their unfounded business theories and “this is the way it should be done” kind of talk.  We need leadership here, not grandstand commentary.  If six sigma is a good model of innovation, then give us a roadmap, else keep perfecting the process improvement aspects of six sigma.
    When these individuals stick to what they really know, they look really good to those of us looking for leadership, but when they step out of their box, they look really foolish.
    Thanks for hearing me out without thrashing me around.
    James Barton, mbb
    PS: I used lower case letters after my name in light of previous references.

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    #141453

    Paul Gibbons
    Participant

    Vlad,
    Check out
    http://www.inderscience.com/browse/index.php?journalID=101
    It might help expand you literature review.
    Paul

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    #141459

    Mike Carnell
    Participant

    Andy,
    I had never felt we were that far apart after reading most of your previous post. Perhaps I should have read it without taking it so personally. My apologies that was my fault.
    I don’t feel TQM was about defect reduction in the beginning. I believe it was changed from a basic problem solving methodology (very basic) to a training program whose practitioners were predominately trainers and expected to be glorified based on number of people trained. It has to be about results to be sustainable and if people expect management support. What I believe I see is a shift in Six Sigma from results with certification as an acillary effect to Certification as the goal and results are an after thought if they are considered at all.
    There is a model presented by Watts Wacker in the book “The Deviants Advantage” that shows the flow of an idea/program as it moves from the Edge to Social Convention. Maybe I am reading to much into this model as well but I see Six Sigma as a pretty good fit. The disturbing part is the degradation of original content as it becomes Social Convention.
    The biggest shortcoming for Six Sigma today is the proliferation of people trying to identify shortcomings without experience in the actual application of Six Sigma.
    Just my opinion,
    Regards

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    #141462

    James Barton
    Participant

    Mike:
    From your post to Andy on this topic, you state:
    “The biggest shortcoming for Six Sigma today is the proliferation of people trying to identify shortcomings without experience in the actual application of Six Sigma.”
    Perhaps you might have too much knowledge and expertise in this area!  To most people, the concept of TQM is about the improvement of quality; and that means the elimination of defects.  I will grant you there is more to it than that, but to the common worker, manager and executive, it does not extend past the idea of defect reduction.  While quality practitioners know that TQM is a system of management (much like Six Sigma is), the world at large does not.  However, the experienced practitioner knows that achieving the aims of TQM (or Six Sigma) is not so easy to understand; and that’s why knowledgeable and experienced practitioners (like you) are needed.
    By the same token, maybe this is why common workers, managers and executives don’t associate Six Sigma with innovation.  Again, I will grant you, Six Sigma might have some implications for innovation (in certain specific activities), but as a business level tool, it’s not suitable to drive a corporate-wide innovation.
    Do remember that people frequently read books, articles and white papers without ever putting their newly mined knowledge into practice.  Even though such knowledge may be insufficient or inadequate, they still make judgements about the topic.  This is the way of human beings, right or wrong as it may be.
    I would agree with you about the “shift” in Six Sigma.  It’s been around for over 20 years now and might need a new paint job and some fancy wheels to stay viable in the marketplace.  So what’s wrong with a make-over?  We do it to our cars, homes and even ourselves to create more appeal as age takes its course.  Maybe we need some “fresh” marketing materials for Six Sigma with a new matra and more sex appeal.
    Evidence of the need for a make-over is seen in the recent integration of Lean and Six Sigma (and other tools as well).  This message is also starting to surface in the literature (and business journals).  Perhaps the time has come to overhaul Six Sigma by expanding its mission, increasing its scope and polishing its profile.  Why fight nature?  Maybe its time to apply the principles of Innovation to the system of Six Sigma?
    I would really like to hear everyone’s thoughts and opinions on this.  Feel free to blast away, but please understand that I am self-proclaimed idot, so bang the ideas, not me!
    James Barton, mbb
     

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    #141464

    Mike Carnell
    Participant

    James,
    We will probably agree and disagree about many of these points.
    The issue with not totally understanding something does not bother me that much. There are lots of thing I don’t understand and I have people around me to help i.e. my IT guy probably would like to kill me weekly based on what he needs to do to get my computer running again. The issue is I don’t write articles about IT. If someone needs to discuss something related to our business I get my IT guy involved. For some reason we as a society seem to be willing to excuse an academic for publishing something (here comes Hans – sorry) where they have nothing but academic knowledge. There was that old blurb “I come before you to stand behind you to speak to you on something I know nothing about …” It may be tradition but it probably screws up more people than it helps get that next degree. We require these papers to be created in academia how about requiring them to write them and have some application experience?
    Another point. SS and Lean (cycle time reduction) were split by consultants to sell their form of intellectual bigotry. We practiced both (SS and Cycle time reduction) at Motorola without making a big deal out of which we were doing. Check the card we all carried. Somehow they split camps. Now that that market has been flogged to death the general public is being sold the new Lean Six Sigma in many cases by the same people who split it. Part of the reason Barbara, Chuch and I wrote the book we did in 2001 was because were sick of hearing people tell their management teams they had to choose one or the other.
    Would I try to drive innovation corporate wide with Six Sigma? No. Does the methodology kill innovation? Only for the superficial. This is being driven by consultants again trying to distinguish themselves from the pack. Most companies are doing a pretty poor job of implementing what they have at even a mediocre level and they need to inovate? They need to figure out what they are doing presently first. They are going to inovate from their mediocre position to a world leader? One in a million. They will go from one medicore position to another because excellence of execution is never one their metrics. Most are still into hero worship for the person who does extra ordinary thing to compensate for a complete system breakdown.
    Does SS need a makeover? It has been made over to death. Part of the issue we see on this forum is that there are a few thousand consultants out there selling SS and it goes from the non-math approach to needing a Phd in Stats to understand it. That was the comment around the Watts Wacker book. It has lost original content to the point that some are selling a completely imasculated product and the customers are left saying “I told you it didn’t work in our industry.”
    It has been oversold to the point that it has to much scope. People need to understand realistically what to expect from SS and select the other disciplines as necessary to create the correct skills to deliver exactly what their company needs. They also need to understand that it isn’t about creating decorative process maps, statistics, sitting at a computer and emailing in the improvements and blaming management. It is work and it is getting involved and doing the right thing.
    Just my opinion.
    Good luck

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    #141466

    Hans
    Participant

    Mike,
    As always your post puts a big, bright smile on my face! Let me put the relationship between Six Sigma and academic research to rest by pointing out the obvious:
    1. As you absolutely correctly point out, Six Sigma is primarily about problem solving. It uses a scientific model that works well in practice, but has been completely outdated from an academic point of view since the 1930s. So, from that point of view, it is not surprising that academics smile about the naivete of Six Sigma, recognize that it works in practice and go about their own business? If it works, who cares anyway? And why point out the obvious?
    2. As a field of research, the irony is that Six Sigma really does not provide a lot to research. If, as you correctly point out, Six Sigma  is primarily a problem solving methodology, most, if not all of its problems are self-inflicted by Six Sigma practicioners. So, what are academics to add to the discussion? It’s primarily the delusion of grandeur that something like Six Sigma is a “fix for all” that causes all of the discussion about the “drawbacks” of Six Sigma. For example, if you sell something as primitive and simplistic as “Voice of Customer research” for marketing research and innovation, of course even the most-simple-minded CEO will eventually catch up with the “emperor’s new clothes”.
    In essence then the drawback is not to be found in the concept of Six Sigma. It works well where Six Sigma is needed. Six Sigma becomes a drawback when its practcioners try to colonize an entire organization and hold it hostage to its little hammers and nails. The only makeover Six Sigma needs is to stop gazing into the mirror with an awe of fascination, self-love and self-glorification, and get its hands dirty in the areas where its little hammers and nails are needed to fix a problem.
     
     

    0
    #141470

    Ang
    Participant

    Well said Bill.  It’s time more people woke up.
    It’s interesting that many six sigma types are starting to realise their most fundamental error and claim that six sigma is “not just about reducing defects” … nice to see the lemmings returning to Deming at last.

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    #141473

    Anonymous
    Guest

    Mike,
    I did rather ‘over-state’ my case. Yes, I agree … by and large we’re in agreement.
    Sometimes I wish the forum had a ‘debating centre,’ with a panel of judges and a facilitator, with posters able to decide what side of the debate to argue …. ‘the house’ or the ‘other side.’
    Regards,
    Andy

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    #141474

    Anonymous
    Guest

    Bill,
    Although I’m not familiar with the quote; it wouldn’t surprise me if Deming said that as it is entirely consistent with his approach and what they call ‘TQC’ in Japan.
    In the context of Motorola though – specifically in Austin and about the time ‘Six Sigma’ started, the ‘flavour of the year’ was Crosby’s – Quality is Free, which was interpreted as a means to achieve ‘zero defects.’ This ‘movement’ was known as ‘TQM’ and was based on Juran Training.
    Andy
     

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    #141475

    Anonymous
    Guest

    Peter,
    The vast majority of people visiting this site take the view that Six Sigma is not just about reducing defects – including Mike!
    My previous comments were directed towards a poster called Andejrad Ich who has stated categorically that Six Sigma is all about defect reduction – otherwise it can’t be called a Six Sigma project.
    In his favour Andejrad is no Lemming. On the contrary he takes a position and argues his point cogently.
    Regards,
    Andy

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    #141492

    leo
    Participant

    Dear Inside GE:
    Please tell Mr. Mike Miklewright that perhaps it would work better to put his socks inside a drawer or box in his lighted walk-in closet in the first place.
    Hopefully, this would save him some batteries and extra steps.
    Regards.
    Leo

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    #141496

    Mr IAM
    Participant

    Vlad – A couple of points below.
    1) Six Sigma too focused on quality improvement?  I’m not sure how this could be a downside.  Also, since when is quality improvement not about innovation?  Every six sigma project has some level of innovation associated to it.  Many of the projects I was involved in included creation of new product features, not just new processes.  Many examples include automated measurement devices for wave soldering processes, additional safety equipment on equipment.  I’m sure other could add to the list of many innovating ideas assocatied with simple quality improvement.
    2) Wow… this one makes no sense to me.  Single loop learning, double loop learning?  What are you really trying to say here?  One clear point of six sigma is the system view.  Do some research on House of Quality and SIPOC.
    3) Six Sigma limit learning??????  I bet more people have recieved training at work because of six sigma then they every would have recieved before.  Not many company’s train their people on anything for 160 hours.
    Why not ask some of the very experience people on this forum for some real “conceptual problems” with six sigma – I don’t think you have hit on them.
    Cheers M.

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    #141504

    Mike Carnell
    Participant

    Hans,
    I was happy to hear I put a smile on your face. The beginning of your post sounded like you weren’t to pissed (that doesn’t mean drunk for you guys from Oz) but the end sounded a little more intense. Anyhow, I read the post this morning (we are 7 hours ahead of you) but I had a busy day – we have to work much harder because we have small hammers (size does matter). Your post however has never been far from my mind.
    I don’t necessarily understand the first comment. The basic idea of the methodology being outdated since the 30’s may be true but with it working on current issues that makes industry outdated by 70 years? That means academia is determining what is or is not out dated? That would seem to be the tail wagging the dog. During my illustrious college career I was constantly told I was being prepared to work in the industrial complex. I would hate to think that what I learned wasn’t relevant for another 70 years.
    Even more curious would be academia being willing to grant an advanced degree around research on a topic that has been outdated by 70 years? As you said why point out the obvious.
    No issue with the self inflicted point. There is rarely a day goes by when you don’t get caught in some type of discussion and end up saying “They told you it would do what?” 
    The methodology works but so do cars. If you put an incompetant driver into a car the results are about the same as someone incompetant running a deployment. That kind of leads back to the discussion around “The Deviant’s Advantage.” I remember after doing several deployments, doing site support at a facility and having a guy show up, sit cross legged on the desk with a cup of herbal tea and just wanted to talk about his project (no data with him) and we were in Texas. It was “holy s__t what has happened to SS and worse what has happened to Texas.” It was that next generation that was starting to focus on certification and results second.
    I think you will find several of us that have never been under the delusion that SS will fix all. It will actually fix a lot of things but it isn’t necessarily the right tool to fix a lot of things. That problem was confounded when people split into camps and tried to force people to do only one. Actually the choice is even wider than just SS or Lean. There are a lot of tools out there and the more you know the more options you create for yourself when you have to figure out how to fix something and at the end of the day none of it works particularly well if you don’t understand change management. I am not really as concerned with the size of my hammer as long as I have several small hammers (I will spare you my singing that little rubber tree plant song for you).
    I’m not entirely sure if this diatribe as moved this forward at all but it has been extremely cathartic.
    Just my opinion.
    Regards

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    #185070

    Aswathy
    Participant

    hello,i just want to know how does six sigma works in call centres,bpo,mechanical fields,and health industries.
    reply me to my e-mail id [email protected]

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    #185072

    Anonymous
    Guest

    The early versions of Six Sigma were flexible … so much so that each facility or location often developed their own version. Good examples of this are provided by Mario Perez-Wilson’s website and Keki Bhote’s book.  It was also very creative!
    These days though, my impression is Six Sigma has become much more rigid and totalitarian. Don’t get me wrong … sometimes totalitarian can achieve fast results. The downside though is …  it isn’t always ‘mission accomplishement’ or creative.
    The example I often use is that of a Roman Galley .. where during periods of slow drum beats you ask slaves for suggestions how to increase efficiency.
    According to principles underlying the Art of War, the choice appears to be: Individualism, Collectivism, Correlated Individualism or Totalitarianism.
    We now see the same choice on a greater stage …

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    #185073

    Robert S
    Member

    Very well.

    0
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