Why Six Sigma Fails

Why Six Sigma Fails

Over the last 25 years, I’ve gotten to see Six Sigma failures and successes. But in spite of all of the belts trained and investments made, why isn’t product and service quality any better? Why is there so much hassle? Why aren’t more customer experiences hassle-free? I’ve developed a mental list of the most common types of failures. Here’s my fishbone diagram for Six Sigma failures. I’d encourage you to develop your own.


80% of the businesses in the U.S. are service businesses, yet Six Sigma training is extensively focused on the manufacturing factory floor. It takes too long to teach people everything they might need to know to solve all of the problems they might ever encounter. Most people won’t ever work on a factory floor. Based on employment statistics, it might only be one person out of 100.

Most Six Sigma software was designed in the age of minicomputers, not microcomputers with a point-and-click interface. So they force users to learn rules they don’t need to know to pick the charts and statistics. This takes too long and users forget how to do it. Too many managers have told me that they spent a lot of money on software that nobody uses because it is too hard to use.

I have also found that this software is often too expensive to give the frontline workers, so the control phase of DMAIC falls to the Black Belt or is ignored completely causing the improvement to degrade over time.

Some people try to write their own Excel templates which are inaccurate and incomplete.

If it takes too long to get results, leadership will kill Six Sigma.


I’ve developed some countermeasures to these common causes. I offer a free one-day Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt training online that will teach you everything you need to know to solve the most common problems in service or manufacturing, www.lssyb.com.

When I train groups in person, I focus on solving real problems using their data which makes that training stick.

I have found that if I give people the QI Macros software, I can have them drawing control charts, Pareto charts and histograms in a matter of minutes. The QI Macros Data Mining, Control Chart and Statistics Wizards move the selection process into the software, so it is much easier to learn.


What are you doing to prevent the failure of Six Sigma in your company?

This entry was posted by Jay Arthur in healthcare, Manufacturing, QI Macros, Service, Six Sigma. Bookmark the permalink. Follow comments with the RSS feed for this post.