The Future - Six Sigma

Six Sigma is constantly evolving. New combinations spring up in seemingly endless numbers. Some are superficial in the extreme and appear to be more about giving consultants something new to sell than about improving the Six Sigma Paradigm. Into this category I would place Lean Six Sigma (and the variant titles); for the most part it is bolting Lean tools into the Six Sigma framework in a way that savvy practitioners had already done informally. It fails to engage with the aspects of Lean which challenge Six Sigma (mass involvement versus expert led, for example).

Design for Six Sigma appears to offer more hope, but closer examination shows that in a lot of applications it stiles innovation just as much as Six Sigma can by focusing on strict processes for risk reduction rather than supporting innovation.

Perhaps the most promising ideas are those that attempt to genuinely address the issues raised with Six Sigma in this chapter, these tend to revolve around combination with bigger concepts such as Excellence Models or TQM principles, which are much more challenging and promising on issues of leadership, people, innovation etc. Of most interest are the attempts to combine Six Sigma with Organizational Learning principles.

There does seem to be a genuine synergy between these two approaches. And this logic, while not perhaps bringing us full circle, leads us back to the work of Jack Welch at GE. He has stated time and again that the had to turn GE into a learning organization before it was ready for Six Sigma; the GE workout process was a critical pre - cursor to Six Sigma (Ulrich et al, 2002). Sadly, few appear to have heeded this words despite lauding this contribution.

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