Facts and Six Sigma (Part 2)


Jack Welch’s directive that his GE managers could wriggle out of Six Sigma training at the cost of losing their promotion only goes to show how important it is to enforce this practice from the top.

The people involved in Six Sigma execution are

a) master black belts who are well versed in the rules of the game,

b) black belts (technically oriented individuals involved in the process of organisational change and development) and

c) green belts (employees who lead six sigma project teams).

Experts have listed the high-level steps involved in implementing Six Sigma in an organisation:

• Identify business goals from customer requirements
• Assess the current level of performance to determine the
• Identify improvement projects and prioritise
• Form Six Sigma improvement teams, comprising stakeholders, for each project
• Equip the Six Sigma improvement teams with Six Sigma training on methodologies and tools
• Allocate Six Sigma specialist to support and guide the teams, sponsor to champion the project
• Track progress of Six Sigma teams through management reviews and resolve issues
• Audit completed Six Sigma projects to ensure they have achieved the goals
• Reward and recognise Six Sigma teams


• Strong customer-oriented approach that relies on data to create more efficient processes or refine existing processes
• Under the prescribed specifications, there cannot be more than 3.4 defects (defined as anything that doesn’t add value to the end customer), per million opportunities
• You can apply it to anything, from making a movie to manufacturing truck tyres!!!
• It needs the unstinted support of organizational leaders, and emphasizes teamwork and lifelong evolution of practices and processes


For all its wonders, Six Sigma is not invulnerable to weaknesses. A common criticism against Six Sigma is its heavy focus on rigour and discipline related to methodology. There are occasions when Six Sigma demands exhaustive data collection that can be painstaking and formidable. On account of these there is a tendency for Six Sigma projects to take longer time for completion than desired.Experts say that given its current form, defining the problem is not very easy. Also the fact that only traditional brainstorming for coming up with potential solutions to obtain solutions is another weakness in the methodology.

The solution to this is probably to integrate Six Sigma with other tools and techniques such as Lean, I-Triz, Taguchi Techniques, etc. Managers need to be absolutely clear whether they’re ready to go the distance to execute Six Sigma in their organisations. Managers question, “Why Six Sigma? What is there in it for me? Such questions or similar ones need to be addressed by customised training, involving the right people and selecting the right project the first time to show that it works across functions.

Implementing Six Sigma is like propagating a religion. Just like we can introduce anybody to a religion, introducing any organisation to Six Sigma is easy; but just as it is tough to meticulously practice a religion, practicing and ensuring that Six Sigma becomes the DNA of the organisation is tough, and needs complete commitment and belief in the methodology.

However, every system is prone to imperfections and many are of the opinion that Six Sigma is ‘less imperfect’ when compared to other process improvement tools. Features like customer-focus and bottom line-orientation are its primary strengths and for all the criticism, corporates are willing to swear by it, at least for the moment.

Some critics have argued that the success of quality programs depends more on the right organizational culture than on any corrective or preventive program. It means that improvement results from the internalization of quality program. Six Sigma is not merely a corrective program and it recognizes that cultural issues including leadership development as the most important issues to be addressed to bring about the improvement of any organization.

Critics have suggested that Six Sigma did not bring quality improvement in all the organizations where it was implemented. However, in majority of these cases it is not the tools which have failed but the mangers and other professionals failed to implement them correctly.

Another technical criticism is that the normal distribution is simply a model and most of the processes are not represented by it.  Although it is fact that normal distribution is a model but it is very useful and reasonable for many situations. Furthermore, any realistic process model will predict a much larger probability of producing a product outside the specifications.

So Happy Implementing Six Sigma….:)

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