Six Sigma: A False God?
Nearly everyone agrees the Enron, WorldCom and other scandals stemmed mainly from a lack of ethics and corporate governance--not to mention copious amounts of greed and an obsession with short-term results. But could the application of quality tools and principles have prevented such outrageous mismanagement?
Some Six Sigma experts think so, starting with Donna M. Faltin and Frederick W. Faltin (p. 29). Former General Electric executives, they make a case for how Six Sigma--combined with economics, finance and operations management--can help track financial results and governance metrics.
Another article in this issue (p. 37) dives into the nitty-gritty of applying Six Sigma in any situation--specifically, effectively scoping projects.
I hope most readers find these articles interesting and useful. But I can imagine that right about now, some readers are sighing deeply or loosening up their fingers to fire off e-mails or postings to the QP Discussion Board (on www.asqnet.org). Whenever we publish articles on Six Sigma, we receive letters, messages and survey responses decrying the coverage and ASQ's involvement in what one reader referred to as the "false god."
For example, critics say Six Sigma is really nothing new. This is true. Reputable Six Sigma experts often acknowledge the methodology doesn't offer new tools or techniques. Rather, it packages existing, proven tools and concepts in a different way that some companies and people find helpful.
The emphasis is on the "some." For every complaint QP receives about the amount of Six Sigma coverage, we get a request for more articles on the topic. In one of our surveys, Six Sigma rated very close to the median in a list of topics readers find of highest value--meaning about equal numbers find it either very, moderately or not at all useful.
Like it or not, Six Sigma is currently a significant part of the quality world and, increasingly, the business world. It would be odd for ASQ--or any other entity so involved with quality--not to play a role in Six Sigma.
I agree with critics who say much of what appears is hype, especially stories in mainstream and business media about companies embracing Six Sigma. As with any quality program or methodology, if management doesn't support and sustain it after the buzz has worn off, a Six Sigma initiative will die in obscurity.
But for some organizations, Six Sigma has taken hold and produced outstanding results. Bottom line, it has grabbed the attention and buy-in of the people in the big corner offices. In my view, any quality concept that can do that deserves at least some notice.