The perfect is the enemy of the good, they say. Six Sigma devotees know all about this. Criticisms of Six Sigma are sometimes quite bizarre. Perhaps the most odd are criticisms of what Six Sigma doesn’t do. For example, Six Sigma has been criticized because

  • it doesn’t make boring companies innovative
  • It won’t fix products that are poorly designed
  • It won’t make a poorly managed company a success
  • It won’t make you a success in a market you shouldn’t compete in

On the other hand, Six Sigma gets written off too quickly by so-called experts. “Six Sigma should stay out of hospitals and stay out of any business where you have human-to-human interaction. Humans just aren’t programmable; they aren’t machines,” says George Haley, a business professor at the University of New Haven and director of the Center for International Industry Competitiveness.

But Haley is quite wrong. Six Sigma works quite well in many areas of hospitals. I have first hand experience, and there’s more than a little supporting research, to show that the Six Sigma approach provides benefits to an incredible range of hospital processes. Human-to-human interaction occurs within processes. Doctors write prescriptions that are filled in hospital pharmacies. They do so via processes that may be overly complicated, processes that make poor use of technology, that take too long due to waste, that involve too many decision points, and so on.

We’re not talking about using Six Sigma to improve human relationships, we’re talking about using it to improve the processes people work within. And for this, there’s nothing better than Six Sigma.

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