For some reason that I can’t fathom, Six Sigma gets dissed not for what it can do, but for what it doesn’t do well. For example, there are many articles that knock Six Sigma because a company that uses the approach sees its stock price decline. Another common knock is that some companies that use Six Sigma are perceived as less innovative, a debatable perception in any event, but why should Six Sigma take the rap for this?
I once had a Black Belt student who had difficulty with the concept of mistake proofing, or poka yoke. When given an assignment to identify the type of mistake proofing exemplified by the cord which keeps the gas cap fastened to the vehicle he just couldn’t see that this was a prevention mechanism. “It doesn’t prevent the person from not putting the gas cap back on.” He argued. “And it doesn’t keep them from over-filling the tank either.” True, I conceded. It also doesn’t prevent bad breath. But it does prevent the person from leaving the gas cap on the pump or the top of the vehicle and driving off without it. That’s what it is supposed to do, and it does it quite well. Six Sigma also has its place, but it’s not the only thing a company needs to do to be successful. That doesn’t make it any less valuable when used properly.