I have often struggled with Dr. Deming’s 10th point of his 14 point management philosophy. It reads, “Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets for the work force asking for zero defects and new levels of productivity. Such exhortations only create adversarial relationships, as the bulk of the causes of low quality and low productivity belong to the system and thus lie beyond the power of the work force.”
Opponents of Six Sigma, and even Lean to some extent, say aiming for perfection or the infamous 3.4 defects per million is exactly what Deming was preaching against in point 10. They may be right.
Then again, Six Sigma proponents will say that Six Sigma is all about the “system” and perfectly aligns with Dr. Deming’s words. They may be right.
I am probably stuck somewhere between these two camps. But to me these slogans or almost impossible targets are not the biggest issue facing Six Sigma.
I actually think the biggest thing working against Six Sigma has to do with the fact that in order to be a “black belt” or “green belt” you normally have to use a certain number of tools to solve the problem at hand. This is all well and good unless the tools required are not the right ones for the job! Then the tail is indeed wagging the dog.
I cringe when I see people trying to use tools like regression and ANOVA when they don’t need to. In their defense, normally the only reason they are using these tools is because they have to in order to attain certification.
If Six Sigma dies a slow death it will be a sad day since it is such a powerful methodology when used the right way and in the right spirit. But when all (or most) of the emphasis is on using a handful of tools in order to “certify” rather than simply trying to make the business better I say long turn sustainability is nearly impossible.
If I were running a Lean or Six Sigma consulting company I would consider not offering any certifications. Instead, I would teach the tools while helping people make their business better. If they wanted a “belt” I would probably direct them to a place like ASQ to sit for one of their many exams. Would this business model work? I don’t know… you tell me.