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Is Six Sigma The Ultimate Management Tool?

Aug 17, 2007
Today, Six Sigma covers a very wide range of industries such as healthcare, banking, manufacturing and construction, to name a few. The 2 methodologies adopted by Six Sigma take care of the existing process and the new processes that still need to be developed, through DMAIC and DMADV respectively. DMAIC and DMADV are acronyms for process improvement methodologies. The methodology is hailed as the finest quality management system or tool that the industry has ever seen.

What Makes Six Sigma The Finest Quality Tool Ever?

Six Sigma came to occupy center stage riding on its success of its founder and pioneer Motorola's successful implementation. The comprehensive, structured approach of Six Sigma involves the entire organizational pyramid. The organization needs to dedicate 100% of its time to the usage of unique problem solving techniques, with no nonsense responsibilities.

The comprehensive approach involves top management with designated key roles responsible for identifying and reviewing projects. Middle implementation groups like the Champions and Master Black Belts dedicate their time to removing trans-jurisdictional bottlenecks and to problem solving. Trans-jurisdictional bottlenecks are potentially very serious and can possibly derail the implementation. Champions handle this very tactfully like seasoned warriors. Master Black Belts are extraordinarily talented in problem solving and in using sophisticated statistical tools.

Statistical tools are highly customized to the situation and are very versatile. These tools are used to question and measure the processes in any business environment with the goal to rationally analyze and design/correct them. If with Six Sigma, you can achieve 3.4 defects per million opportunities, save millions of dollars and satisfy customers in addition to making the company lean and mean and appealing to employees and owners alike, the methodology is indeed the ultimate management tool. But is it the ultimate quality management tool that can never fail? Or are there chinks in its implementation armor?

Failure of Six Sigma
Fortune magazine on January 22, 2001 writes about the satellite phone, Iridium, made by Motorola, the pioneer of Six Sigma. The phone was an utter flop as no one bought it. This means that Six Sigma only assures quality but not customer satisfaction. Customers only buy things they really want.

There are certain statistical snags that experts point at. They are critical of the universal standard rule that Six Sigma uses instead of going case-by-case on different tasks and not using more appropriate, common-sense based tools, such as decision, theory and cost- benefit analysis.

The statistical methodology: Some critics are skeptical that Six Sigma is a marketing ploy that helps make money for all those involved, especially the consultants. Since the methodology is taught and practiced in only one way and since there is an absence of standardization of both implementation and Six Sigma training, it lacks consistency. Still others are scathing in their criticism that those who claim huge successes were total failures in quality control before Six Sigma and that their focus on small areas brought huge returns.
About the Author
Tony Jacowski is a quality analyst for The MBA Journal. Aveta Solution's 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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