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Basic References for Students of Six Sigma
By Dale F. Greeson and Jonas E. Borgsten
With all the publicity about Six Sigma, there seem to be more companies, consultants and universities offering training in the method. Along with this training must come literature, articles, case studies and books for students to use and reference. With that in mind we have created a list of basic references for new students of Six Sigma.
As graduate students researching the methodologies of Six Sigma and design for Six Sigma, we have stumbled upon many articles and books. To determine whether the material is appropriate or inappropriate for this article, we considered what students are looking for and their current level of knowledge and experience in Six Sigma. References more appropriate for experienced practitioners because of the detail and level of difficulty have not been included here.
More than half the articles and books we have read concern General Electric (GE) in one way or another. This is understandable since GE has shown not only implementation of Six Sigma projects, but has proven time and again that the methodologies work and show substantial savings.
It would be interesting to see more discussion of the different levels of Six Sigma implementation and read about other companies. We all know that Lockheed Martin, DuPont and Ford have a lot to tell. Why havent we heard about the smaller companies struggling with implementation and changing organizational attitudes? Unfortunately we havent found much written about these organizations.
For someone just starting out in Six Sigma, or just curious about it, two Web sites provide a great amount of information. Not surprisingly, GEs site is probably the best. Information about GEs commitment to quality and the tools used in each of the design, measure, analyze, improve and control (DMAIC) steps are given. For the more technically minded, advanced reading can be found.
The second site we recommend is i-Six Sigma. From the homepage, users can gain access to articles, training, basic information, consultants, awards, job opportunities and DMAIC tools. Perhaps i-Six Sigmas greatest asset is its use of graphics to explain key conceptsfrom a Six Sigma definition to a handy process sigma calculator, the graphics help explain what Six Sigma is all about. One interesting component on i-Six Sigma is its daily tip, which demonstrates a different quality tool or idea every day.
One doesnt have to wait for a certain topic to become i-Six Sigmas tip to learn more about it. A collection of great articles on the concepts of Six Sigma can also be found at ASQs Six Sigma Forum site, although membership is required to gain access.
For a generalized description of Six Sigma and what it can do, look at Successful Implementation of Six Sigma: Benchmarking General Electric Company. This article goes through the evolution of Six Sigmaits definition, philosophy and implementation. The most useful component of the article is a case study from GE. The case study goes into detail about DMAIC, asking questions and providing answers to each phase.
Like i-Six Sigma, Software Eng-ineering Institutes site provides descriptive articles. More useful articles can be found at ASQ, especially in the section devoted to the Annual Quality Congress Proceedings. Click on the articles link on the ASQ homepage, www.asq.org, for all the information you need. Specifically, Cowboy Quality, from Quality Progress magazine tells the story of Six Sigma, its founders and how it has progressed through the years.
Cowboy Quality covers much of the same material included in Six Sigma: the Breakthrough Strategy Revolutionizing the Worlds Corporations by Mikel Harry and Richard Schroeder. The book includes lot of hype and doesnt really answer the question how, but it provides useful information and examples with case studies. Descriptions of examples are easy to read because they do not include statistics or information on how results were measured and calculated.
The Six Sigma Revolution by George Eckes includes most of the basic stuff with less hype. Because the statistics are explained in a clear, pedagogic way that is easy to understand, this book is recommended for non-engineers.
If you are interested in the field of quality, Jurans Quality Handbook by Joseph M. Juran and A. Blanton Godfrey is a must. However, if your goal is to get an overview of Six Sigma and its methodologies, one of the other books mentioned might be more useful.
The Six Sigma Way: How GE, Motorola and Other Top Companies Are Honing Their Performance by Peter S. Pande is the optimal starter. It is a more extensive description of Six Sigma methodologies spiced with useful case studies. This book is written from a managerial point of view and may benefit by being read along with Jurans Quality Handbook.
To find more explanations of how to use Six Sigma, check out The Six Sigma Handbook by Thomas Pyzdek. It combines much of the material presented in Jurans Quality Handbook and The Six Sigma Way. If you already have Jurans Quality Handbook, you might prefer a book with simple case studies, such as the Harry and Schroeder book.
All the references mentioned as well as the list of Six Sigma bestsellers form the basis of a solid introduction to Six Sigma. Beginners and experienced practitioners will benefit from reviewing these useful resources.
The Current Literature department features information about relevant Six Sigma publications and articles that readers will find useful. Please send your recommendations to the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Six Sigma Bestsellers*
*Compiled using data from Amazon.com, BN.com and ASQ Quality Press.