How Will Continuous Improvement Work With Six Sigma?

Many companies all over the world have taken on Six Sigma as a way to maintain a high level of perfection and strive towards obtaining high quality procedures and products. Through data and different methodologies that promote discipline they have managed to eliminate defects in all procedures. While this has been a successful method for many companies, some have seen where it falls short, and how their innovative advantage on other companies has been reduced as the years pass. The benefits to using six sigma have spread wide and far, but not everyone is convinced. Companies from many manufacturing to transactional and even products or services have used, so first it’s important to take a look at the companies that it has worked for.

Traditionally famous Six Sigma successful companies like Motorola, which first applied it in 1986, found that it saved them more 18 million dollar and has improved their products. General Electric increased their market value all the way up to 280 million dollars in 1998. They implement training sessions on Six Sigma and it was evident later on when the results started to shine. Toshiba, besides implementing Six Sigma, also focused all of their attention on customer satisfaction and employees. NASA adapted their technology to suit their needs and this has lead them to lead over 200 successful projects. Like these, there are many others which you can read more about on the David Kiger’s Blog. These companies are not necessarily still one hundred percent on board with Six Sigma.

So, even though for all of these companies Six Sigma has worked out just fine, some companies have overlooked the fact that companies besides keeping track of the data and the perfecting their processes, should not turn a blind eye to innovation and continuous improvement. Six Sigma can never be considered replacements for quality systems that can make them more effective when integrated within your company’s procedures.

Motorola and GE in the past few years has come upon some struggles to be innovative thought leaders in the market, but all of their investment had been geared towards continuous improvement. They soon realized that they had to now turn their sights over to increasing the flow of innovation and the only way to do this is loosen the reigns on the discipline required to obtain total quality management. There are different ways to go about this change and here are just some suggestions to get you started on your path towards finding the right balance for your organization.

Image courtesy of Kaboompics // Karolina at

First of all, you need to realize that understanding how and where to include continuous improvement will vary and has to be customized to your organization. Every company will need to figure out what the right mix is for the continuous improvement and constant innovation. There is a need to ensure that there is the perfect balance between discipline and creativity, and in each company this will be different. Once, you’ve been able to figure out this balance, it will be necessary to analyze all of the processes your organization has and determine with they can be improved, need to be eliminated altogether or need to be disrupted. Sometimes companies can focus too much of their attention to innovating and forget to look at what’s being done. Many times inefficient procedures are overlooked and it is assumed that if it’s already in place it’s working, which may not always be the case. Throughout this whole process you will need to consistently assess the impact of the decisions that are being made on the company culture.

There is no need to choose between the two, which most companies may feel the need to do. Unfortunately, there may come a time in your company where you think there is the need to choose between innovation and creativity, and disciplined and productive. Traditional metrics can only get your organization so far, but the same could be said for continuous improvement. Your organization must become aware of what is required of it to be successful and each organization will need to make decisions when the time comes. Despite, a lot of the hype behind Six Sigma and other similar methods, a company must analyze and measure the company’s health before deciding on what could potentially go either way. It has been proven that Six Sigma is not for every organization and that finding ways to integrate constant development and productivity with disruptive creativity. At the end of the day, it will be vital to prepare your company’s culture to face the challenges ahead, and understand whatever decisions are made. Communication will be key to getting everyone on board and to ensuring that whatever decision or combination of creativity and Six Sigma is understood and implemented by everyone at every level of the organization.


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