Six Sigma Is a Dance--Great Analogy

Mike Carnell's latest column, "3.4 Per Million: The Six Sigma Mambo" (January 2004, p. 87), was excellent. It was fun to read and included many great points I agree with. What a terrific analogy!

Quality Systems Management

Business Objective Converted Into Program

Reading "3.4 Per Million: The Six Sigma Mambo" in the January 2004 issue, I was reminded of Bob Galvin's keynote speech on improvement at ASQ's Annual Quality Congress in Milwaukee more than a decade ago.

Describing how his business (Motorola) arrived at the conclusion that quality was not an acceptable standard, Galvin went on to explain how companywide performance measurement established a baseline. Global 10% improvement targets were set and were to be achieved within three years. (If I remember correctly, these targets were met within two years.) This process was repeated again and again. At the time of his address, the performance objective was 3.4 per million, or six sigma.

There was no talk of a Six Sigma program, and training was conducted only as a business response to a need. Galvin said training cost the business nothing. By matching the training to a need, the improvements in performance returned benefits that recovered the costs in the quarter they were incurred.

So, it seems clear we have once again converted a business objective into a program. We spend money on training we probably don't need and certainly can't justify, and worse still, we demonstrate to any discerning observer that management can find resources for the latest fad when it is unable to fund a replacement for a broken window.

Meon Consulting Group
United Kingdom

Impressive Article On Six Sigma

I was struck by how well written "Six Sigma in Metaphor: Heresy or Holy Writ?" was (Rick L. Edgeman and David Bigio, January 2004, p. 25). I disagree with some of the article, but that's not important. I just wanted to share how impressed I was by this article.

Turtle Mountain
Eugene, OR

Bible Does Not Support Six Sigma Theory

I think Rick L. Edgeman and David Bigio were mixed up. Although they tried to use an Old Testament story to support their thesis about Six Sigma philosophy, it did not pan out. They did not understand the issues in the Bible, and I am afraid they also do not understand the significance of Six Sigma in business.

The issue in the Old Testament was related to the fact Moses, as a visionary and good business manager (he gained quite a bit of experience running family construction projects as Pharaoh's adopted son), understood there was no way his people could storm the bastions of the tribes controlling the Holy Land, even if Caleb and Joshua had a different opinion.

He needed time to regroup and train his people methodically in strategy, methodology and skills to achieve the goals. This required 40 years and at least two generations, while they were gaining a new outlook and abilities. Most of the people in the new generation had different experiences from the original exodus participants. They weren't affected by the slavery stigma and were toughened by nomadic life in an adverse environment.

This is in contrast to the approach preached by the Six Sigma high priests and their followers. Though it has not been said explicitly, many business leaders tend to think if they train their people, their business will immediately do better. This is what the companies that provide Six Sigma implementation services try to sell, and unfortunately, Six Sigma has become more of a moneymaker for such service providers than a return on investment for the companies instituting it.

At the end of the day, Six Sigma is just a toolbox, and true engineering, manufacturing or service professionals have to learn to use the proper tool from the box. It would be beneficial for all the elements of Six Sigma to be taught at technical colleges and universities. This would help remove the aura of magic from Six Sigma, and many of the current preachers would lose their grip on the industry.

Industry needs to decide which part of the Six Sigma or total quality mumbo jumbo should live and which should die.

Concord, Ontario

Resistance to Change Part of Culture

Davis Balestracci's article, "Handling the Human Side of Change" (November 2003, p. 38), was the best I have read on the issue of change management with regard to the causes of resistance to change and the description of the dysfunctional, ingrained organizational culture that promotes such behavior and attitudes.

Panalpina World Transport
Bangkok, Thailand


  • Two of the graphs in Figure 1 of "Offense and Defense" by Thomas T. Land (January 2004, p. 50) are labeled incorrectly. The graph in the upper right-hand corner should be labeled "Resolved sporadic problem (good defense)," and the graph in the lower left-hand corner should be labeled "Unresolved chronic problem (lack of offense)."

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