Can anyone define what Six Sigma really is?

Our company is still very much into the mode of building enthusiasm for six sigma, and sometimes it leads to a lot of confusion on just what it is.

for example,
A coworker (he’s quite involved with six sigma) and I were reviewing some process instructions, and we were thinking about some changes that may save time/and money in them. When we were done I joked that if we would have submitted them to six sigma we could have spent alot more time and resources finding a few obvious changes that reduced the process change. He then said with genuine seriousness that we had applied six sigma. and proved how it cost efficient it really is.

But that confusing, we had done no DOE, no statistical study, or FMEA. we didn’t have a charter, or a champion. How could this be six sigma?
Six sigma, he said was about using the best tools to economically optimize a process.

To my curiousity he is always promoting the idea, that I don’t need six sigma training. We always have been doing six sigma and that its more of an administrative way to calculate cost impovements and that the belts are more about the managerial responseability to coordinate significant cost savings.

Indeed, quoted in our own newletter is a story of a lady who used six sigma to plan her wedding. What she means as you understand when you read further is that she planned for things that might go wrong or cost a lot of wasted money. So now six sigma becomes the buzzword describing all brainstorming, analysis and statistics??

Even the very title seems a little arbitrary. Hopefully in a few days I will have the joy of explaning what a CQE is to my boss. But my 6 sigma friend predicts it will mean very little. 'You are not a 6 sigma belt and you merely showed you have learned a few more statistical tools then others.'
So I do six sigma everytime I analyze something for cost savings but fail to truly show mastery of the topic, even as I become a CQE.

If all projects that use six sigma techniques aren’t ‘Six sigma projects’, Are all projects done by a black belt then ‘Six sigma projects’ even if they don’t use the tools successfully (I saw this as well).

The overall impression becomes that six sigma is a stamp that management gives you when it feels you can manage projects. And its a buzz-word that they want everybody to use for improving things (even if they didn’t do very much).

ok. I figured there has been some lively discussion about the value of six sigma.

But what is new to me, is my friends assertion that a simple brainstorming/ problem-solving session is six sigma. those of you that think six sigma all is rubbish, probably would agree with him.

But to the six sigma loyals, Do you agree? Does six sigma all of the deserve the recognition of all process improvement? Is there a valid reason to promote this idea that six sigma is any problemsolving that leads to cost savings? What does six sigma uniquely offer (Advanced DOE for hard problem, management support, a management system for cost saving problems…)?

What makes a project A Six Sigma project? A charter, A black belt performing it, A team, A few documents concluding what could very well be obvious. Does (should) black belts neccesarily need to use tools or teams to truly complete a six sigma project? Or if my friend (instead of I) had done the same review of process changes that had lead to some savings, should the $$$ saved and recognition been credited to ‘six sigma’?

Do you think people don’t sometimes use the unique tools that is ‘six sigma’ because they are complex or difficult to explain? Understandably this could yet be a subjective question, but I am interested to know if its intentional to make six sigma seem simple, all inconclusive, and maybe a little non-value added. I wonder too what the six sigma champions are hoping for -employers praising six sigma’s contributions to birthdays and retirements? Everybody doing ‘six sigma’ (read problem-solving/cost savings) in their job and a few belts managing them with martial skill? Just the attention and support of top management so that finally all the problems that wouldn’t go away when TQM or ISO 9000 was the quality craze.

It all makes me wonder, whether SSBB would be truly added value as next training after the CQE (as some has implied on another thread).

To know and understand more about Six Sigma, Visit:

To know more about Six sigma click here
and download this quick overview.

To learn, address queries, visit


Sethu V
eXample Consulting Group

(Enabling Excellence!!)


In very simple words, six sigma is all about total quality management, six sigma is good point to debate whether it is really useful for organization development and quality work.


Here is an article from our website explaining basics of what is sigma six?