The core of Six Sigma is sensitive to variability in process, and this is in essence, statistical process control in a new avatar. Six Sigma is just one among the many quality improvement tools, which include Deming’s (1982) cycle, Total Quality Management (TQM) assessment methodologies such as Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award Assessment (MBNQA), the European Foundation for Quality (EFQM) framework and Dorian Shainin’s Statistical Engineering (SE), or even Kaizen.
Top industries such as GE, Raytheon, and Motorola claim to have applied Six Sigma successfully and saved millions of dollars. This however does not mean that every corporation can attain the same result. Edwards Deming himself was a strong critic of one corporation imitating others in quality practices, for what the customer expects differs from business to business.
For instance, customers may value an airline for its smooth and seamless check in, whereas customers may value a coach service provider based on the ability to use alternative routes and reach the destination in the shortest possible time. Some companies such as IBM that tried to imitate the so-called elite Six Sigma companies met with disastrous results.
To sum up, while Six Sigma has its relevance and uses, it is not necessarily the innovative, cost-cutting concept, and a panacea for all ills as touted to be. Being carried away by the hype and mistaking Six Sigma as a cure-all solution is probably the reason why many Six Sigma jokes abound, and many people refer to Six Sigma as “Sick Sigma."