Sunday, September 7, 2014

Six Sigma Failures: what happened?

In this blog submission I wanted to gather information about cases of companies that failed to implement Six Sigma. The reason why I chose this topic was a contentious article which described a study comparing the stock performance of companies that adopted Six Sigma [1].
        The first article I came across with described how Six Sigma killed innovation in 3M [2]. The main reason given by the author of this article is that the rigidity of the Six Sigma process inhibited the creative process of the company. However, the video posted in the same article gives a better explanation why this really happened. As explained by Geoff Nicholson, 3M ambassador & former VP tech-ops, applying Six Sigma at an initial stage is not an appropriate; this tool was originally designed for manufacturing processes already established that are scaling-up.
          Another company that failed to implement Six Sigma was Home Depot. In this case, the reason why Six Sigma failed was that it “…negatively affected worker morale and consumer sentiment” [3]. In other words, this tool was not compatible with the organization values at the company which is characterized by “…its great fuzzy-front-end, pro-consumer culture” [4].
         The last case I would like to talk about is Motorola. Although the company was one of the early adopters of Six Sigma [5], some authors attribute the plummet of the company to this methodology as it failed to provide an agile and flexible process to remain globally competitive [6]. In my opinion, the failure of the company was caused by the misuse –rather than the use- of this methodology.
         As mentioned in How to Compare Six Sigma, Lean, and the Theory of Constraints [7], applying Six Sigma might not always be the best solution for process improvement. A company might not have a cultural organization compatible with this methodology -as shown in the Home Depot case- or the particular situation of a company requires a different approach to find success. However, Six Sigma can be a reliable method for process improvement if applied correctly.

[1]N.A. (February 26th, 2010), Debunking Dubious Statistics from a Six Sigma Critic, Six Sigma Webpage. Retrieved from: (Accessed 9/7/2014)
[2] Ryan Huang (March 14th, 2013), Six Sigma ‘killed’ innovation in 3M, ZDNet webpage. Retrieved from: (Accessed 9/7/2014)
[3] Cristopher Del Angel, Joe Froelich (November 2008), Six Sigma: What Went Wrong?, DestinationCRM webpage. Retrieved from: (Accessed 9/7/2014)
[4] Bruce Nussbaum (January 4th, 2007), Lessons From Home Depot’s Bob Nardelli—Why Command And Control Is So Bad, Bloomberg Businessweek webpage. Retrieved from: 9/7/2014)
[5] John S. Ramberg (n.d.) Six Sigma: Fad or Fundamental?, Quality Digest webpage.  Retrieved from: (Accessed 9/7/2014)
[6]  H. James Harrington and Thomas McNellis (n.d.) Mobilizing the Right Lean Metrics for Success, Quality Digest webpage. 

[7] How to Compare Six Sigma, Lean, and the Theory of Constraints (Nave, Quality Progress (, March 2002); Available at: ASQStoryonQualitySigmaAndLean.pdf (Accessed 9/7/2014)

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