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Whatever happened to Six Sigma? As General Electric began a long, slow decline, so did the popularity of its signature management system.

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  • Brilliant, brilliant article. In my mid-period consulting life this was everywhere and I’d see people at my clients with Six Sigma in their email signatures desperately seeking problems to analyse. It became a total impediment to progress at times as people would try to out-swagger their creds. Slightly

    Brilliant, brilliant article. In my mid-period consulting life this was everywhere and I’d see people at my clients with Six Sigma in their email signatures desperately seeking problems to analyse. It became a total impediment to progress at times as people would try to out-swagger their creds. Slightly embarrassing. And the author is right to highlight the dearth of innovation that stems from constant efficiency momentum. Thing is, fashions have a horrible tendency to overwhelm (as we’re seeing to some extent with innovation, design thinking, lean, agile). Everything seems to have a natural place, and we need to get better at judging what works for what context. When fashions become quasi-messianic it’s danger time...

  • For a brief moment, Six Sigma was ubiquitous in the business world. A statistical system of defect reduction, it entered the mainstream thanks to the evangelization of Jack Welch at GE, and it soon became a must-have business credential. But it soon faded, a victim of its own popularity and GE's decline

    For a brief moment, Six Sigma was ubiquitous in the business world. A statistical system of defect reduction, it entered the mainstream thanks to the evangelization of Jack Welch at GE, and it soon became a must-have business credential. But it soon faded, a victim of its own popularity and GE's decline. I look a long look at its rise and fall, and how it mirrors the changing priorities of American business, where the pursuit of quality and efficiency has been replaced by a hunger for innovation and disruption.

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  • "Six Sigma’s decline was also a symptom of a broader change in the corporate world, where innovation became more valued than efficiency, and technical precision was no longer a differentiator. Silicon Valley’s culture of 'move fast and break things' meant business leaders were less concerned with reliability

    "Six Sigma’s decline was also a symptom of a broader change in the corporate world, where innovation became more valued than efficiency, and technical precision was no longer a differentiator. Silicon Valley’s culture of 'move fast and break things' meant business leaders were less concerned with reliability and more focused on game-changing discoveries."

  • This is one of the most popular stories published on Quartz recently. Read Oliver Staley's ode to 99.99966% perfection.

    I think the software equivalent would be the "Five Nines" - the standard that a program should work 99.999% of the time.

  • Growing up, I heard stories about Six Sigma from my mother, who worked as a corporate manager for a Fortune 100 company for three decades. (She was a black belt, I believe.) I never actually knew what it was, though—this is a brilliant piece explaining the system and how it rose and fell.

  • Why is this so difficult to understand?

    Operational excellence requires defect reduction; like someone says in the article, knowing that planes go through a rigorous process to reduce defects is comforting. This includes defect reduction in software as well as in the overall user experience, both increasingly

    Why is this so difficult to understand?

    Operational excellence requires defect reduction; like someone says in the article, knowing that planes go through a rigorous process to reduce defects is comforting. This includes defect reduction in software as well as in the overall user experience, both increasingly difficult to tackle. A scientific methodology to measure and reduce errors is crucial for operational excellence.

    Innovation must not be brought under this methodology, however. Risk averse behavior fits really well under operations but innovation requires the opposite until a viable product has been identified.

    Rigid, rule-based managers who don't understand the spirit of the process codify nonsense and create useless certifications. That's inexcusable and needs to change.

  • Six Sigma was a cult practiced by lazy managers who would rather yield responsibility and accountability to a process instead of taking hands on control of their businesses. It's easy to argue that GE was successful despite of Six Sigma no because of Six Sigma.

    I remember working for a company where

    Six Sigma was a cult practiced by lazy managers who would rather yield responsibility and accountability to a process instead of taking hands on control of their businesses. It's easy to argue that GE was successful despite of Six Sigma no because of Six Sigma.

    I remember working for a company where for a brief second I was impressed to hear how Six Sigma produced $90M in savings in the first 2 years of implementation. My awe dissapeared when the CFO let slip in a meeting that the cost to implement and operate Six Sigma globally was nearly $300M.

  • This just threw a perfect reminder on why corporates struggle to adopt any kind of innovative thinking, they’ve been rewarding efficiency for a long time.

  • Six Sigma is no longer getting the headlines as “innovation getting more important than efficiency”. It is more about asking the right questions than providing precise answers now.

  • From best practice to standard practice to dogma...

  • Sigma 6 is an expensive dream. It does not meet the needs of profitability and certainty does not minimize costs

    Applied to all products it is inefficient. The problem now with Sigma 6 being ignored is that the statistically acceptable failure rates are ignored in a quest to minimize cost.

  • Six sigma got lost is because it was over done and overhyped. I saved a company 1.3 million. I could have reported as double. Since it was a fix in the process so it was an avoidance and a prevention. With over stated savings and many over hyped stories people stopped believing in it

  • Love this: “Six Sigma’s decline was also a symptom of a broader change in the corporate world, where innovation became more valued than efficiency, and technical precision was no longer a differentiator. Silicon Valley’s culture of “move fast and break things” meant business leaders were less concerned

    Love this: “Six Sigma’s decline was also a symptom of a broader change in the corporate world, where innovation became more valued than efficiency, and technical precision was no longer a differentiator. Silicon Valley’s culture of “move fast and break things” meant business leaders were less concerned with reliability and more focused on game-changing discoveries. An obsession with efficiency, researchers have discovered (pdf), can come at the expense of invention.”

  • 9’Ioc0