Question on softwaredioxide.com about Six-Sigma and other Quality Methods

My reply:

To me, six-sigma is a good method to trick people into using statistics in their every day work. Actually, the Deming/Juran stuff is explained in a practical way.

Even if they read Deming, Crosby and Juran, most people don't start using the advice, they just keep working the way they always did: working on intuition, only using the D (do), and more-or-less the P (plan) parts of the PDCA/Deming cycle. The C (check) and A (act) parts are hardly really done. [added 12 Jan 2011: We call this the intuitive cycle: Pl-Do-Pl-Do. We cannot really call it Plan, therefore we call it only Pl. See picture right.]

All the philosophers and religions of the world have shown us "better" ways of doing things. And even without these philosophers and religions, inside, most people know the "better" ways. But if nobody is watching, we tend to take shortcuts. When Lawrence Day of Boeing was in my audience, he immediately could tell me that this problem is explained in the Bible (Romans 7:19): Even if I want to do good, I don't. It's known for thousands of years. It is part of human psychology, it's in our genes. However, if someone is watching us (God, boss, QA, police, customer, colleague, friend, wife, kid, neighbour, passer-by), it's easier to do it the "better" way.

Please don't get stuck in all those descriptions of Quality Methods. The methods are not the problem. They are known and easily to get at. The main problem is Discipline. That is what we really have to work on. And I don't mean the discipline that a boss asks from his workers. I mean the internal discipline of every individual. If you really want to get results, you have to find ways how to make people follow the discipline themselves.

Six-sigma is one of those ways. However, currently it seems to have been picked up as a buzzword. Especially in the after-CMM era, because 6-sigma may have a perception to be a next step after CMM-5. I think that it is good to study six-sigma and the other QA stuff, but the main part is in how to make people do all these things with profitable result. This includes managers: many managers tend to think that all methods are only for their workers.

Never forget that the goal of all methods should only be to deliver better products in shorter time. I call that Quality On Time. Many methods seem to be only a goal in itself. I disagree. To me only the results in profitable products count. If you can use methods to enhance those results, OK. If you cannot convince yourself (and thus others) that your methods enhance the results, you should doubt the methods. That is why, as a consultant, I keep checking with my customers whether the investment in employing me has a significant larger return than the investment. If I am not significantly causing more profits than I cost, I should immediately stop. Fortunately, the methods I teach are causing so quickly so much more profit that this is hardly ever a problem.

A note about the profitability: this is not just the money-wise profitability for the shareholders, it is the total of results in well-being for all involved (workers, managers, customers, environment: ALL stakeholders).

You can find the way I use methods that really work in practice, within a few weeks, in my booklets on Evolutionary Development Methods. I teach and coach these methods all over the world.

Niels Malotaux
12 May 2002 (small changes and additions 10 Sep 2002, small change 10 Jan 2008, small addition: 12 feb 2011)