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"The Six Sigma Revolution is a powerful profit-building tool and an indispensable resource for leaders wanting to drive lasting improvement."-Mike Delaney, Senior Vice President Marketing and Strategic Planning Unifi, Inc.
Achieving high quality has been a concern since the beginning of the twentieth century, when there was a massive shift away from an agrarian culture toward an industrial culture. As the United States evolved from a culture of craftsmanship toward one of mass production, assurance of product quality shifted from individuals personally inspecting their products to the development of a group of specialists who inspected parts and products after they were made.
This approach to quality control and its fit with customer needs worked well for many years for a variety of reasons. First, as the century progressed, the U.S. consumer's appetite for goods and services became nearly insatiable. Beginning with Henry Ford and the mass production of the automobile to William Levit's postWorld War II creation of reasonably priced homes for returning veterans, Americans everywhere desired the material goods that would contribute to making their lives better.
The emphasis on quantity of goods and services superceded the emphasis on quality. Americans at that time were more accepting, willing to put up with a creaky window or a car door thatoccasionally had trouble closing. Additionally, in 1950, only a small percentage of women worked outside the home. Today, when 50 percent' of women work outside the home, it is more difficult to find the time to get the car repaired or wait for the repairman at home.
As Americans entered the 1970s, the definition of quality began to change. Traditionally, quality had referred to features, such as the difference between a Chevrolet Impala and a Cadillac Seville. But, several key events changed the perception of Americans toward quality.
As more and more women entered the workforce, there was less time to focus on maintenance of the home and the various products that were found in it. More immediate in its effect was the gas shortage of the mid-1970s. As the gas-guzzlers produced by Detroit proved too expensive, Americans migrated to foreign imports, particularly Japanese automobiles that were fuel-efficient. While enjoying these Japanese products, Americans found an added benefit. Japanese cars performed better in terms of durability and reliability. Gone were the major service problems that had historically plagued Detroit's offerings.
Japan had a different approach to and attitude toward quality. Since the days of mass production, Americans' approach to and attitude toward quality was based on mass inspection to find and sort out nonconforming parts or products. Starting with the famed assembly line of Ford, most production in American factories was based on mass producing something and inspecting key characteristics at the "end of the production line." This approach to quality improvement was found to be highly ineffective. Experts have determined that 100 percent inspection not only adds to the cost of the product, but is 80 percent effective at best. Take the quiz below to give yourself a feel for this ineffectiveness. In the text below, identify (inspect) the number of f's that appear:
Count the number of times the letter f appears in the following:
Finished files are the result of years of scientific study combined with the experience of years.
How long did it take to identify the 9 f's? Oh, you didn't get all 9? You may have missed f's that sound like v's. Or you may have misinterpreted the instuctions and just read below the first paragraph. If you did catch all the Ps, how long did it take you? Either way, inspecting something is no guarantee that you will find defective parts or product. Second, think of the costs associated with inspection. The act of inspection does not add to the quality of the part or product. It simply verifies that it meets some specification or function. It's like going to the coroner when you are sick. The coroner will only tell you if you are dead or alive. Inspection alone does not add value and can be prohibitively expensive, whether we are talking about labor costs or the machines that are used to inspect. Furthermore, if you rely on inspection alone, there is no guarantee that you will improve performance.
On the other hand, the Japanese automobile was produced using an entirely different approach. Instead of mass producing a part or product and inspecting it after the fact, the Japanese automakers were committed to never-ending 'improvement of the product and the process that created it. (What is a process? A process is defined as those series of steps and activities that take inputs, add value, and produce an output.)
The way the Japanese were producing cars at that time was revolutionary. Their approach made management and autoworkers focus on continually making something better.
Measurement methods began to focus on the amount of variation that existed in a process and its subsequent part or product. Instead of measuring something to see if it was good or bad, the measurement of the part was an indicator of how well the process was performing.
This dramatic approach to production remained largely a Japanese phenomenon until 1980. In that year, NBC produced a documentary entitled If Japan Can, Why Can't We? Journalist Lloyd Dobbins profiled how an American statistician had a major impact on Japanese organizations. The man was W. Edwards Deming, a statistician who in the 1930s and 1940s had worked in the Census Bureau. As part of the armistice with the Japanese in 1945, the United States agreed to provide Japan with assistance in demilitarizing their country while simultaneously rebuilding their economic base. Deming was one of many who visited Japan and conducted seminars, at first primarily on statistics, to assist the Japanese in their effort to re-industrialize.
Deming made repeated trips to Japan and gradually shaped his message to include various management principles that company after company embraced...
Chapter 1: Introduction to Six Sigma.
Chapter 2: The Strategy of Six Sigma: Eight Steps to Strategic Improvement.
Chapter 3: Profits = Customer + Process + Employee.
Chapter 4: Project Start-Up: Tactical Six Sigma.
Chapter 5: Measuring Project Sigma: How Close Are You to Perfection?
Chapter 6: Data and Process Analysis: The Keys to the Project.
Chapter 7: Root Cause Analysis: Never Stop Asking “Why”.
Chapter 8: Selecting Solutions That Drive Sigma Performance.
Chapter 9: Holding the Gains: Making Sure Your Solutions Stick.
Chapter 10: How Six Sigma Initiatives Fail and How to Avoid Mistakes.
Six Sigma is a quantitative approach that fuels improved effectiveness and efficiency in an organization. This approach was first created in the 1980s by Motorola. Then, in the 1990s, companies like AlliedSignal and General Electric contributed to making Six Sigma the most popular quality improvement methodology in history.
This book is different than any other on the market. Rather than tout how important Six Sigma is, The Six Sigma Revolution addresses those executives and implementers interested in creating and sustaining a Six Sigma initiative in their organization.
This book begins with a discussion of the quality movement in the twentieth century, describing the limitations with previous efforts, and how Six Sigma came to be the management approach of choice for those interested in making their organizations world class.
What makes Six Sigma different, in part, is its focus on the involvement of management at all levels of an organization. This book addresses the elements management must institute to create an infrastructure for Six Sigma to work.
The second major component of Six Sigma addresses the tactics that drive improved effectiveness and efficiency in an organization. This method uses a simple but detailed approach to improve the performance of existing processes.
The journey through the tactical aspects of Six Sigma begins with how to charter teams so they are working on processes that directly impact the strategic business objectives of the organization.
Later chapters address how tocalculate sigma at the process level, how to create specific, measurable problem statements that the project team will then attempt to improve, as well as how to utilize the analysis and improvement tools that will assist teams in their efforts to improve sigma performance. The final tactical chapter describes how a team transfers an improved process so that improvement will be sustained over time.
Another aspect of this book that you will not see elsewhere is the recognition of managing cultural change in the Six Sigma initiative. Six Sigma initiatives involve a cultural transformation toward managing with facts and data. For some organizations, this transformation will be a dramatic change from current management methods. It is probable that there will be resistance. This book addresses four major types of resistance, indicating how to diagnose the type of resistance and then providing strategies to overcome resistance.
The later chapters provide both executives and implementers with methods on how to sustain Six Sigma initiatives. The reader will learn how to create and manage Business Quality Councils where management has continuing responsibilities for the success of Six Sigma within their organization. We discuss how to change the systems and structures of an organization so that Six Sigma is successful.
Finally, the last chapter addresses 10 ways in which Six Sigma initiatives fail. Each failure is discussed to illustrate how to overcome failure to create a Six Sigma success story.
In that year I heard Jack proclaim that "Six Sigma is the most important initiative GE has ever undertaken . . . it is part of the genetic code of our future leadership." When he made formal the edict that 40 percent of a business leader's bonus was going to be determined by his or her Six Sigma performance, it was quite apparent that Jack was not just committed to Six Sigma, he was making it a way of life at GE.
While working at GE Access, I came across George Eckes, an external consultant that GE Capital had hired to assist in their course design and delivery. George's knowledge and experience in Six Sigma was obvious, but the key for me in hiring him was how practical and easy he made what could be such a difficult subject. While some make it difficult and awkward, George not only made Six Sigma practical, he made it fun. He also was particularly good at getting my attention as a business leader and challenging me personally to get involved in the initiative.
Reading this book, The Six Sigma Revolution, is like attending one of George's seminars. In easy-to-read chapters, he has successfully turned this cutting edge management approach into easy-to-understand language.
He begins with a history of the quality movement in the twentieth century and shows how Six Sigma contrasts and compares with previous efforts. He goes on to explain the key ingredients of Six Sigma. In Chapter 2 he covers the strategic component of Six Sigma: Business Process Management. This chapter is one thatother books on Six Sigma do not include with the detail that George does. Chapter 2 covers how an executive can create the infrastructure for Six Sigma to be successful in an organization.
Chapters 4 through 9 describe the tactics that project teams use to apply the tools and techniques that drive improved performance in a Six Sigma organization. From how to charter a team to how a team ends its work and turns over an improved process to the workforce, each element of the methodology is explained clearly and with examples.
The latter part of Chapter 9 returns to the strategic element of Six Sigma, giving executives multiple suggestions on how to sustain and manage an on-going Six Sigma initiative.
In his last chapter, "How Six Sigma Initiatives Fail and How to Avoid Mistakes," George reviews 10 ways in which an organization can fail to achieve the results that GE has obtained with Six Sigma. Each chapter is filled with the actual case studies and stories that George has used in his seminars. They make for both thoughtful and quick reading.
We at GE Access have utilized the concepts found in this book to improve our performance. You will find this book a significant tool in your understanding of Six Sigma. Enjoy.
Perry Monych President and CEO
Posted March 1, 2004
George Eckes¿ experience in quality control includes an instance where he had the temerity, just out of college, to ask W. Edwards Deming, then an octogenarian, to elaborate on his views about quality. ¿Those are the most stupid questions I have ever heard! Go read some of my books,¿ the cantankerous quality czar responded. No one reading this volume can doubt that Eckes has done his homework ever since. His blend of experience, theoretical expertise and common sense make this a very effective Six Sigma manual, although it is a little light on case studies. One of the book¿s most valuable elements is Eckes¿ keen analysis of the pitfalls that can flush all your best Six Sigma intentions down the tubes, even as a row of consultants tell you it is a panacea for all your woes. We recommend this book to anyone who is about to call a consultant and venture into the Rasputin world of Six Sigma.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 22, 2003
George uses humor along with knowledge to assist the reader understand the otherwise mundane aspects of Six Sigma. I use George's techniques to make my group both effective and efficient.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.