The Six Sigma Revolution

For Motorola, the originator of Six Sigma, the answer to the question “Why Six Sigma?” was simple: survival. Motorola came to Six Sigma because it was being consistently beaten in the competitive marketplace by foreign firms that were able to produce higher quality products at a lower cost.

101 Things a Black Belt Should Know

  1. In general, a Six Sigma Black Belt should be quantitatively oriented.
  2. With minimal guidance, the Six Sigma Black Belt should be able to use data to convert broad generalizations into actionable goals.
  3. The Six Sigma Black Belt should be able to make the business case for attempting to accomplish these goals.

Six Sigma FAQs

The questions below are from various conferences where I have presented, from reader emails, and from conversations I’ve had with colleagues and clients.

Management in One Lesson

John, the new CEO of Acme Corporation, just heard a brilliant idea for making his numbers this quarter.

The Changing Face of Requirements

The changes Quality 2.0 brings to requirements has a major repercussion on the quality professional’s role. In the future, the quality professional’s role will be much more proactive.

Mapping for Business Improvement

Using “L Mapping” to map core processes to an actionable level, a level where the Process Excellence Leadership Team–the PELT–can identify the critical to quality drivers in the process.

Introduction to Quality 2.0

Exploring the “new” quality, which includes Six Sigma, lean and traditional quality concepts.

Quality 2.0

Quality 2.0 is the first major revision of the quality mission in more than 200 years. It seeks to define a harmony of stakeholder’s interests. View PDF.

The Leadership Process

Leadership is simple, but it is anything but easy. Most leaders wake up each day and hope that the people in their organization will do great things to move the organization forward. The Six Sigma leadership process makes this a lot more likely. View PDF.

Six Sigma Roadmap for Small Businesses

Many Six Sigma experts have expressed doubt that Six Sigma can be used effectively in small, or even in some medium-sized, organizations. However, while the approach to deployment must be modified, it is possible for small businesses to successfully implement Six Sigma. Here is how.

Small Samples

What is small? Not enough data. We’ve all been there before. In a sense, we can never have “enough” data. Despite all of the difficulties, we are forced to deal with inadequate data.
Here are a few statistical approaches to help you do this.

Managing Metric Madness

It’s no secret that we need metrics to manage our businesses; we can’t improve a process that we can’t measure. Most managers and leaders are trying to make sense of an overwhelming number of “important” performance measures often with very limited success. What’s to be done?

Dilbert Deja Vu

Dilbert is always good for a laugh. But there’s a difference between a cartoon and journalism. In a column published in Nov. 26, 2006 Scott Adams takes aim at Six Sigma, having Dilbert pronounce it a fad that has been “widely discredited.” Separate the facts from the humor with this article.

What the Heck is Multicollinearity?

Are your regression models nonsense? Do variable weights have the wrong sign? Are the biggest weights in the model statistically insignificant? Your problem may be multicollinearity. View PDF.

Still Targeting Perfection

Quality Digest 25th anniversary issue column. After more than two decades, Six Sigma continues to prove it’s worth. View PDF.

DMAIC Project Cycle Overview

Concise overview of the DEFINE-MEASURE-ANALYZE-IMPROVE-CONTROL project framework. View PDF.

DMAIC Shortcuts

It’s not always necessary to execute every step in the DMAIC cycle. Sometimes you can skip directly to the next phase, or even to the end! View PDF.

Process Capability Analysis, in English

To many quality engineers and managers, process capability is a jumbled confusion of ideas expressed in jargon that only the anointed can understand. Let me try to clear the air on the subject. More…

Six Sigma is Primarily a Management Program

Six Sigma is not just a modification of the old engineering idea of three sigma quality levels; it is an entirely new way to manage an organization. More. View PDF.

Real Life Six Sigma

A quick overviews of Six Sigma projects to provide you with an idea of what Six Sigma deployment looks like at the project level. More…

Microsoft Accelerates Six Sigma

Microsoft feels your pain. Well, maybe not all of your pain–but at least the pain that software can help alleviate. Specifically, the company feels the pain you experience with information management as you deploy Six Sigma in your enterprise. More… (View PDF Version)

Six Sigma Shortcuts

If implementation for its own sake is what you’re after–not long-term results–you can devote just as little effort to a Six Sigma program as you want. More…

The 1.5 Sigma Shift

I try to set the record straight by explaining the true rationale behind this infamous “statistical correction.” More. View PDF.

Six Sigma Case Study

Tried-and-true Six Sigma techniques lead to quantifiable, real-world improvement. More. View PDF.

Ignore Six Sigma at Your Peril

Fortune magazine featured an article that offered readers risky advice–namely, that Six Sigma could be ignored without adverse consequences. Don’t believe it. More. View PDF.

Six Sigma Needs Standardization

The International Quality Federation is striving to certify Six Sigma Black Belts. More. View PDF.

Why Six Sigma is Not TQM

There are differences–critical differences. And these differences explain why the popularity of TQM has waned, while Six Sigma’s popularity continues to grow. More. View PDF.

Freedom Vs. Permission

You can’t achieve Six Sigma by simply tweaking the process; it requires creativity. And the greatest enemy of creativity is hierarchy. Don’t let your company hierarchy quash innovation. More…

Non-Normal Distributions in the Real World

I have an announcement to make: Normal distributions are not the norm.

DMAIC and project plans

Define, measure, analyze, improve and control your project planning. More…

Divide and Conquer

Itemizing the elements of your Six Sigma projects helps achieve your goals. More. View PDF.

Defining Six Sigma Projects

An awareness of Six Sigma parameters allows improved project delivery. More…

Selecting Six Sigma Projects

Sometimes just determining which projects to undertake isn’t enough. Knowing the process constraints also helps us determine what the focus of the project should be. More. View PDF.

A Method for Scoring Six Sigma Projects

Nine key criteria help you identify projects that are likely to succeed and have a big impact. View PDF.

Selecting Winning Project Portfolios

Software helps select the best projects. An exciting computer software product known as Crystal Ball Pro by Decisioneering makes it possible to select winning projects by factoring in all of the relevant factors. It does so by simulating various scenarios thousands of times, then choosing those that perform best. More. View PDF.

Considering Constraints

If you choose the wrong projects it’s possible to make big “improvements” in quality and productivity that have absolutely no impact on net profit. The theory of constraints helps pick winning projects. More. View PDF.

Batter Up!

Bill had a problem. His company’s baseball team wasn’t doing that well, and he was part of the reason. Bill was in a long slump. Frankly, he stunk at the plate. But Bill is a Six Sigma Black Belt. He decided to approach his batting problem just like he would approach any process problem at work–by conducting a designed experiment. More. View PDF.

Apples to Apples

Have you attributed your results to the right base data? A serious–and common–mistake is comparing the results of a study to the wrong base data. These “apples to oranges” comparisons often lead to poor decisions and, worse still, to inaccurate beliefs that can derail faith in the Six Sigma approach itself. More. View PDF.

A Quality Lexicon

Let’s define those buzzwords we use every day. More. View PDF.

Yield the Right Way

Unit yields are a misunderstood tradition. Misunderstandings on yields lead to a variety of poor management decisions. More. View PDF.

What is a Black Belt?

Who are they and what do they do? What, precisely, is a black belt? Where did the term originate? For that matter, where did the term “six sigma” originate? And, while we’re on the subject, what’s a green belt or master black belt? More. View PDF.

Six Sigma and Lean Production

Which process improvement approach is right for you and your needs? Lean production is based on the Toyota Production System. When properly implemented, a lean production system can dramatically improve productivity (by as much as 95 percent when compared with traditional batch-and-queue production systems.) More. View PDF.

The Value of Six Sigma

Six sigma isn’t just about quality for quality’s sake. It is about providing better value to customers, investors and employees. More. View PDF.

Why Six Sigma Is Not Enough

To make your customers truly happy, you must go beyond six sigma. Progressive people in the six sigma camp move beyond defining quality in terms of defects and defectives. More. View PDF.

Taking the Six Sigma Plunge

Only when companies stick with it long enough to begin to approach six sigma quality levels do they get the desired results. Too often, “toe in the water” projects scare companies out of the pool before they even start to swim. More. View PDF.

The Six Sigma Management Paradox

To attain six sigma performance, we must minimize process variability, slack and redundancy by building variability, slack and redundancy into our organizations. More. View PDF.

Virtual DOE, Data Mining and Artificial Neural Networks

Six Sigma generates as much improvement by changing things as it does by reducing variability. It’s possible to conduct “virtual” experiments using existing data and artificial neural network (neural net) software. More. View PDF.

Applying Virtual DOE in the Real World

A manufacturing example illustrates the benefits of data mining and artificial neural networks. More…

SPC vs. Knowledge

We usually stop pursuing knowledge when
it is no longer economical to do so. At what point have we learned “enough” so that we can (or should) stop using statistics? More…

When in Doubt, Get the X Chart Out

X charts can be used to plot percentages, ratios, counts and other nonmeasurement data, even when the assumptions are only approximately met. More…

SPC and Global Warming

Is global warming real? Is it caused solely by human activity? These two articles utilize classical process excellence tools to explore these two important questions. Part I. Part II.

How Do I Compute sigma? Let Me Count the Ways.

5 different ways to compute this common measure of variation. Which is best? More…

True Grit

A quality consultant accepts the challenge of winning over a skeptical factory worker. More…

Ask a Simple Question

Deming’s preferred approach to teaching was the Socratic method. A helper from Dr. Deming’s seminars tells a story of how the Deming approach forced people to learn for themselves. More…

Variation and Your Health

Doctors tend to focus on the most recent result rather than on patterns and trends. Showing them charts of historical data help them do a better job of providing care. More…

I Hate SPC

Getting control of a process is only the first step. Once you’ve managed to create a process that isn’t broken, you should systematically break it so you can learn how to improve it. More…

When Definitions Collide

Statistical significance does not equal importance. And vice-versa. So what does it all mean? More…

Autocorrelation: A Simple SPC Alternative

It is quite simple to check the assumption of statistical independence with a scatter diagram. And to figure out what to do about it. More…

Median Control Charts

Sometimes, median control charts offer an alternative to using individuals charts. Median control charts fill the vacuum between individuals charts and averages charts. More…

Preventing Hospital Falls

“Do no harm” is harder than it looks. Preventing accidents is no accident. It takes a rigorous approach to prevent negative outcomes. More…

Six Sigma, Data Mining and Dead Customer Accounts

The quality profession must focus on things done right, not just things done wrong. Data mining and Six Sigma can be used together to link customer data to pro-active improvement activities. More…

Thinking Outside the Box

The “P” in SPC stands for process, not product. What you measure to control and improve your process may have little to do with what the customer is interested in. More…

How Much Don’t You Know?

If you’re trying to determine a course of action, your best bet is to acquire knowledge, not to blindly use statistics to guide you. Statistical probability should be used only when we lack knowledge of the situation and cannot obtain it at a reasonable cost. More…

Cargo Cult Six Sigma

Cargo Cult Six Sigma misses what Six Sigma is and completely focuses on the visible aspects of Six Sigma.

Six Sigma’s Unique Infrastructure

Six Sigma’s infrastructure creates formally defined change agent positions filled by people who possess technical knowledge about the change process. View PDF.

In Defense of Six Sigma

What I like and don’t like about Six Sigma, and management. View PDF.

A Potpourri of Advanced Topics in Six Sigma

New paradigms, tools, and perspectives on process excellence and Six Sigma. View PDF.