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1.6 What Is New about Six Sigma Management?

Many people think that Six Sigma management is an "old wine in a new bottle." This notion is both false and true. It is false for several reasons. First, it is false because Six Sigma projects are far more structured and formatted than projects in most previous Quality Management processes. Second, it is false because Six Sigma management provides metrics for discussing the quality of processes that can transcend ownership of the processes (i.e., finance, human resources, engineering, and service processes can be compared). It creates "apples to apples" metrics for understanding process improvements. Other Quality Management approaches do not have such metrics. Third, it is false because Six Sigma is very focused on impacting the bottom line or top line of an organization, and it has a specific method for accomplishing this objective. Most other Quality Management approaches do not have such a clear financial focus. The cost of poor quality and other similar concepts have been investigated by the quality profession, but they have not been well utilized outside the quality profession until Six Sigma management. Fourth, it is false because Six Sigma is focused on ongoing rapid improvement of the enterprise. Most other Quality Management processes are focused on incremental continuous improvement, whereas Six Sigma demands breakthrough improvement. Fifth, it is false because past Quality Management efforts were initially spurred on by quality professionals, consultants, or academics, while Six Sigma is being promoted by executive managers such as George Fisher (Motorola) and Jack Welch and Jeffrey Immelt (General Electric). Finally, it is false because Six Sigma is facilitated by an infrastructure of Six Sigma experts overlaying the current organizational structure. Other Quality Management approaches use supervisors, managers, or workers to facilitate teams. Expert facilitation of teams is a big step forward in rapid process improvement that impacts the bottom line of an organization.

On the other hand, it is true that Six Sigma management is an "old wine in a new bottle" because most of the tools, methods, and theories were borrowed from the Quality Management predecessors of "Six Sigma." The authors believe that Six Sigma is more an example of evolutionary management than revolutionary management. The founders of Six Sigma management stood on the shoulders of the giants who preceded them in the quality movement, such as W. Edwards Deming, Joseph Juran, and Kaoru Ishikawa.

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