In every company employees have to follow processes. Employees receive trainings for these processes and the performance of the processes is measured. On top of that a lot of companies have introduced continuous improvement or breakthrough methodologies like TPM, Six Sigma and so on. But, does Six Sigma really drain employees’ creativity? Does Six Sigma really kill innovation?
There are some authors around who claim that Six Sigma or similar methodologies exactly do this. Their main arguments are:
- (Lean) Six Sigma is hard to understand, even for experienced Master Black Belts
- Six Sigma is not really scientific
- Six Sigma generates specialists how believe in the methodology, almost like a religion
- Six Sigma is all about performance metrics
- Six Sigma is a statistical method
- People do not approve of processes and therefor also not on the improvement methods
- Six Sigma is bureaucracy and turns people into bureaucrats
For sure, if you apply Six Sigma everywhere at any time without being aware of the actual purpose Six Sigma was created for, you will get those impressions mentioned above.
The goal of Six Sigma is to understand the Voice OF the Customer (VOC) to meet customer expectations. Six Sigma supports the translation of the VOC into specifications (process-) engineers can deal with. For this reason Six Sigma is data driven and in some cases (if the right data are available) statistical methods can be applied. And yes, using the Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control method (DMAIC) for problem solving, Six Sigma is following a scientific problem solving approach. There is nothing wrong about it.
In other words, Six Sigma reduces variation in the process to keep the process inside the specification limits. These specification limits are always defined by the customer and this is the most important thing behind Six Sigma. The customer always wants to receive products manufactured to his expectations.
Having realized that, it is easy to understand that Six Sigma is not about keeping employees away from being creative or innovative. Six Sigma just provides a tool set for delivering the right manufactured products (or services) to the customer. And by the way, Six Sigma provides the great opportunity to reduce costs of quality in a systematical way by keeping products (or services) in specification.