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My book review this week is on Ronald D. Snee and Roger W. Hoerl’s bookLeading Six Sigma. The book is a guide to implementing Six Sigma based on the GE experiences of the authors. It begins with an analysis of when and why Six Sigma does and doesn’t work, and then, offers a step by step guide.

Six Sigma is a highly disciplined method for reducing waste, improving profits, and hopefully, delighting the customer. Its very pronounced focus on bottom line results distinguishes it from other process improvement methodologies, such as TQM – Total Quality Management.

Some take aways on what is needed to make Six Sigma work include:

  • Total commitment from leadership – both in time and money. In organizations where the commitment from the top was less than total, implementations were far less successful.
  • Assigning top resources, rather than available resources – this one is interesting to me, in light of the constant focus on resource availability that I often see in the project management literature. Having dedicated resources, rather than part-time resources, was also beneficial.
  • Supporting infrastructure – the most successful implementations are accompanied by the development of an infrastructure that includes formal project selection and project review processes, and an integration with financial systems. One of the key hallmarks of a successful Six Sigma program is the ability to track bottom line savings by project. GE had to learn the lesson that these numbers need auditing.