So what is the difference between Six Sigma, TQM and SPC? What is the big deal around Six Sigma? Why are so many companies investing millions in Six Sigma programs now? I had to think about these things as I tried to answer these questions to someone new to Six Sigma recently.
There really are several answers to what is different about Six Sigma, however, the fundamentals are the same. You need to understand the quality principles that underpin TQM as well as the mathematics of SPC to be able to succeed with Six Sigma. However, what Six Sigma has added to the mix is a methodology for improving quality (reduce defects). So you can consider Six Sigma to be like TQM/SPC on steroids. Add to this the principles of Kaizen and Lean, and you have a very powerful toolbox for improving processes.
Furthermore, Six Sigma has been marketed in a way that TQM never was. Also Six Sigma training and the progression of a trainee to a Six Sigma Master Black Belt is a powerful way of establishing Six Sigma as the way many companies do business. Six Sigma has become part of many a corporate culture. This is what makes Six Sigma work.
Actually making a Six Sigma project work is a subject for another blog ...
Let me know how you have used Six Sigma to drive value for you.
SMALL BUSINESS VIEW
Applying Six Sigma to small to mid sized enteprises is more than just scaling down on the timeline of the Six Sigma method. The rigor that Six Sigma brings to large projects is great - but not normally necessary for a smaller operation. Smaller operations have the flexibility to take on changes that have an immediate impact on performance. They are also generally less complex, and thus it is normally quicker and easier to get to the cause of problems and address them. However, as with larger operations, what Six Sigma brings to the table which is often ignored, is process control to ensure that the process does not 'drift' back to it's old wasteful ways a few months after the project is implemented.