ASQ - Six Sigma Forum

In our careers as consultants, we are often asked for recommended reading lists for Six Sigma. Given the sheer number of available Six Sigma resources and the rate at which new resources continue to appear, this request makes sense. We have thus compiled the following lists:

  • A Six Sigma short list (Table 1): our recommended “must reads” for Six Sigma practitioners.
  • An extended reading list (Table 2): resources, both specific to Six Sigma and covering general business topics that have relevance for Six Sigma practice, we recommend if you have the time and money.

Based on our personal experiences over the last ten years in the industry, these lists are not meant to be all-inclusive. They doubtless have omitted some resources of which we are not yet aware, and they may include some resources that will soon become outdated. You may wish to use the lists as a starting point and make your own pen and ink changes as you see fit.

About our lists: criteria and definitions

Our recommended reads all meet the following criteria:

  • Clear: the content, explanations, and writing are clear and straightforward.
  • Correct: facts, definitions, and mathematics are correct.
  • Accessible: the resource is easy to obtain.
  • Relevant: one or more topics that are important in Six Sigma practice are covered.
  • Valuable: the resource adds value (from our own admittedly subjective standpoint) to Six Sigma thinking and practice.
  • Usable: real practitioners can use the material in real situations.
  • Unique: the same information, or the same presentation of information, can not be found elsewhere.

For the purpose of this paper, we adopt the following definitions when referring to the appropriate experience level for a resource:

Green Belt (GB): has been trained in the fundamentals of DMAIC (define, measure, analyze, improve, and control) with basic exposure to the statistics and the psychological factors of driving change in a business unit, has completed two projects, works on Six Sigma projects on a part-time basis.

Black Belt (BB): works on cross-functional intra- and inter-company projects, has advanced knowledge of the tools and may provide mentoring to other BBs and GBs, may or may not be a dedicated project leader.

Master Black Belt (MBB): dedicated to Six Sigma, responsible for aligning projects with the appropriate Belts, serves as the voice of the leadership team to the Six Sigma team and the voice of Six Sigma to the leadership team, responsible for ensuring the training of GBs, BBs, and Champions/Sponsors.

Champion/Sponsor: the business unit leader that commissions and pays for change projects, has the authority to implement change within processes, the “customer” for projects.

Table 1: Our recommended Six Sigma short list

Topic

Level

Title

Comment

Software

GB
BB

MINITAB

The best choice for Six Sigma; indispensable help files.

General introduction to Six Sigma

Manager Champion

What Is Six Sigma? by Pete Pande and Larry Holpp (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2002)

Solid non-technical overview and a quick read.

Overview of Six Sigma tools and techniques

GB
BB
Champion

Rath & Strong's Six Sigma Pocket Guide (Lexington, Massachusetts: Rath & Strong, 2002)

Explains topics clearly with easy-to-understand examples; convenient pocket size.

Reference

BB

Implementing Six Sigma: Smarter Solutions Using Statistical Methods, by Forrest W. Breyfogle, III, (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1999)

Reading this book is a bit like eating dry toast; nevertheless, it is a detailed reference on Six Sigma tools and is perhaps the best of its kind.

Statistics, intro

GB
BB
Champion

The Cartoon Guide to Statistics, by Larry Gonick and Woollcott Smith (New York: HarperCollins, 1993)

Best book on statistics that we have seen.

Statistics, intro

GB
BB
Champion

HyperStat Online Textbook, by David M. Lane
http://davidmlane.com/hyperstat/

Best on-line statistics resource that we have seen (and it is free).

Statistics, advanced

MBB
BBs who conduct experiments

Statistics for Experimenters: An Introduction to Design, Data Analysis, and Model Building, by George E. P. Box, William G. Hunter, and J. Stuart Hunter (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1978)

The definitive reference book on statistics for experimenters. A very approachable treatise if you are comfortable reading equations.

Graphical display/ Integrity

BB
Champion

The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, by Edward R. Tufte (Connecticut: Graphics Press, 1983)

A brilliant book—well thought-out and well illustrated; the first of a series of three (the last two in the series are a bit redundant and thus are not “must reads”).




About the authors

Richard Crowe and Michael O'Connor represent Diversified Professionals, a company that teaches customized implementation programs in Basic Project Management, Lean, Six Sigma DMAIC, and DFSS. Combined they have trained over 3,000 professionals in process improvement tools and have worked in diverse fields including high technology, telecommunications, manufacturing, automotive, government, finance, health care, insurance, service, and retail. They can be contacted at: rdcrowe@earthlink.net and michael_oconnor_32632@msn.com


Table 2: Our extended recommended reading list

Topic

Level

Title

Comment

5S

GB
BB

5S for Operators: 5 Pillars of the Visual Workplace, by The Productivity Press Development Team (Oregon: Productivity, 1996)

 

Do not dismiss the importance and value of 5S. This short book does a reasonably good job of describing the fundamentals of a visual workplace.

Business

All

  • Built to Last, by James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras (New York: HarperCollins, 1994, 1997, 2002)
  • Good to Great, by Jim Collins (New York: HarperCollins, 2001)

 

Both of these books are based on paired comparison research and are remarkably sound as they examine the successful habits of visionary companies and why some companies make the transition from good to great. You may not agree with all of the findings, but you will find these books to be quite thought provoking.

Business

All

Turnaround: How America’s Top Cop Reversed the Crime Epidemic, by William Bratton with Peter Knobler (New York: Random House, 1998)

A contemporary case study about using data-driven decisions to overhaul a major metropolitan police force; you need to understand Six Sigma before you read this book.

Business

All

Who Moved My Cheese? An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life,

by Spencer Johnson (New York: Penguin Putnam, 1998)

A short, easy, humorous call to pro-activity; may be useful in energizing a sluggish culture.

Business

All

In Search of Excellence, by Thomas J. Peters and Robert H. Watterman, Jr. (New York: Harper & Row, 1982)

The wakeup business book of the 80's call to action that really gave impetus at the leadership level to change the way we do business.

Creative thinking

GB
BB

Strategies for Creative Problem Solving , by H. Scott Fogler and Steven E. LeBlanc (New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1995)

 

This monograph is a bit pricey but has a number of helpful tools (KT Potential Problem Analysis, KT Decision Analysis), a sound discussion on identifying what the real problem is, and a reminder of the value of GOYA (get off your armchair), estimation, and forming and quickly testing simple hypotheses.

FMEA

GB
BB

Potential Failure Mode Effects Analysis, 2 nd Edition, by AIAG (Chrysler Corporation, Ford Motor Company, General Motors Corporation, 1995)

Published by the “Big Three” automotive manufacturers for Tier 1-3 suppliers.

Lean

BB

The Machine that Changed the World: The Story of Lean Production, by James P. Womack, Daniel T. Jones, and Daniel Roos (HarperCollins, New York, 1990)

The book on Lean and the Toyota Production System; manufacturing focused and may be a tough read, but worth the effort.

Measurement analysis

GB
BB

Measurement Systems Analysis (MSA), by AIAG (Chrysler Corporation, Ford Motor Company, General Motors Corporation, 1998)

Very technical reference book for Gage R&R and MSA.

Mistake- proofing

GB
BB

Mistake-Proofing for Operators: The ZQC System, by The Productivity Press Development Team (Oregon: Productivity Press, 1997)

Good single topic Control phase monograph.

Personal direction and focus

All

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Restoring the Character Ethic, by Steven Covey (Simon & Schuster, New York, 1989)

Basic guide on proactively tackling life’s problems, could be force fit to the Six Sigma methodology.

Project management

BB

Champion

Managing Software Development Projects: Formula for Success, 2nd Edition, by Neal Whitten (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc, 1995)

Don't let the title fool you. This is the best book on project management that we have seen. It offers valuable tips and insights into project management. All can benefit from this book.

Six Sigma

GB
BB

  • The Six Sigma Way: How GE, Motorola, and Other Top Companies Are Honing Their Performance, by Peter S. Pande, Robert P. Neuman, and Roland R. Cavanagh (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2000)
  • The Six Sigma Way Team Fieldbook: An Implementation Guide for Process Improvement Teams, by Peter S. Pande, Robert P. Neuman, and Roland R. Cavanagh (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2002)

Good reference books if you have spare budget and spare time, although they are not necessarily “cover to cover” reads.

Six Sigma advanced tools

BB
MBB

Rath & Strong's Six Sigma Advanced Tools Pocket Guide (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2004)

A handy reminder guide for Black Belts and Master Black Belts, good for providing just-in-time training for Green Belts.

Pocket guides

 

  • Rath & Strong's Six Sigma Team Pocket Guide (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003)
  • Rath & Strong's Six Sigma Champions Pocket Guide (Lexington, MA: Rath & Strong, 2003)
  • Juran Institute Quality Improvement Pocket Guide (Connecticut, 2003)
  • The Memory Jogger II: A Pocket Guide of Tools for Continuous Improvement & Effective Planning, by Michael Brassard and Diane Ritter (New Hampshire: GOAL/QPC, 1994)
  • The Team Memory Jogger: A Pocket Guide for Team Members (GOAL/QPC-ORIEL, 1995)
  • The Memory Jogger 9000, by Robert W. Peach and Diane S. Ritter (New Hampshire: GOAL/QPC, 1996)

In general good check lists, reminders, and memory aids. Not all are organized around Six Sigma.

Software

GB
BB

Statistica, SASS, JMP

Very good solid statistics packages with good graphic interfaces, but no major savings over MINITAB, and not as interchangeable up and down the supply chain.

Software

GB
BB

Microsoft ® Excel

Commonly available, but requires more knowledge of statistical formulas and Excel syntax. Less graphic than dedicated stat packages.

SPC

GB
BB

Statistical Process Control, by AIAG (Chrysler Corporation, Ford Motor Company, General Motors Corporation, 1995)

Very technical reference book for SPC. Learning how to do SPC manually helps you understand what the computer does for you. May provide extra insight into the analysis of control charts.

Statistics, advanced

GB

Data Analysis with MICROSOFT ® EXCEL, by Kenneth N. Berk and Patrick Carey (Australia: Thomson Learning, 2004)

Not a great book, but a required reference if you only have EXCEL.

Statistics, advanced

MBB
BBs who conduct experiments

Improving Quality Through Planned Experimentation, by Ronald D. Moen, Thomas W. Nolan, and Lloyd P. Provost (Massachusetts: McGraw-Hill, 1991)

Detailed discussion of setting up and analyzing designed experiments.

Statistics, Multi-vari analysis

BB

Multi-vari Chart & Analysis: A Pre-experimentation Technique, by Mario Perez-Wilson (Arizona: Advanced Systems Consultants, 1992)

A really focused, nicely formatted treatise on the use of Multivariate pre-experimentation techniques. A should-read prior to conducting any Design of Experiment. We would like to see more of this type of tool book.

Theory of Constraints

GB
BB
Champion

The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement, 2nd edition, by Eliyahu M. Goldratt and Jeff Cox (Massachusetts: North River Press, 1992)

Easy to read and insightful, this book uses a novel format and inspired similar “wanna be” books.

Quality

BB
Champion

Juran's Quality Handbook, 5th edition, edited by Joseph M. Juran and A. Blanton Godfrey (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1999)

Covers a gamut of Quality topics, with each chapter being written by a different author. Due to its price, we give the book a qualified recommendation. Black Belts and select Champions should have access to this book to use as a reference, but there is no need for each and every one to purchase a copy.

 


About the authors

Richard Crowe and Michael O'Connor represent Diversified Professionals, a company that teaches customized implementation programs in Basic Project Management, Lean, Six Sigma DMAIC, and DFSS. Combined they have trained over 3,000 professionals in process improvement tools and have worked in diverse fields including high technology, telecommunications, manufacturing, automotive, government, finance, health care, insurance, service, and retail. They can be contacted at: rdcrowe@earthlink.net and michael_oconnor_32632@msn.com.

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