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Six Sigma Defined - Praises and Criticisms

Aug 17, 2007
Consumer outlook has undergone considerable changes due to business globalization and revolutionary information exchange paradigms. Changing business conditions created by the flurry of increasing competition has led to diminishing margins for error. Exceeding the expectation levels of customers assumes the central position in the current and future era of business. It is for this reason that Six Sigma has assumed critical importance in the current business environment.

What is Six Sigma?

Six Sigma is a two-way quality management approach towards achieving zero errors by removing process defects for existing products and by designing verified process flow for new products. From a consumer's point of view, Six Sigma is a highly disciplined process that enables product and service deliveries to a near perfect standard.

The term Six Sigma (also 6 sigma) signifies the statistical benchmark for quality assurance. Sigma is the standard deviation (allowable, standardized figure from the mean acceptance level), and when the measured number of deviations beyond the mean tolerance limit is six, you are barely producing quality products. Simply put, this means that if you found six defects in your products, you are very close to poor quality production.

Implementation Of Methodology

The choice of implementation of Six Sigma methodology depends on whether improvement is required on existing processes (DMAIC) or on new process/product design creation (DMADV).


In Six Sigma, DMAIC methodology involves defining improvement goals, measuring the existing standards at baseline for future reference and analyzing the relationship between defects and their causes. This Six Sigma methodology also entails improving processes to deliver consistent goal achievement in accordance with company strategy and consistent with customer demand. The analysis process of this Six Sigma methodology sets the stage for midway course correction, called improvement.


This 6 sigma methodology applies to the creation of new processes for product development. This Six Sigma implementation differs from the DMAIC methodology at the final two stages. Defining and measuring the design and product goals and capabilities are the first two stages. The next stage is analyzing alternatives and evaluating to choose the best product design. The next stage consists of implementing the best design. The final stage entails verifying the design, pilot (or test) runs and testing implementation before the final presentation.

Several organizations such as Motorola, (which is a pioneer of Six Sigma), Microsoft, GE and the United States Navy have successfully implemented Six Sigma and reaped huge dividends. Six Sigma has benefited corporations with multiple products across various business sectors. Healthcare, banking and insurance, telecommunications, software, and construction are just some of the industries successfully implementing Six Sigma.

Six Sigma implementation requires organizations to play five key roles at various levels. At the top is executive leadership which includes the CEO, champions, master black belts, and black belts. Then there are the green belts, which dedicate 100% of their efforts towards the concerted implementation of the program until the end of the project. The difference between the green belts and the rest of the team is that the employees in the green belt level share the additional responsibility for Six Sigma implementation along with their normal work responsibilities.

Criticisms Of Six Sigma

Despite its scientific approach towards quality improvement, there are criticisms against Six Sigma. The most vocal one is the viewpoint that there is nothing new about Six Sigma as it imitates already existing and proven techniques. To a certain extent, this argument has some credibility. But proponents of Six Sigma believe that as long as 6 sigma achieves more predictable results with far lower effort, there is no harm in accepting and implementing it. Criticisms notwithstanding, what Six Sigma does is apply concerted efforts at utilizing existing techniques with new approaches.
About the Author
Tony Jacowski is a quality analyst for The MBA Journal. Aveta Solutions - Six Sigma Online offers online six sigma training and certification classes for lean six sigma, black belts, green belts, and yellow belts.
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