Is six sigma approach a SCAM?

In this article I will be opening a Pandora box on why six sigma failed in recent times after its proven success in the last century. 

In the late 80s Motorola pioneer an iconic problem solving technique name six sigma, a quality improvement methodology through variation reduction with goal to achieve 99.99966% acceptance.  This mean the process will produce part within 12 sigma range of a normal distribution and reject rate is about 3.4 dppm.  It was indeed an epic achievement given the limitation of the design and manufacturing technology at that time.  With such low reject rate, Motorola boasted cost saving which means more profit.  Fast forward to this millennium, the once glory company had to be taken a part due to billions USD lost for a few consecutive years.
There is also news on several companies which had failed even with deployment of six sigma:- 

  1. GE - Under leadership of Jack Welch, the company had adopted six sigma as the business management strategy and unfortunately almost 60% of GE Six sigma initiatives failed to attain the desired goals.
  2. Ford -  Suffer from losses even they had deploy Six sigma and design for six sigma (DFSS)
  3. Home Depot - Their former CEO Robert Nardelli was ousted due to his obsession with six sigma methodology to be used for solving every problem.  This had cause misery for the worker which directly impact consumer since Home Depot is a retail business.
  4. 3M - When a former GE executive become the CEO of the company, he instill six sigma methodology in all area include design.  The design had claimed that six sigma had  hinder creativity and innovation

With all above mega corporations’ failure, could it be attributed to six sigma actually does not work or is there other reasons.  I had managed to think of a few reasons for the failure of six sigma initiative :-

  1. Top managements that are too rely on six sigma as a business management tool.  Six sigma does not yield good results in a business environment as there too many uncontrollable factor which is not possible to address.  There are instances where we had identify the causes or factors which could impact an output, however those factors are uncontrollable which mean it is near impossible to have action plan.  In business situation, uncontrollable factors are more prevalent than controllable factors.  Therefore six sigma is cannot never effective in producing desire results when there are more uncontrollable factor* than controllable factor.
  2. One shoe fits all attitude could be because six sigma could be the only problem solving approach a company executive know without in depth knowledge what six sigma is all about. They expect all employee must spend time to force fit six sigma technique to all problems.  This had cause misery to employees.
  3. Lack of competent six sigma champion or top management to lead the quality improvement initiatives.  I had seen organization  hire incompetent  six sigma director/ champion who do not know what they are doing or does not have good knowledge in statistic.  Statistic is the soul of six sigma.  Most of these organization does not have expertise to validate the competency of the six sigma champion they are hiring.  In turn this type of six sigma champion end up unable to guide employee to use correct tools to effectively resolve problem.  There are instances that some champions  insist on using all tools that had been taught in six sigma in a variation reduction project!!
  4. Inaccurate data which lead to wrong solution.  A lot of people had forgotten the fundamental of six sigma is all about collecting accurate data.  Lack of discipline worker who does not goes all length to collect and validate data accuracy on the sample to enable an accurate prediction of population behavior.  
  5. Poor support from executive management level and expect the six sigma champion to kick everyone to participate in the six sigma initiative.   
  6. The design people claim to be restricted by six sigma where they have to play by the rules to ensure manufacturing is able to produce six sigma quality.  In actual fact, design is one of the major culprit of quality issues which had cause manufacturing process unable to produce consistent good products. 

Six sigma approach is still one of the most powerful tool to achieve consistent quality by reducing variation in the process input which could impact product quality.  It must be applied correctly with accurate measurement of quality metrics with  data collection,  understand the influence of controllable and uncontrollable factors through root cause analysis before assign any action plan to for improve.  If six sigma is applied correctly, it will not only reduce product quality variation, it can also predict future population quality as well.

Side note*

One of the most effective ways to manage uncontrollable factor is through unconventional knowledge such as using Chinese metaphysics to predict business outcome.  Since I am also a practitioner of Chinese metaphysics, I have clients who request my service to predict business outcome using tools in Chinese Metaphysics. Feb 4 signifies the arrival of spring in Chinese solar calendar and a new beginning.  Would like to wish all my reader have a great year ahead in 2018 and thanks  for the support to my website.

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