The Misconceptions About Six Sigma

Competitive advantage is one of the critical destinations all companies are trying to reach– how can we get a leg up in the market? Product design, marketing, and pricing are all perfect examples of ways to achieve this competitive advantage, but what about the more operational, less visible means to drive your position even further? Six Sigma is the answer you could be seeking.


Defined as the methodology used to eliminate process defects, Six Sigma is often associated with manufacturing companies. It isalsorecognized for its unique, and seemingly unattainable or exclusive certification names based on belt colors.  What does/can a certified Six Sigma Black Belt do? 

Six Sigma Methodology

Looking at the necessary steps of Six Sigma – define, measure, analyze, improve, and control – we can see that the opportunities of implementation are not at all limited to our narrow perceptions of the methodology. In the interest of taking full advantage of what Six Sigma has to offer, lets investigate common misconceptions and corresponding realities.


Misconceptions about Six Sigma

It’s a one-size-fits-all program. 

First thing’s first – Six Sigma is a methodology. It is based on a framework of principles that direct a company on how to define, measure, analyze, improve, control processes within their business. While this progression serves as a guide to achieving waste reduction objectives, there is no concrete timeline or a step-by-step process. Six Sigma is applied in a customized manner to each of its implementors to serve each particular company best.

It’s only for manufacturing companies.

Sure, Six Sigma is used widely by companies who design, produce, and assemble physical products, but they are most certainly not the only ones who can benefit. At its core, the Six Sigma methodology is looking to increase efficiencies and quality, while trying to eliminate waste and defects. So, couldn’t a service-based company try to do the same? Think about a doctor’s office. Nothing is manufactured, but there are tons of opportunities for process improvement, such as patient admissions or insurance billings, and waste reduction. 


Job downsizing is an inevitable result.

With Six Sigma being a waste-reduction methodology, it is mistakenly believed that this includes reducing the number of employees or positions in a company. Waste reduction is undoubtedly a piece of implementing Six Sigma, but it comes from a focus on limiting defects. This is accomplished through redefining roles to accurately reflect the process, retraining employees, equipping them with the tools they need to execute process improvements - all ways to retain and empower the workforce.


It can only be used internally.

One of the primary objectives of implementing Six Sigma is to satisfy customers. While the methodology is aiming to create an efficient process, quality is another huge factor, with the goal of producing 3.4 defects per million (or less).  Placing large focus on outputs validates the customer-centric nature of Six Sigma.

The price is too high, and the requirements are excessive.

As with any change in a business, it will take an investment, both financial and time. That being said, the benefits of implementing Six Sigma far outweigh the costs. When performing a cost-benefit analysis, companies must look beyond the initial training and implementation to see all of the savings created from waste reduction, cost reductions resulting from increased process efficiencies, and pricing power due to higher quality results.


Only people with a belt can implement it.

First of all, Six Sigma is not some exclusive club. It is intended to allow companies to reach its full potential and increase customer satisfaction, which everyone is capable of executing. The purpose of a belt or certification in Six Sigma is to understand the intricacies of the methodology and learn the bests tools for teaching teams how to implement them. Once a team member understands what a critical point in a process is, they have just as much authority to solve that problem as anyone else. 


If your team is considering implementing the Six Sigma methodology in your organization but isn’t quite sure where to start, it doesn’t hurt to talk things through with area experts. MMC’s diverse team of management consultants includes seasoned and knowledgeable Lean Six Sigma Black Belts and Master Black Belts. We would be happy to help you assess how Six Sigma could best serve your business and create a customized plan for success.