By August 27, 2005 0 Comments Read More →

Toyota Asks "What is Six Sigma?"

Six Sigma Stigma (PDF)

Here’s an article from Fast Company magazine. The author visited Toyota in Japan and asked a somewhat uninformed question:

Eager to show we knew a thing or two about quality ourselves, we soft-balled our hosts with the obvious question: “When did Toyota start using Six Sigma, anyway?”

Long silence. After some awkward consultation in Japanese, the engineers asked us, “What is Six Sigma?”

Oops, a priceless moment there. TPS does not equal Six Sigma, of course. There are some conceptual similarities, but Toyota does not subscribe to Six Sigma. The article goes on to discuss how some companies that outwardly promote Six Sigma usage actually lag their non Six Sigma competitors in quality (including Xerox, Sprint PCS, and Ford).

Six Sigma, along with lean, has the potential to be nothing more than executive hot air and window dressing. The real challenge is in the details of actually making it happen.


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Mark Graban's passion is creating a better, safer, more cost effective healthcare system for patients and better workplaces for all. Mark is a consultant, author, and speaker in the "Lean healthcare" methodology. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. His most recent project is an eBook titled Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also the VP of Improvement & Innovation Services for the technology company KaiNexus.

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