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Deterrents of Six Sigma: Does It Work Or Not?

written by: Jean Scheid • edited by: Ronda Bowen • updated: 6/13/2013

Believe it or not, there are those who don’t like the Six Sigma methodology. Jean Scheid looks at examples of Six Sigma discredited by both users and business experts, even if it remains a popular project management methodology to others.

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    When Six Sigma Fails

    Six Sigma by Share Alike Wikimedia Commons When exploring why there has been some discrediting of Six Sigma, I found a lot of information--more on why Six Sigma doesn’t work than totally discrediting the methodology. There are the naysayers, however, who may have once loved the process but now have moved on to Waterfall and even PRINCE2, leaving Six Sigma in the dust.

    One critic of Six Sigma from Aveta Business Solutions describes constant problems with Six Sigma that cause projects to fail. Three roadblocks are mentioned by this author including misuse, lack of support, and lack of training. Indeed if any of these issues are present in a project utilizing Six Sigma, the project will not succeed.

    But is misuse, lack of support, and lack of training a way for Six Sigma to be discredited or just misunderstood? It appears this critic offers ways the methodology can fail but does not necessarily discredit the process. In fact, more research showed this author actually utilized the methodology. It should be noted here that this author was only identified as a Six Sigma Training Assistant by Aveta Business Solutions.

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    Six Sigma Discredited: A Business Expert’s View

    Mark Randig, President of MAS Solutions LLC began discrediting Six Sigma a few years back. To this business expert, it appears the process utilized by itself is the problem. In fact, he talks about the term Six Sigma as only being a “project management buzzword," and nothing else.

    Randig states, “Rather than considering Six Sigma as a business tool that should be used to complement other problem-solving approaches, Six Sigma is promoted in a dogmatic fashion, as a panacea for all the problems a business may encounter."

    Mr. Randig’s largest concern is that it is over-used as a problem-solving solution that involves too many steps to get from point A to point B.

    It should be noted here that Mr. Randig compares using Six Sigma to fixing his home pool to keep out his toddler son--buying a pool fence. Does a problem that simple really require a project management methodology such as Six Sigma?

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    Another Expert Has Her Say

    Band-Aid Wikimedia Commons Small Business Insight Examiner Leona Charles also agrees that Six Sigma won’t work for most projects or companies. Ms. Charles cites Toyota problems and their downfall as reasons why Six Sigma should be discredited. She offers these insights about why it fails each and every time:

    • It’s No Band-Aid – Companies who utilize Six Sigma to fix quality issues are taking the wrong path. A bad process, according to Ms. Charles, can’t be fixed solely by Six Sigma.
    • Part-Time Six Sigma – Here, Ms. Charles says that most companies only utilize it as a “part-time solution," and instead, for it to work, it needs to be “the central focus of the champion (or project leader)."
    • Leaders and Teams – For this concept, Ms. Charles claims managers are trained one way and teams another, meaning a colossal failure.
    • Poor Leadership – If an organization has a “tyrannical leader," says Charles, “Six Sigma won’t work for you." Because Six Sigma is a team atmosphere, a dictatorship indeed would spout Six Sigma discredited concerns.
    • Total Commitment – Again, this could be compared to Ms. Charles stating the methodology can’t be used as a band-aid or part-time solution. “Six Sigma requires you commit all or nothing," she points out.
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    Are the Critics Correct?

    When comparing any project management methodologies, there will always be good and bad points along with champions and critics. This may also apply to Six Sigma discredited by critics who have tried the methodology and failed or simply graduated to a newer, more exciting methodology.

    Six Sigma's success may be determined by how it’s implemented, how well it’s understood, and if it indeed is a company-wide belief and effort.

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