Are You Thinking About Clowning Around with Six Sigma?

Are You Thinking About Clowning Around with Six Sigma?

Guest writer and Industry Expert Bob Rutherford walks us through the industry example of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” with this article: Are You Thinking About Clowning Around with Six Sigma? This is a repost of his blog from May 21st on our site.

The other day, I had a Zoom meeting with a befuddled CEO in India who was interested in me giving him the lowdown on Six Sigma since I have been writing extensively about leadership and Doctor Deming on LinkedIn.

So, with a heavy heart and a light sense of irony, here’s the breakdown of this so-called revolutionary quality management system that I shared with him:

The Great Statisticians.

Ah, the legends of modern Quality, the statistical superheroes—Dr. Shewhart, Professor Deming, Professor Chambers, Dr. Taguchi, and Dr. Wheeler. They laid down the law of quality like bosses. Deming even came up with his “14 points for management,” a kind of list of quality commandments for bewildered executives. Who doesn’t love a good commandment from on high, especially when it’s dressed up in statistical jargon?

The Dropout Disaster. 

Enter stage left, an obscure dropout from Uni and a Motorola employee, Mr. Bill Smith. He took Deming’s pearls of wisdom and, like a toddler with Play-Doh, molded them into something unrecognizable. His little experiment resulted in a quality apocalypse, with a mean shift of 1.5 sigma. Bravo, Mr. Smith! Because nothing says “quality” like a dropout with a wild idea and a dab of statistical ignorance.

The High School Huckster. 

Then there’s Harry, Mr. Smith’s partner in statistical crime. A high school teacher with the ethics of a used car salesman, Harry smelled opportunity. He concocted a theory so convoluted that even Einstein would scratch his head. His stroke of genius? Turning Smith’s catastrophe into the cornerstone of Six Sigma, complete with colored belts and logic filters. A true visionary, or maybe just a master of bamboozlement, because what’s a good scam without a touch of intentional obfuscation and some colorful accessories?

The Gullible CEO. 

But wait, there’s more! None of this would’ve taken flight if it weren’t for Neutron Jack, the CEO with a penchant for blindly throwing money at anything that sounded vaguely smart. Despite not understanding a word Harry said, Jack coughed up a cool billion like it was pocket change. Ah, corporate brilliance at its finest. In other words, who needs comprehension when you’ve got deep pockets and a desire to appear cutting-edge?

The Consultant Crawl. 

And lo and behold, with the birth of Six Sigma came a swarm of consultants, emerging from their hiding places like rats in a cheese factory. Eager to sink their teeth into the juicy pie of corporate ignorance, they led countless companies down the garden path, promising miracles and delivering mediocrity because what’s a scam without an entourage of opportunistic consultants, right?

The Fallout. 

Unsurprisingly, the Six Sigma saga ended about as well as a Shakespearean tragedy. According to the gospel of Qualpro, a whopping 91% of Six Sigma companies ended up belly-up. And let’s not forget the shining examples of success—like Ford, proudly boasting a 1 in 5 defective parts average, or Boeing, cutting costs and casualties with equal fervor. Why settle for success when you can have mediocrity and tragedy wrapped in a shiny Six Sigma bow?

The Emperor’s New Clothes.

In conclusion, dear CEOs of the world, Six Sigma isn’t just a quality management system—it’s a masterpiece of deception, a comedy of errors, and a tragedy of epic proportions. So, let’s raise our colored belts to Mr. Smith, Harry, Neutron Jack, and the legion of consultants who turned a simple idea into a billion-dollar farce. 

Bravo, indeed.

Did you enjoy this blog? Read more great blog posts here.
For our course lists, please click here.