Posted by: Adam Deane | 19/05/2010

Six Sigma: Friend or Foe

six sigmaSigma Six have always looked like the posh kids next door. Talking about high level process optimisation and their black belts. La di da..

I never understood why they didn’t want to get their hands dirty with real processes.

This week I decided to take the plunge. To learn about the neighbours. Six Sigma is not something you can learn in a week, but it provided me some interesting reading.
At worst, It will give me another angle to approach BPM problems.

You do feel a bit inferior when you read some of their articles.
There’s a sort of elitism to being related to Six Sigma and Lean.
Six Sigma is more like your arrogant cousin. Nice to meet for the annual Xmas meal, but happy to hear that he lives on the other side of the country and is very busy.

Ok. I can’t help myself, and I’ll take a cheeky poke at them…

To be a Six Sigma expert you:

  • Must have read the book “Zen and the Art of Motor Cycle Maintenance”
  • Know how to embed the following expressions into every sentence: “higher-order cognitive process”, “mental process”, “morphological analysis”, “lateral thinking”, “intellectual”, “problem solving”
  • Have written a book about six sigma or lean . And they will always point you to someone else’s book to explain something they should of explained

If you ever meet a six sigma expert, when they start saying things like Intransparency, Polytely , enumerability, heterogeneity – Just nod your head politely and look serious.

The best way to offend them: Talk about Six Sigma and Lean as if it was the same thing.

Learn their lingo

Root cause analysis” – a structured method for investigating equipment failure and coming up with a sustainable solution.
TOPS” – Team-Oriented Problem Solving
8Ds” – Eight Disciplines (Use Team Approach, Describe the Problem, Implement and Verify Short-Term Corrective Actions, Define and Verify Root Causes, Verify Corrective Actions, Implement Permanent Corrective Actions, Prevent Recurrence, Congratulate Your Team)
The Toyota Way” – to think long term, to have a process for solving problems, to add value to the organization by developing its people, and to recognize that continuously solving root problems drives organizational learning.
Task Analysis – Task analysis is a business methodology of analizing employee tasks to improve the way core business processes are being run within a company, helping organisations to become more efficient.
dilbert six sigma


zero defects, quality circles, TQM, QC, Malcolm Baldridge, ISO, six sigma, and BBB (blah, blah, blah)

Basically, you can sum them all up in three sentences:
• Do it once, do it properly!
• The customer is always right!
• Use your common sense!

• They are actually good at change management.
• They are also quite good at problem analysis (clarifying description of the problem, analyzing causes, identifying alternatives, assessing each alternative, choosing one, implementing it, and evaluating whether the problem was solved or not)
• They use black belt so their trousers won’t fall down


  1. One of the best articles I’ve ever read about Lean/Six Sigma. The BBB methodologies was new to me 🙂

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