Vol 44, Issue 1

September/October 2004

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Book Review

The New Six Sigma: A Leader's Guide to Achieving Rapid Business Improvement and Sustainable Results

by Jeff Staples, Senior Information Developer, Valley Forge/Kitba Consulting

Matt Barney and Tom McCarty. 2003. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall PTR. [ISBN 0-13-101399-8. 105 pages, including index. $15.95 USD (softcover).]

If you are involved with quality groups and initiatives, you are probably familiar with the Six Sigma process. Six Sigma is an initiative developed by Motorola University for improving quality by reducing product defects. Important elements of Six Sigma include “understanding customer requirements, continuously driving process improvement, and using statistical analysis to drive fact-based decision making.”

However, Six Sigma was not intended as a methodology for continuous business improvement. Matt Barney and Tom McCarty contend that once organizations achieved Six Sigma goals, they became complacent—enabling quality to deteriorate. Thus the need for an updated initiative that improves and sustains quality results.

The new Six Sigma presents Motorola’s update of its quality initiative. The authors begin with a brief recap of the history of Six Sigma and the need for revision. The book details the new Six Sigma and its reinvention to “move beyond defects and focus more on strategy execution and value creation.”

The new Six Sigma is a quick read, with the authors presenting their content simply and straightforwardly. The book’s primary audience is executives and managers who are tasked with delivering ROI in a tight environment while lessening expenditures.

With their updated quality initiative, Motorola builds on existing Six Sigma methods by incorporating lessons learned from helping customers and suppliers implement the methods. The result is a business improvement utility that can help leaders enhance their business strategies “for dramatic short-term business results while building sustained future capability.”

The leadership principles that comprise the new Six Sigma framework are Align (create improvement targets, goals, and measures); Mobilize (equip the organization to enable people to act); Accelerate (speed results through coaching and support); and Govern (select, manage, review, and drive project completions). The authors describe each principle in a Six Sigma implementation. Case studies demonstrate the advantages of the new Six Sigma process.

No longer is Six Sigma exclusively a quality initiative. The new Six Sigma encompasses strategy execution by shifting the focus away from reducing defects and enhancing quality to “reducing variation around business goal accomplishment.”

The authors wrap up their text with a look at future directions for the new Six Sigma. New initiatives include helping improve shareholder value, fostering confidence in financial reporting, and assisting organizations to identify leadership talent now to ensure that the organization will have the right leadership for the future.

The text will enlighten anyone who is working in sectors that employ Six Sigma, as well as team leaders and members in general. For example, the Accelerate principle advocates “combining structured education with real-time project work and coaching to quickly bridge the gap from learning to doing.” Anyone who has taken training courses knows that unless you put the newly acquired knowledge to use, you will lose it. The leadership principles presented offer practical information that can be used even if you are not involved with the Six Sigma process.

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