When people are just getting started with quality management, they usually come across Six Sigma. This is a pretty old business strategy that goes all the way back to 1986 at Motorola. The company needed to figure out how to handle consistent quality control across the board, as well as how to implement new projects swiftly. After all, time truly is money in the world of business, and if they couldn’t handle things quickly they wouldn’t stay in business very long. The system grew and grew over the years to become what we now know as Six Sigma methodologies.
The entire focus of Six Sigma is on looking at design patterns and trends in order to remove defects. Some defects may not seem that way, but the focus isn’t to go by the minimum standard, but rather exceed the expectations of the customer. The measurements revolve around lowering variations and using mathematical methods to calculate accuracy.
There are numerous benefits to Six Sigma. One of them is that all of the goals are designed to be realistic, rather than completely visionary. In other words, if your company is moving to a Six Sigma framework, they’re focusing on the things that they can do right now, rather than the things that they wish they might be able to do 5 years in the future. It’s all about being realistic, because if you don’t take honest inventory you’re bound to have mistakes creep back into the system. Another point of the system is that you get to use real time information without a lot of jargon. When you’re trying to communicate clearly, jargon is the last thing that you want.
One benefit we personally enjoy about Six Sigma is that it’s designed to unify upper and lower management. In many companies, upper management is a walled off garden with very little communication going on. This leaves the lower levels of management to essentially fend for themselves; a disaster on many levels. Six Sigma thinking instructs that every level needs to support one another, and share information freely.
Speaking of information. Six Sigma was one of the first business strategies to fully embrace scientific models in order to defend or remove processes. Very cool.
But of course, there are some drawbacks to this system. One drawback that’s mentioned constantly is the fact that it’s very complex to implement. If someone isn’t well versed in statistics theory, things can get really convoluted really quickly. Another problem is that because of the complexity, many people claiming to serve the quality control and management industry actually don’t know how to properly implement all of the Six Sigma methadologies. This is a shame, because quality control can really take a business to the next level, if implemented properly and followed consistently.
This impacts the quality movement in a few ways. One, it makes it clear that every business has to think more and more about quality management if it wants to maintain or increase its place in the market. Customers benefit when quality control systems are not only in place today, but we follow them for many years to come. Does that mean that we just accept anything? Not at all. If we did that, then we wouldn’t be in business very long. However, if we try to actually address the systems properly over time and modify what needs to be fixed then the outcome will usually be very positive indeed.