Are You Sewing Your Own Six Sigma Toolkit?

Improvement Insights Blog

Are You Sewing Your Own Six Sigma Toolkit?

Mom used to sew all of her own clothes, just like many people in Six Sigma are creating their own chart templates or code. Mom figured out a better way. You can too.

“Growing up in the 50s, my mom made all of her own clothes. She would go to the fabric store and pick out fabrics and pick out patterns. She’d come home and on this big cardboard thing she’d lay out the pattern on the thing and cut out all the pieces. Then she’d have bought thread, and then she’d sit there at the sewing machine and she would sew blouses and skirts and dresses. She made all of her own clothes. Now she grew up during the Depression and I guess that was the way of the world at the time; even my grandma made all of her own clothing.

“But then some years later as I was getting older (in my teens and 20s), I think my mom just kind of shifted all the way to just buying them off the rack because… guess what? It was a whole lot easier and took a whole lot less time.

“Now the reason I tell you that is because I see a lot of that in Quality Improvement: there are people out there trying to build their own control chart templates or borrow something off the internet and customize it to whatever. The problem is those things then fall into disrepair and nobody knows what to do with them.

“So one of the things Frederick Brooks, the author of The Mythical Man-Month (he was in charge of the original IBM 360 operating system, which is what makes all those big IBM machines run) and in his book he said “If you can buy it off the shelf, you should buy it off the shelf rather than build it.” There’s very affordable software like QI Macros that you can just buy off the shelf and get going today. You do not have to go to the fabric store, you don’t have to do all that stuff. You shouldn’t be using Excel line, bar and pie charts; those are “the three stooges” of charts. They can’t tell you anything about your process, but they can mislead you… they can mislead you.

“So I’m Jay Arthur, author of “Lean Six Sigma Demystified” and QI Macros [software]. That’s my Improvement Insight for this week. If you can, buy it off the shelf, it’s easier. Now when I started, there wasn’t any off the shelf software that my boss would pay for, so yes, I had to do some of that myself, which led me into the QI Macros.

“So buy some off-the-shelf software. Get going. Start solving problems. Let’s go out and improve something this week.”