The Origins of Six Sigma*

Author: John Forsberg

The broad use of the words “Six Sigma” today means many things and it has evolved from its beginnings into a Quality Management System. “Six Sigma” Systems have also been combined with “Lean” Systems, based on the Toyota Production System, as well as the “Theory of Constraints”. Each has their thinking approach, followers, advantages, tools and techniques.

The thoughts and ideas that led to Six Sigma and Design for Six Sigma (DFSS) were actually to address issues of product reliability, not quality. The Originator and Father of “Six Sigma”, Bill Smith (1929 – 1993) first shared notes discussing the reliability of products in two internal to Motorola papers in 1984. The first, from mid 1984, really notes copied and distributed, was called “Early Life Failures in Electronic Equipment”. The second was “Reliability Predictions and Customer Perceptions” dated September 4, 1984. Bill stated, “We are trying to improve the overall Reliability. Units would go through environmental testing in repeated loops of 5 to induce failures. Many failures matched what was going on in the field. Most were Early Life Failures due to latent defects.” The Latent Defects/Unit was proportional to the defects created in components and in product manufacturing.

Within the next year, Bill had convinced Bob Galvin, then the CEO of Motorola, that we had to improve our products and needed new ideas, and he had some. Also in 1985, Bill Smith coins the term “Six Sigma” to describe an expected level of design margin and product quality. It was known by Bill and others that the rolled yields on products, or the number of products going through the entire manufacturing process defect free, were lower (less products defect free) than similar complexity Japanese products observed in factories near Chicago. This was a competitive threat that was clearly recognized. Bill’s concepts were incorporated into existing Motorola new product testing programs and were detailed in a paper by Ken Enger on February 27, 1986 called “Defects per Unit Relationship to Product Performance Reports and Warranty”.

In 1986, Bill, Ken, and Dr. Mikel Harry helped create a course and book called “Design for Manufacturability” intended for Product Designers, Process Designers, Quality Control, Marketing, Manufacturing, Sourcing, and generally all the support people who participated in New Product launches. This course was widely participated in and was rolled out to all business units within Motorola. The concepts of developing more robust products that could function with “wider tolerances” and in parallel, developing processes that had narrower “Variation” and the resulting lower defects per unit counts, led to the first widespread use of the terms “Six Sigma” and “Six Sigma” capability

Finally, Mikel Harry clearly defined “Six Sigma” in a chapter of his book, “Achieving Quality Excellence: Strategy, Tactics, and Tools” (1986) and the internal Motorola booklet titled “The Nature of Six Sigma Quality” (1986). Mikel explained what Six Sigma Quality is, how to relate capability to sigma level and process yield, and laid the foundation for the strategies and tactics on achieving “Six Sigma”. From these original documents of Bill, Ken, and Mikel, a clear picture is obtained of how “Six Sigma” was invented, defined, and rolled out to a larger organization.

The concepts from these Original sources have been used to document, for historical purposes, the origins and initial concepts of Six Sigma. In some situations, the original text and examples have been simplified, paraphrased, and grammar corrected. It is also to share with people the fact that the initial first thoughts that led to the creation of “Six Sigma” were a result of Bill Smith’s focus was on Early Life Product Reliability. This focus then led to an effort to reduce defects per unit which led to the use of defects per million opportunities to compare products of various complexities.

Efforts from this point on were to develop and communicate a six sigma framework to help utilize common measures and to reduce defects per unit by process and by product systematically with the goal of 10 times improvement over a period of time. Many quality improvement tools and methodologies already existed, but the framework of Six Sigma provided a system to quantify and compare internal and competitive products.

Examples of the initial applications of these initial Six Sigma methods are also included in section 2. To determine defect rates on critical characteristics where specification limits were well beyond a value of +/- 3 sigma, additional Z tables to determine areas under the normal curve had to be developed out to +/- 6 sigma using spreadsheet software. Almost all popular books on Statistical Process Control at the time typically had Z values only out to 3 or 3.5 sigma.

* This blog entry was prepared by John Forsberg.  His book is published at:



Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

How to Make a Bell Graph in Excel | eHow

How to Make a Bell Graph in Excel | eHow.

Posted in Six Sigma (General) | Leave a comment

How to Use Excel to Create a Bell Curve (with Pictures) | eHow

How to Use Excel to Create a Bell Curve (with Pictures) | eHow.

Posted in Six Sigma (General) | Leave a comment

Profound Implications of Minimum Variance Control

Author:  Pradeep B. Deshpande

Professor Emeritus of Chemical Engineering, University of Louisville, Visiting Professor of Management, Gatton College of Business & Economics, University of Kentucky, and President and CEO, Six Sigma and Advanced Controls, Inc.,

In control engineering, minimum variance refers to the state where the output of interest is influenced solely by uncontrollable/unknown random causes. In such a state the output response exhibits a zero mean in the deviation sense meaning that the response is at the desired steady state on average and its variance is constant with time. The control technology to achieve this state is Minimum Variance Control (MVC). MVC is a theoretical standard, better control cannot be achieved with any control law. Attempt to achieve minimum variance is fraught with problems. The control system becomes extremely sensitive to modeling errors, stability becomes a serious issue, and the cost of control escalates.

The various control laws in use today are all designed to keep the control system a safe distance away from the theoretical standard delivering a good compromise between stability, quality of dynamic response, and the cost of control. One among them is the process industry-standard Constrained Model Predictive Control (CMPC) strategy. A block diagram of the MVC scheme drawn in the form of an Internal Model Control (IMC) structure is depicted in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Minimum Variance Control for Servo Applications

The IMC structure is entirely consistent with the traditional feedback control structure control engineers are familiar with it. There are many textbooks on control and optimization of dynamic processes, one by the author is listed under Further Reading at the end of the chapter (Deshpande and Tantalean, 2015).

These ideas carry over to all repetitive human activities. The outcomes of interest in these processes too are influenced by uncontrollable/unknown random causes which statisticians refer to as common causes (unmeasurable disturbances in control jargon), measurement errors (accuracy, stability, linearity, repeatability, and reproducibility issues), and nonrandom causes that can be discovered (manipulated variables in control jargon).

The goal here is to minimize measurement errors and identify the discoverable nonrandom causes (assignable causes) with a disciplined, data-driven methodology and set them at the optimal values so that the outcome moves towards the natural state where it is influenced solely by common causes. Mikel Harry and the Late Bill Smith developed a five-phase, eleven-step methodology at Motorola in the late seventies and early eighties to return the outcomes of repetitive static manufacturing and transactions processes to their natural state and called it six sigma. By now over 40% of US corporations and a large number of corporations overseas have embraced six sigma programs for improving quality, reducing costs, and optimizing cycle times.

These objectives are not unfamiliar to control engineers. Transactional processes are abundant in manufacturing companies too where control engineers work. A great opportunity for control engineers is to examine all the transactional processes at work to assess if they are in the state of minimum variance. Figure 2 diagrammatically illustrates these ideas.

Figure 2Figure 2. Returning the Outcome to its Natural State

The diagram [Figure 2] applies to both static manufacturing and transactional applications. In process industries, the technology to achieve the desired state safely close to minimum variance is constrained model predictive control while in static manufacturing and transactional applications it is six sigma.

Six sigma and constrained model predictive control strategies are for achieving close to perfection in manufacturing and repetitive human processes. They constitute what the author refers to as the Scientific Framework for External Excellence. For several decades the author has been working on what he is referring to as the Scientific Framework for the Excellence of the Internal. If internal excellence had no bearing on external excellence, then this article has no place in control engineering literature and control professionals should have no interest in it.

Each of the 6 ½ billion of us humans have three components of the mindset S, R, and T that defines who we are. The two emotions, positive emotions and negative emotions, are in turn related to the three components. Positive emotions strongly and positively correlate with the S component while negative emotions strongly and positively correlate with the R and T components. The specific proportion of these components determines the level of internal excellence of an individual. These ideas are depicted in Figure 3.

Figure 3Figure 3. Level of Internal Excellence Explained

The noble ones among us are towards the top of the scale while the wicked ones are towards the bottom and the rest of us somewhere in between. So, how does one know where an individual is on the scale of internal excellence? If an individual possesses the capacity to remain centered in the face of the most challenging situations that are part of life, then he or she is doing well. If on the other hand, the internal condition goes haywire and remains disturbed for a long time, then that is not good.

For example, if you stub your toe, or if someone cuts into your lane nearly causing an accident, what is your instant (reflux) reaction? If it is strong negative emotion that lingers on, then there is much progress to make. The lifelong objective of every individual should be to rise on this scale of internal excellence. The level of internal excellence is not static. It varies with time and the lower the level of internal excellence, the bigger the fluctuations. In the seminars the author has presented in several countries, no one has raised their hand wanting to go in the downward direction.

The link between external excellence and internal excellence is this. In the absence of an adequate level of internal excellence, external excellence programs such as six sigma or any other quality initiative will give suboptimal results. In other words, the state of minimum variance in Figure 2 is really not the true minimum variance state meaning that further improvement in performance is possible through internal excellence.  Figure 4 illustrates these ideas.

Figure 4Figure 4. Internal Excellence Boosts Performance

The precise mechanics of how rising levels on internal excellence improves performance is not well understood. It is easier to see this working in transactional applications but the reader could ask a perfectly reasonable question: How can rising levels of internal excellence possibly improve performance in a manufacturing environment? The answer is, the folks in manufacturing work for say eight hours day and how they lead their lives for the remainder of their 24-hour day has a bearing on their performance at work. It is possible to verify these claims with a six sigma project. The author has recently published a book on the scientific framework for internal excellence with a theoretical physicist turned medical doctor (Deshpande and Kowall, 2015).

There are two approaches to raising the level of internal excellence, a conscious approach and meditation which materializes the desired changes autonomically. Again, the mechanics of how exactly meditation brings about the positive changes in ourselves is not well understood although scientists have made progress in recent years.

Several US corporations have shown that embracing internal excellence programs delivers exemplary business performance (Cava, 2015, Gelles, 2015, Pinsker, 2015). Additionally, prestigious science publications such as Nature, Science, Proc. National Academy of Sciences-US, etc., (Adami, 2013, Condon, 2013, Bhasin, et al., 2013, Blackburn, 2012, Epel, et, al., 2004, Hagelin, 1999, Lutz, et al, 2004, Orme-Johnson, 1998, Wallace, 1970), business publications such as Forbes (Boyers, 2013), Time (Urist, 2014), and New York Times (Gelles, 2015), and medical publications such as JAMA (Goyal, 2014, Paul-Labrador, et al., 2006) and Neurology Now (Paturel 2012) have carried full-length articles on meditation and its benefits ranging from improvements in health and wellness, to exemplary performance, to better leadership decisions and interpersonal relationships, to less discord and violence.

Figure 5 [see below] depicts meditation as an IMC strategy. The controlled variable in Figure 5 must be measurable and reflect the autonomic state inaccessible to conscious adjustment. Some measurements which meet these constraints are heart rate and heart rate variability, respiration rate, and Gamma waves in the brain. Control engineers may find the control system rather strange in that the process and the controller are one and the same. This dilemma had led Max Planck to remark, ‘This problem is difficult because we are a part of the problem we are trying to solve’.

Figure 5Figure 5. Meditation in IMC Structure

Figure 6 [see below] depicts the heart rate variability of a subject under the influence of negative emotions (top) and positive emotions (bottom). If the controlled variable in Figure 5 is taken to be HRV then the target is to move towards positive emotional state as in the lower figure in Figure 6.

Figure 6Figure 6. Influence of Positive and Negative Emotionson Heart Rate Variability (Source, IHM (McCraty, 2001)

As additional evidence, Elizabeth Blackburn has shown that high levels of stress cause the length of our telomeres to dwindle and the telomerase enzyme levels in the cells to fall leading to accelerated aging. For this work she received the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in 2009. Cardiologists know well that negative emotions are a huge contributing factor for high levels of stress and AMA says that stress is a major contributing factor for 80% of all diseases. Blackburn has also shown that more than diet, exercises, and family support, meditation is the most effective intervention for restoring the length of telomeres potentially slowing aging (Blackburn, 2012, Epel, et al., 2004).

Finally, minimum variance can play a critical role to make this a better and more peaceful world. Take a group of people gathered in a hall for example. If these folks are hooked up to monitors, it will be found that their heart rates are varying. If these individuals were to begin a collective activity such as meditation, chanting, or prayer, their heart rates will be seen to synchronize in short order. Not only that, if the size of the group is sufficiently large, then the group activity has a positive influence on the people who are not even participating. This is what renowned quantum physicist and three-time presidential nominee, John Hagelin showed in 1993. He conducted an auditable experiment involving 4,000 participants meditating over eight weeks showing that the crime rate in the entire Washington DC area came down significantly. These claims too can be verified again with additional experimentation.

Swedish medical researchers have provided additional evidence (Vickhoff, et al., 2013). Figure 7 [see below] depicts the heart rate variability, heart rates, and respiration rates of five participants who were singing choir music, humming, or chanting a mantra. The HRV of participants is seen to increase during the practices while the respiration rates and heart rates of participants may be seen to be synchronizing. In other words, the variation of the variance of heart rates and respiration rates has diminished.

Figure 7

Figure 7. HRV of 5 Participants (Left) increased and their Heart Rates and Respirations Rates (Right) Synchronize

The YouTube video at the link listed under Further Reading provides additional visual information.


Control engineering and six sigma are systemic approaches meaning that they are based solely on the analysis of input-output data. Fundamental approaches to problem solving should always be preferred but when sufficiently detailed knowledge of the system under scrutiny is unavailable, systemic approaches are used. Such is the case with modern manufacturing and transactional processes. It is also the case with human systems.

Control engineers and six sigma professionals are best equipped to understand the concepts presented in this paper and take advantage of them. They understand that uncontrollable/unknown causes introduce an unexplained variation in the outcomes of all processes. Science on the other hand demands that the results of every experiment are repeatable and reproducible no matter who does the experiment, where, when, or how many times and that is the way it should be. Each of the 6 ½ billion of us is a multivariable, nonlinear, self-regulated, and evolving (meaning that we will never be what we are today) entity with a unique common cause variability that we inherit from our ancestors and how we live from birth to the present age. Therefore, experiments involving internal excellence produce outcomes that have inherent variability. Nikola Tesla is reported to have remarked, The day science begins to study non-physical phenomena, it will make more progress in one decade than in all the previous centuries of its existence. What is required for progress is an openness of mind and a willingness try new and nontraditional approaches.

Eminent scientists and world leaders have issued a warning urging people across the world that there is an urgent need for change if the human race is to survive and thrive (Deshpande, online blog, 2015). The framework for internal and external excellence is the pathway to meet this challenge.


The author thanks Vasant B. Waikar, Professor Emeritus of Statistics, Miami University for his review and comments on the article. Upon seeing the diagram, Figure 4, Mikel Harry, Co-Creator of Six Sigma, National Best Selling Author, and Consultant to the World’s Top Executives remarked, Pradeep – Very, very basic and to the point. Technically correct.  I assume the graphic is associated with a larger body of information.  Nonetheless, standing on its own merits, it’s a nice description that virtually everyone can understand.  Great work and I love your thorough documentation of the underpinning sources of information – very professional. The author also thanks his former doctoral scholars who have taken the time to review and comment on the article. The author always thanks his Guruji Gurumahan Paranjothiar for his blessings and inspiration.

To Conclude

A new perspective on the importance of minimum variance control has been presented. No matter what the process is, static or dynamic, linear or nonlinear, manufacturing or transactional or it involves a group of individuals, a technology around the notion of minimum variance can be configured which can take the system toward perfection. These concepts present a unique opportunity to control engineers to improve their health & wellness, performance in all walks of life, and make them better leaders and human beings. They also present corporate leaders with a new opportunity to improve their corporate performance. Taken together the scientific framework for external and internal excellence can make this a better and more peaceful world.

Further Reading

Scientific Framework of External Excellence

  • Deshpande, Pradeep B. and Tantalean, Roberto Z., Process Control and Optimization, Six Sigma and Advanced Controls, Inc., August 2015 (will be available on amazon).
  • Deshpande, P. B., Six Sigma for Karma Capitalism, Six Sigma and Advanced Controls, Inc., 2015 (Available on amazon).
  • Harry, J. Mikel and Lawson, J. R., Six Sigma Productivity Analysis and Process Characterization, Motorola Press, 1992.

Scientific Framework of Internal Excellence

  • Deshpande, Pradeep B. and Kowall, James P., The Nature of Ultimate Reality and How it can Transform our World: Evidence from Modern Physics; Wisdom of YODA, Six Sigma and Advanced Controls, Inc., January 2015 (Available from amazon).
  • Deshpande, P., Audacity of Tolerance, Online Blog (, 2015.
  • Kulkarni, B. D. and Deshpande, P. B., Brahma Uncertainty Principle, Journal of Consciousness Explorations and Research 3, 2, February 2012.

Science of the Heart

  • McCraty, R., Atkinson, M., and Tomasino, D., Science of the Heart, HeartMath Research Center, Publication No. 01-001, Institute for HeartMath, Boulder Creek, CA 2001.
  • Vickhoff, Bjorn, et al., Music Structure Determines Heart Rate Variability of Singers, Frontiers, July 14, 2013.
  • Vickhoff, Bjorn, et a., YouTube Video, Music Synchronizes Heart Rates, University of Gothenburg, Sweden, 2013

Meditation in Science Publications

  • Adami, C. and Hintze, A., Selfish Traits Not Supported by Evolution, Nature Communications, August 1, 2013.
  • Bhasin, Manoj K., et al., Relaxation Response Induces Temporal Trasncriptome Changes in Energy Metabolism, Insulin Secretion, and Inflammatory Pathways, PLOS One, 8, 5, May 2013. pp. 1 – 13.
  • Blackburn, Elizabeth and Epel, Elissa, Telomere and Adversity – Too Toxic to Ignore, Nature, 490, 11 October 2012 pp. 169-171.
  • Condon, Paul, et al., Meditation Increases Compassionate Responses to Suffering, Psychological Science Online First, August 21, 2013. (Also see, DeSteno, David, The Morality of Meditation, Op Ed Column, NY Times, July 5, 2013.
  • Epel, Elissa, et al., Accelerated Telomere Shortening in Response to Life Stress, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 101, 49, December 2004. pp. 17312-17315.
  • Hagelin, John S., et al., Effects of Group Practice of the Transcendental Meditation Program on Preventing Violent Crime in Washington, DC: Results of the National Demonstration Project, June-July 1993, Social Indicators Research, 47, 2, 153-201, 1999.
  • Lutz, Antoine, et al., Long-Term Meditators self-induce high amplitude Gamma-Wave Synchrony during Mental Practice, Proc. Nat. Acad. Sciences, Nov. 16, 2004.
  • Orme-Johnson, David W., et al., The Effects of the Maharishi Technology of the United Field, Journal of Conflict Resolution, 32, 4, 1988.
  • Wallace, R. K., Physiological Effects of Transcendental Meditation, Science, Vol. 167, No. 3926, 1970.

Sampling of Meditation Articles in Medical Journals and Popular Media

Internal Excellence Programs Boosts Business Performance

  • Cava, Marco della, Benioff: USA Needs Compassionate Capitalism, USA Today, April 4, 2015
  • Gelles, David, At Aetna, a CEO’s Management by Mantra, The International New York Times, 27 February 2015.
  • Pinsker, Joe, Corporations’ Newest Productivity Hack: Meditation, The Atlantic, March 10, 2015.

Business Publications on Meditation

  • Boyers, J., Why Empathy is the Force that Moves a Business Forward, Forbes, May 30, 2013.
  • Fryer, Bronwyn, The Rise of Compassionate Management (Finally), HBR Blog Network, September 18, 2013.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Raising the Bar with MindPro Lean Six Sigma Training

Dr. Harry first revolutionized business with Six Sigma. Now he has revolutionized Six Sigma with MindPro.

MindPro Features


In the past, Lean Six Sigma Black Belt training was generally offered in a classroom environment, where individuals would need to be taken off the job for up to 160 hours of intensive training. Companies would lose valuable work time, incur large training expenses and the instructional content was often inconsistent because it was being taught by sixth and seventh generation trainers. The beauty of the ‘MindPro’ software, apart from its remarkable affordability, is that all the training is provided by the co-creator of ‘Six Sigma,’ Dr. Mikel Harry. Utilizing crisply shot five minute video clips in an OTES (over the expert’s shoulder) teaching method, the student receives all of the training from the person who designed the system.  Hence, the message is not only consistent but correct.


MindPro Delivery Options


Dr. Harry’s ‘MindPro’ learning system is so flexible that training can be done at home, after work, on weekends, in airports –on your computer, iPad or phone. Dr. Harry likes to say that with MindPro, “Lean Six Sigma training is on demand – anytime or anywhere.” In addition to offering the most comprehensive Lean Six Sigma curriculum on the market, the MindPro software contains a myriad of additional bonus support features including a three comprehensive statistical handbook that is aligned to the LSS Body of knowledge, full Power Point slide deck that summarizes the  training videos, online expert system with 4 databases of reference, interactive instructional simulations, statistical calculators and a digital training project, just to mention a few of the many features. Difficulties of past Lean Six Sigma training methods occurred because trainees were required to complete a project in which they apply the lessons learned to a practical application. Often times a project would either not be available to a student or the difficulty of the selected projects would vary so greatly that the playing field would not be equal for all. With MindPro those problems are solved.


SSMI Black Belt Certification

SSMI Black Belt Certification


Perhaps the coup de grace is that once MindPro users complete the selected training program, they can become “Lean Six Sigma Certified” by Dr. Harry’s own Six Sigma Management Institute, offering the industry’s most respected credential to anyone trained in Lean Six Sigma. The training curriculum and certification exams have been endorsed by Arizona State University, Society of Manufacturing Engineers, Korean Standards Association, as well as other notable organizations. “The current diversity of corporate and shareholder needs, increasing sophistication of the marketplace and explosive changes in information technology is defining a new era for Six Sigma. It’s a period of time in which the driving forces of Lean Six Sigma will converge on the fulfillment of societal needs, not just the resolution of traditional business issues” says Dr. Mikel J. Harry, Co-Creator of Six Sigma and National Best Selling Author.


Todd Eggers (MindPro Black Belt)


“The current diversity of corporate and shareholder needs, increasing sophistication of the marketplace and explosive changes in information technology is defining a new era for Lean Six Sigma. It’s a period of time in which the driving forces of Lean Six Sigma will converge on the fulfillment of societal needs, not just the resolution of traditional business issues” says Dr. Mikel J. Harry, President and Chairman of the Six Sigma Management Institute.

Since the mid 1980’s, Six Sigma has steadily evolved from a quality improvement method into a world-class system of business management. Over this period of time, it has clearly and decisively demonstrated its ability to deliver verifiable and sustainable bottom-line results. Moreover, in recent times, the performance expectation of Six Sigma has been driven beyond the boundaries of traditional business. This is evidenced, for example, by the migration of Six Sigma into national, state and local governments. Over the next decade, Six Sigma will be called upon to deliver many types of value-centric solutions for a wide array of humanitarian, environmental and business problems. Almost without saying, this new era will have a profound effect on your career and business, not to mention your personal life – even your social life.

Discover bold new directions for Lean Six Sigma and examine many of the new ways in which Six Sigma can be used to address and resolve today’s critical business and societal issues, as well as prepare for tomorrow’s challenges.  Since Dr. Harry spawned the Six Sigma movement nearly 30 years ago, it has become a recognized industry standard and used by many of the world’s top corporations to drive business improvements through Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and Green Belt projects. Dr. Harry now seeks to bring the richness of Six Sigma to every professional that wants to harness its power and create beneficial change for their organizations, as well as themselves.

On a personal level, many find they simply can’t afford the high cost of a Black Belt or Green Belt Certification. On an enterprise level, organizations often have more internal applicants than openings. Either way, far too many talented professionals are missing out on the many benefits associated with a highly credible Six Sigma credential. Now, virtually everyone can have the opportunity to learn from the Master and enjoy the many benefits of Lean Six Sigma.


Posted in Corporate Training, Six Sigma (General), Six Sigma (Projects), Six Sigma (Training) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Six Sigma vs. Innovation

Authored by Mikel J. Harry, Ph.D.

Document Jigsaw Pieces

Six Sigma Versus Innovation: Fitting the Pieces Together

When it comes to innovation, like improvement, there are two basic types; namely, breakthrough and incremental. While breakthrough innovations are great, they don’t happen every day; however, incremental innovations can be realized every day (given the right culture and leadership). In this regard, Six Sigma is designed to create breakthrough improvements, but is not configured to support the realization of breakthrough innovations. However, Six Sigma can support and enable incremental and breakthrough improvement.

So, the argument that Six Sigma can be a roadblock to innovation is circumstantially true, but only if the frame of reference is breakthrough innovation (as Six Sigma was not designed for this purpose). In the context of incremental innovation, many of the Six Sigma tools (like design of experiments) can and often does lead to innovative new ways of doing things while, at the same time, making improvements in operational performance — as has been demonstrated by many, many black belt projects.

Thus, we can be innovative in how we make improvements. We can also improve the way in which we incrementally innovate.  Of greater consequence is whether or not we have improved the value proposition of the company.

Owing to these points of reasoning, it is clear that we must move from being in the Business of Quality to focusing on the Quality of our Business. In the final analysis, improving the quality of our business is what our customers and shareholders are most concerned with.

Posted in Business Leadership, Innovation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Corporate Fear Factor

Authored By: Mikel J. Harry, Ph.D.

Look of Fear

The Result of Fear

One thing is for sure, we have all experienced fear at one time or another.  We intimately understand that fear can be a powerful force in determining the choices we make.  Generally speaking, we recognize that the proverbial “fear factor” can serve to protect or debilitate us.  On the flip side of this, we’ve all seen cases where fear is at the root of inducing irrational resistance to beneficial change, owing to such things as an overactive imagination or the need to embrace tradition and routine.

When it comes to cultural change in the workplace, the biggest problem corporations face is not the change itself, but the fear of change, not just on a personal level, but on a social level as well.  The impact of fear extends far beyond what initially meets the eye.  For example, fear is often unwittingly transmitted from the workplace to the home-front in terms of how a worker’s family feels about their current financial security and future well-being.  In a nutshell, the stealthy and debilitating role of the “fear factor” can wreak havoc in many ways, especially when it comes to personal and team productivity.

When fear finds its way into the workplace, it can quickly spread like an epidemic.  It has the power to distort information, generate rumors, disrupt informal channels of communication and induce a sense of distrust in the organization’s leadership.  As fear spreads, people begin to suspend their critical thinking, bypass crucial discussions and stick to the company line.

Fear can cause the inadvertent misalignment of personal values to those of the company.  For example, many people highly value other people’s perspectives and ideas, not just those that constitute “the company way.”  However, fear is so powerful, it can force them into an unwanted state of conformity and uniformity.  It can even cause us to support outdated conventions, policies and procedures.  Eventually, fear is morphed into distrust, not just of the “system,” but our leaders as well — even our peers.  Perhaps now it is easy to see why fear drives out faith and faith drives out fear.

Nonetheless, stepping out from behind one’s shield to embrace change represents risk; and it naturally follows that risk is related to fear. Hence, as long as risk is present, change will be viewed in the light of fear and; therefore, consequentially resisted. The bigger the change, the greater the perceived risk. As the perceived risk increases, the resistance to change increases.  To overcome the perceived consequences of risk, fear must be transformed into trust — a tall order indeed.

Over my years of deploying and implementing Six Sigma within large-scale corporations, I have observed five transitional phases that individuals (and groups alike) must successfully pass through in order to bridge the chasm between where a culture is and where its leadership wants it to go. Those phases are are provided in the graphic below.

5 Stage Culture Change

Five Stages to Victory

As each phase is made real, fear diminishes.  As fear is melted away, people’s attitudes unfreeze.  As attitudes thaw out, people naturally begin to see the positive side of things. Thus, the perceived risk is greatly reduced. Of course, this reduces fear which, in turn, gives us the incentive to continue forward until victory is achieved.  Once victory has been achieved, faith dominates, not fear.  Thus, fear can be transformed into a refreshed sense of trust.

When trust prevails, people (individually and collectively) begin to ask new questions, explore alternatives and cause innovations to bloom. People become happy and experience less stress (at work and home). Thus, we can now better understand why its so important to design and build a work environment that is free of fear.

Victory Symbol

Victory Eradicates Fear

Posted in Business Leadership, Six Sigma (General), Six Sigma (Management), Six Sigma (People), Six Sigma Psychology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments