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These feature articles are published monthly by Quality Digest.  They are collected under the nom de plume of The Six Sigma Heretic, which tells you something about how we approach Six Sigma.  They are written by ROI President Steven Ouellette, and have a unique blend of humor and statistical depth that makes him one of Quality Digest's most popular authors.  Subscribe to our RSS Feed to be alerted about each month's article!

Optimizing Processes That Lose Money

So far, we’ve discussed Stupid Six Sigma Tricks #10: Conflating systems, methods and tools and #9: Confusing breakthrough with continuous improvement. This month, I’ll spend some time on a more subtle, and no less costly mistake that, in its extreme form, we’ll call Stupid Six Sigma Trick #8: Optimizing processes that lose money. “Well,” you might say, “Isn’t that what Six Sigma is all about? Taking unprofitable processes and fixing them or making profitable ones more profitable?” And you would be right. For the explanation, we need to dip briefly into the world of accounting. As your dentist says, “Don’t worry, it won’t hurt much and will be over soon."


Six Sigma Isn't Continuous Improvement

This month let’s examine another common mistake that some people (not my loyal, intelligent, heretical and, let’s face it, downright attractive readers) make when they use Six Sigma.

I expect to seriously annoy some practitioners when I say that Six Sigma isn’t a method of continuous improvement—no matter how many times you’ve heard someone say exactly that.

Bold assertion, you say? Remember, Six Sigma heretics don’t accept arguments from authority, so keep an open mind and don’t take me at my word. Let’s take a more detailed look.


Conflating Systems, Strategies, and Tools

As I said in my premier Heretic column, “Dogma and Definition,” I’m interested in examining our assumptions and premises about Six Sigma so we can discard the dross and refine the potential benefits in implementing it.

To that end, I have decided to co-opt an omnipresent element of pop culture. No, not “reality” TV (though a Six Sigma reality show strikes me as very funny—you heard it here first).

And so I humbly present to you the Top Ten Stupid Six Sigma Tricks, beginning with no. 10: Conflating systems, strategies and tools.


In Dirk Dusharme’s First Word in the April 2006 issue of Quality Digest, he sneaks into the back of the “Church of the Six Sigma” and cannily reports the goings on. In this column, I will burst in through the doors dressed in motley and try to pry the scales off of your eyes, chanting, “DMAIC will set you free!” Do I do this for my own ego?


Well, maybe.


“The great aim of education is not knowledge but action.”
Herbert Spencer (1820 – 1903)

 What’s distance learning?

Six Sigma Black Belt training has long been the realm of the elite. It used to be so expensive and required so much time that only companies with the cash and resources to make up for 3,200 worker-hours per class could afford to acquire those advanced problem-solving skills and the benefits that result. Fortunately, that’s changing. A recent innovation in the delivery of Six Sigma training is "distance learning." For our purposes, distance learning is training received outside the traditional classroom setting on each student’s own schedule. In most cases, this training is computer-based, although a few are video-based.


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These articles were originally published in Quality Digest, an online magazine. Subscribe to Quality Digest if you would like to receive these articles when they are published, or subscribe to our RSS feed.

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