Six-Sigma’s Orderly Withdrawal: The Right-Sizing of a Problem-Solving Methodology

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After roughly 30 years (1979 – 2009), Six Sigma-DMAIC, when examined as a structured, scientific–based, problem-solving methodology (and its record of providing tangible, bottom-line benefits) stands up to the test of time. It has however, not lived up to the remainder of its wide claims as a stand-alone program for strategy, change management, leadership development, and as a quality and continuous improvement strategy, these weaknesses primarily being traced to Six Sigma’s minimal/poor consideration of the human, behavioral, and team-participative aspects of creating and driving sustainable change.

In this white paper, David Joecken, a Six Sigma Master-Blackbelt at a privately-owned tier-one automotive supplier, examines Six Sigma’s historical legacy and projects its future role. From Six Sigma’s initial creation and conception thirty years ago, to its widespread appeal, a potential exaggeration and overextension is postulated. A subsequent exploration and critique of the potential strengths and overextensions is conducted in the following areas: problem solving methodology (DMAIC), bottom-line benefits privider, overall business and change managment strategy, leadership and management development program, and quality and continuous imprvement strategy (replacing TQM and other programs).

A final observation using the (character witness of) North American-specific history of quality management and improvement initiatives, postulates that Six Sigma, although a credible methodology, was oversold as part of an ongoing cultural and economic convention.

David Joecken