By Michael Hughes
The Six Sigma Dance
The swing out is considered the most basic and essential move of lindy hop, a fusion of dances that draws from tap, jazz, Charleston and other dances.
So, of course, I learned the swing out at my first lindy hop class. Getting good enough to nail the eight-count move consistently on the dance floor was a more formidable challenge that we shall not discuss in depth.
Needless to say, without the fundamentals, you can’t advance much in any discipline. Sure, with lindy, you could sport some turns and side passes. But all of the fancy stuff derives from the swing out, driving home the importance of mastering the basics.
The same can be said for Six Sigma. Its development at Motorola decades ago was based largely on using statistical methods to identify sources of variation and design improvements. Since then, many organizations and consultants have tried to implement such process improvement. Unfortunately, many have failed, leading to a growing course of criticism that Six Sigma oversells its possibilities.
The problem, of course, resides not with Six Sigma but with some of its practitioners. Putting an ex-newspaperman (yes, I’m raising my hand) and an engineer/mathematician through a three-day green belt course will not make them equivalent.
The difference comes from the grasp of statistics, as Krishna Krishnamoorthi explains in this month’s cover story “What, why and how,” which starts on Page 28. Krishnamoorthi details nearly 75 years of concerns about how statistical ineptness hampers quality improvement. Indeed, W. Edwards Deming wrote decades ago that the U.S. direly needed statistically minded engineers and scientists to improve future production.
Practical knowledge helps in some cases, Krishnamoorthi argues, but understanding the theories that underlie statistical analysis helps solve complex problems. In particular, he writes, every black belt should have such knowledge.
If you don’t have such statistical depth, get some. Whether you’re building a house or fixing a manufacturing line, a solid foundation is the first requirement.
Otherwise, you’re just dancing around the issue.
Michael Hughes is managing editor of IIE. Reach him at email@example.com or (770) 349-1110.