Why Six Sigma?

by A. Blanton Godfrey

godfreyAs the founding editor of ASQ's newest periodical, Six Sigma Forum Magazine, which debuted in November, I'm honored to introduce this special Six Sigma issue of Quality Progress. There's an incredible amount of interest in Six Sigma now. But is it just another flavor of the month, a reengineering fad that will last a few years and then disappear quickly? Perhaps. In the United States we seem to love new names for things.

We should remember the concept of Six Sigma quality has been around for 16 years. If it's a fad, it's a long-lasting one. We should also remember why Motorola coined the name. In the early 1980s the company was calling its new quality initiative "total quality control," using the Japanese language for total quality management (TQM). Other companies were using similar terms. As Motorola added more methods such as experimental design, reliability estimation and prediction, and multi-vari analysis to its training programs and toolboxes, executives believed they needed a new name to capture this expanded, enhanced initiative. They chose Six Sigma quality.

Other companies have gone through similar evolutions. Many started with inspection, then statistical quality control, then continuous improvement, then added cost of poor quality, ISO 9000, the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, customer loyalty, reengineering, TQM and other useful tools and methods. The good companies didn't jump from one initiative to another but steadily built on solid foundations. Along the way they created new names for their efforts. For many Six Sigma is the latest name for a comprehensive set of philosophies, tools, methods and fundamental concepts.

Quality Progress will continue to cover Six Sigma regularly and keep the entire ASQ membership apprised of new developments and practices, just as it does on other topics such as standards, statistical methods, quality careers, customer satisfaction and process improvement. This coverage will be more of an overview with a practical spin, such as that found in this issue.

In Six Sigma Forum Magazine, we provide a more in-depth, detailed look at all areas of Six Sigma. This publication is for practitioners, the Black Belts (BBs), Green Belts (GBs) and Champions creating or driving their organizations' efforts. We'll cover case studies of Six Sigma in areas such as finance, IT and service. We'll focus on new tools or new applications of old tools. We'll give space to a variety of industries and countries and show how Six Sigma practice varies across cultures.

We'll also track the continuing evolution of Six Sigma at all levels from CEOs and CFOs to the BBs and GBs working day-to-day in the trenches. We want the magazine to be the handbook for those living Six Sigma every day.

If you would like to comment on this article, please post your remarks on the Quality Progress Discussion Board, or e-mail them to editor@asq.org.

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