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Quality Remix: Six Problems I have with Six Sigma, Part III

February 15, 2010
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I have big problems with the Six Sigma approach, and would not recommend it to anyone. Let me tell you the 3rd and 4th problems I have with Six Sigma in Part III of this blog.

Problem three, Training

It’s my understanding that training a black belt-or other belts-is an expensive proposition. I don’t know exactly what it costs, but a few years ago the black belt guru wrote a piece about how reasonable it was to spend $30,000/per belt. I’m told much of the training has to do with the problem-solving method. That’s fine, but if you are spending your time solving problems, you have already failed. You’re not preventing defects, you’re managing defects. The idea of quality management is to prevent defects, not find them and fix them. It might be a better idea to spend that money on training people to do their work right.

A person whose job it is to solve problems that belong to someone else will soon become the owner of all the problems; a trap many good-hearted quality managers fall into. If the quality person jumps in like Mighty Mouse and takes on a problem to save the day, the rightful owner gets off free. If a product is properly designed and the right production process is set up, it’s only necessary to train the operator on his or her role in the process.



Problem four, Who Needs a Belt?

Six Sigma requires that you have “belt people” to do the Six Sigma work. There could be Green belts, Black belts, even Master Black belts. I find that is kind of silly. Like all employees, belt people cost money; they add to overhead. In fact, they are overhead. These people are staff-they don’t produce the product. A competent quality engineer knows all the quality techniques such as SPC, gage R&R, calibration control, data analysis, statistical process control and so on. So who needs a black belt? Is it the problem-solving technique? As I said, if you spend your time solving problems, the game is over-you lost.

I might add that in Six Sigma, the people who actually do the work-the workers-seem to be ignored. Workers should be given the opportunity to identify and report problems they have in their workplace. Who knows better then them? I don’t see where Six Sigma provides that opportunity.


To see Part’s I and II of this blog, Click here and here. To read part IV, Click here.
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