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Power of Six Sigma: An Inspiring Tale of How Six Sigma is Transforming the Way We Work

Power of Six Sigma: An Inspiring Tale of How Six Sigma is Transforming the Way We Work

by Subir Chowdhury
This is not your boss's book on Six Sigma! The remarkable process of Six Sigma, which has been touted by such management gurus as GE's CEO, Jack Welch, is beautifully explained in this engaging, true-to-life tale. Never before has a business initiative transformed corporations so dramatically. While it has been credited with improving productivity, slashing


This is not your boss's book on Six Sigma! The remarkable process of Six Sigma, which has been touted by such management gurus as GE's CEO, Jack Welch, is beautifully explained in this engaging, true-to-life tale. Never before has a business initiative transformed corporations so dramatically. While it has been credited with improving productivity, slashing costs, and improving profit margins, it can cause much angst among employees who need to change the way they currently work and adhere to a new philosophy. Corporations have seen radical change for the better, and to achieve those improvements requires radical change by employees. And it all starts with acceptance. The Power of Six Sigma is unlike any other book on Six Sigma. This fictionalized tale simplifies a complicated topic and, through dialogue between Joe and Larry, explains the way Six Sigma works in a nonthreatening, easy-to-understand way. Everyone in the organization will learn what Six Sigma is and how it works.

Editorial Reviews

Six Sigma training is a revolutionary process that has been utilized by scores of corporations. To many, its exacting guidelines sound so daunting that they seem almost impossible to enact. They aren't. To show how Six Sigma can empower managers, Subir Chowdhury presents here a commute-sized fable that embodies the philosophy behind the system. Not one metaphor wasted.

Product Details

Kaplan Publishing
Publication date:
Edition description:
New Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.60(d)

Read an Excerpt

Excerpt from

Chapter One

Moving Day

    I held the cardboard box in my hands. I stared at all the things on my desk, and sighed. I tried to think of something neutral, something soothing, something to calm my soul, but all I could come up with was, "Never thought it would come to this." It didn't take. I could still feel my pulse throbbing in my fingertips, my eyes burning, my feet frozen in place as if made of lead.

    I had never felt so blindsided, so humiliated, so stupid for not seeing it coming. But could I have seen it coming? I threw this onto the growing pile of questions for which I had no ability or energy to answer that morning.

    To avoid falling into that abyss further, I returned to the mechanical task of packing up my books, my files—the ones they let me keep after pulling those they felt might contain privileged information—and the framed photos of my wife and kids into the box.

    When I looked at the photos, I felt another stab of emotion pierce my heart. How was I going to tell them the company had let me go? Better question: How will they respond? What will Kelly say? What will she think of me? Will she stay? I always assumed she would, but then it always seemed like such a remote possibility that I never really thought it through. I guess I'll find out now.

    Other questions kept bubbling up to the surface against my wishes: What would I do next? What kind of job can a 40-something manager get after being canned? How long will it take to find one? Will we have tomove?Will the family move with me? And, how are we going to pay the bills in the meantime? Geez, we've got a bloated mortgage and two car payments, and we're trying to save some money for the kids' college tuition and maybe a nice vacation each year. Oh man. What a mess!

    I came to, and realized I hadn't moved a muscle in—what?—a minute or two? More? I had gone almost catatonic. It was all too much. When I looked around, I saw the security guard at my door staring at me, trying to figure out if I was okay. I tried to reassure him with some sort of smile, but I couldn't muster anything better than a wiggly half-frown, which probably concerned him even more.

    My friends in the department were just as uncomfortable. They wouldn't even stop by my office to say good-bye, instead they sort of scooted past the window, trying to get a quick look and move on. Driveby glancers. Maybe they feared they might catch this mysterious "disease" if they shook my hand.

    In fairness, they probably didn't know what to say. And to be honest, I don't know what I could have said to them, either. My eyes were welling up, threatening to erupt. A word or two from a co-worker—former co-worker, I corrected myself—might have been enough to start me bawling uncontrollably right there in my office. Maybe they sensed that. Even the security guard at the door had taken to staring at his feet, unable to watch me complete my final task.

    I stared at the photos for a time, then finally placed them carefully in the box. I set aside my dark thoughts of home and office and returned to the slow task of packing up my things.

    When I picked up my nameplate, however, I held it and whispered the words to myself: "Joe Meter, Manager, American Burger." I remembered the pride I felt on my promotion to manager eight years ago, overseeing 60 franchises in my region. Eight years ago? Had it been that long ago? Another stab. The future had looked so bright. I figured the promotion to regional manager was just a holding station. Didn't know it would be my last stop. I laid the placard gently at the bottom of the box.

    "Not your fault, Joe," I thought, trying to reas sure myself. "Nobody wants to eat burgers anymore. It's Southwestern nowadays, it's Asian; it's who-knows-what-else coming down the pike, but it's not burgers."

    So why was I getting the shaft? When some corporate consultant told me this morning that they were letting me go, he tried to buffer the news by telling me they were letting a lot of guys go—but why me? Why not Jones in the office next door? The guy had only been a manager for a year, for crying out loud!

    What had I done to deserve this? I didn't make waves, I didn't play games with sick days, I didn't even fiddle with my expense reports—and everybody was doing that!

    My anger consumed me for a minute or two—my fists clenched in rage—before exhausting me. I slumped back in my chair, legs splayed, arms hanging over the side. I looked awful, but what did I care? What were they going to do—fire me? The security guard took a step toward me, perhaps fearing that I'd had a heart attack, before I waved him off.

    It was only 11 o'clock. Getting called into the boss's office, being told I would no longer be needed at American Foods because our division just wasn't cutting it, then hammering out the details of my departure—it was already a full day. I felt worn out. I had no idea how I was going to spend the rest of the day, with nothing to do until my wife, Kelly, and our kids, Jack and Jane, got home. Go for a long walk in the woods? Lie on the couch? Nothing held much appeal—my thoughts threatening to invade any peace I might try to achieve.

    As I finished cleaning out my desk, I discovered a stack of old business cards I'd tucked away in a drawer. I was about to throw them out because they were a few years old, but I stopped myself when I realized I might be needing one of those contacts to get my next job. I flipped through the cards, one by one, trying to remember who these people were. Few rang any bells.

    I finally came upon Larry Hogan's card. Hogan, my old buddy from the mailroom. We started out together 20 years ago, a couple of college kids jamming envelopes into boxes while carrying on a running dialogue about all the characters and blowhards we'd met in the hallways. And about our dreams.

    We talked about how we'd change American Foods if we ran the show. American Foods started in the 1950s as a wholesaler to fast-food joints, until the owners realized they could open up their own fast-food places. That's how American Burger got its start in the early 1960s, followed by American Chicken and American Sandwich in the early 1970s, and the fledgling American Pizza in the late 1980s. American Foods, though, still produces the supplies for the restaurants, everything from the lettuce to the grills to the silly hats the clerks have to wear.

    Larry and I called our game "King of the Forest." "Okay," we'd say, "if you were King of the Forest, what would you do about so-and-so?" We shared a lot of ideas—commonsense ideas, most of which, in hindsight, probably would have worked—but half the time the answer was simply, "Fire 'em! Cut the fat! Get rid of the deadwood? I winced again. I wondered what the 20-something me would say about the 40-something me? I didn't have the energy to contemplate that. Another day.

    I stared at the card. Last I saw Larry, five years ago, he was on the pizza side of the company. Whenever we saw each other, we'd always find ourselves talking about the old days. Seems like you have a special bond with the people you meet when you are young, a bond that no other friendships can match. Before I thought it through, I found myself dialing the number on the card.

    When the phone started to ring, I woke up from my trance. What was I thinking? I hadn't talked to this guy in five years! And what was I going to say? "Hey, guess who just got canned?" What did I want from him, anyway? Maybe, in hindsight, I just wanted to talk to someone who might understand what I was going through before I went home. But before I could think it all the way through, someone picked up.

    The woman who answered said, "Yes, Mr. Hogan still works here, but he's moved up to an executive position. May I ask who's calling?"

    I hesitated, until I saw the security guard looking at me warily. "It's Joe Meter," I said. "An old friend."

    "Okay, Mr. Meter. Let me see if Mr. Hogan's in."

    While I waited, I pondered what she'd told me. An executive, huh? Well, that just goes to show you, I thought, I should have gotten in on the pizza side. Then I wondered if he would take my call. The last thing I needed, I realized, was any additional humiliation. Why did I expose myself to this? I was about to fake a response—"Okay, just tell him I called"—for the security guard's benefit and hang up, when the receptionist broke in.

    "Mr. Meter?" she said.


    "Mr. Hogan is on the line."

    "Hey old buddy?" he exclaimed, giving me more than I expected. "Kinda busy right now"—my heart sank—"but my lunch appointment just canceled. I know it's short notice, but any chance you can meet me for lunch?"

    I breathed a sigh of relief. "As a matter of fact, I'm unexpectedly free, too..."

What People are Saying About This

Dave Ulrich
"Subir Chowdhury has broken down the often mystical subject of Six Sigma into a very thorough, yet easy, read. I believe The Power of Six Sigma will do for your customer centered, profit driven defect reduction efforts what The Goal did for cycle time reduction and supply chain improvement." Steve Gunther, Vice President, Six Sigma Deployment, Seagate Technology "Six Sigma has become a central part of business success, and everyone must know and apply these principles to their organization. The Power of Six Sigma will promote buy-in within all levels of the organization, as it breaks down what can be a complicated topic into an easy-to-understand, enjoyable read... This book will become a source code for those who want to understand and execute Six Sigma successfully.
— (Dave Ulrich, Professor of Business, University of Michigan)

Meet the Author

Subir Chowdhury is the author of international bestsellers ""Management 21C"" and ""The Power of Six Sigma"", which received critical media attention in the New York Times, USA Today, San Francisco Chronicle, and Publisher’s Weekly. He is executive vice president of the ASI-American Supplier Institute and former chairman of the American Society for Quality’s Automotive Division. Chowdhury, a young business professional, is rapidly becoming known as one of the best management thinkers of the 21st century.

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