Six Sigma has always been a thorn in my side.  While I recognize the obvious success cases in its implementation, I have hesitated to wholly endorse it.  This entry in the Harvard Business Review by Tom Davenport really illustrates my misgivings.

Davenport emphasizes the fact that no one solution is really right for an organization; instead, it could be a useful tool among many.  “So what’s the best alternative to Six Sigma for process improvement? Well, there really is no one alternative that’s best for all processes and circumstances. Companies really need a combination of tools and approaches. The best companies in process management already have such a combination,” he writes.

Consider also that, in my opinion, Six Sigma misses the mark on valuing personnel. Because it’s so wrapped up in statistical reporting, it doesn’t delve into some of the human performance concerns that crop up in any improvement initiative.   An excellent comment by David reports, “Problems that had previously been successfully and quickly resolved by creative, empowered, informed, problem-solvers (engineers, quality technicians, supervisors, customer service reps, etc.)now take weeks or months to complete, as each problem is diligently logged into some nifty six sigma tracking database, assigned a project number, and dies a slow death under a crush of committees, forms, spreadsheets, approvals, meetings, and reports.”

Sound like a nightmare out of Office Space?