We know we don’t have to give a definition of the Six Sigma methodology as we have talked about this topic in many previous posts. Anyway, as a small definition, Six Sigma methodology is a way of tackling problems by focusing on data to eliminate as many defects as possible. It is also a set of tools that help organizations reduce the probability of error.
This methodology is commonly related to General Electric (GE), but it was actually developed by Motorola. GE was the one to set the precedent of this methodology and soon many manufacturing companies followed seeing amazing results and a few others saw that this methodology was just not for them.
Following these set of ideas, we are going to take a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages the Six Sigma methodology application has for organizations.
Six Sigma Advantages
The first and most important advantage is that Six Sigma focus completely on the customer. Within Six Sigma the defect ratio is 3.4 defects per one million products or service processes. Six Sigma goes beyond the simple error and takes a close look at the entire process behind the product or service and not only the results and the complaints that customers have. So we can say that the advantage is that Six Sigma is proactive and not reactive, and it looks at how improvements can be made even before faults are found either by customers or others parts of the process.
Furthermore, for Small Businesses, the advantages of having a Six Sigma quality certification will make them stand out among competitors within the industry. For customers of B2B businesses, it is important to know that there is a standard for manufacturing their products and Six Sigma is one of those warranties for businesses. It is even important to know that even though the business is small there is somebody that has been trained in Six Sigma and in the proactivity philosophy and the customer satisfaction approach.
Other advantages are that Six Sigma can be implemented in many categories within a business and this will impact directly on profitability and reduction in costs; that the methodology focuses on improving every part of the process and not the final outcome and that for Six Sigma the prevention of defects is far more important than waiting for them to appear to fix them.
Of course, we have heard a lot about the good things about Six Sigma, but what are the disadvantages of this methodology? Let’s take a look.
Six Sigma Disadvantages
It is difficult to imagine that a methodology created to improve can actually bring problems to an organization. The first drawback is that Six Sigma can create amazing bureaucracy and rigidity because the methodology covers all the process of the company and this, in turn, leads to delays and problems in creativity. Furthermore, when Six Sigma is taken to the extreme problems can arise because companies tend to favor policies that follow the Six Sigma methodologies and forget about policies or approaches that can only apply to their company. So, for example, a company can prefer to follow the Six Sigma methodology and apply a very expensive measure rather than trying a very inexpensive measure that evidently is needed in the business.
For small businesses, one of the biggest disadvantages is that applying Six Sigma can be very expensive to implement. The main cause of this cost is training. Companies have to find certified Six Sigma institutes to get their training or do their training in-house without formal certification. Either way, the cost for small business is too high and a lot of training is needed to really get the grasp of the system and to apply it to each and every process.
Another disadvantage is that Six Sigma really focuses on a strict and rigid process to follow and that goes against the new trends that favor creativity and innovation because the innovative approach focuses on redundancy, unusual solutions, and deviations in production, and all these things clearly go against the Six Sigma principles.
Another disadvantage is that people are not trusting Six Sigma as a methodology in itself anymore. They are saying that this methodology is just a continuation of the continued improvement techniques that were applied in Toyota and companies are shifting to other approaches or strategies that require outsourcing of projects that bring big problems with accountability. With this in mind, it is clear that Six Sigma also requires many trained staff that needs to be motivated in time and well trained for long periods.
So Six Sigma has been an approach that has been around for quite a time now. It has been useful for some companies and for others it just does not apply. It is now being challenged by new innovative approaches but it still remains a good way to improve processes.
Be sure to also read this post about TRIZ: enhancing the Six Sigma methodology
* Featured Image courtesy of mjtmail (tiggy) at Flickr.com