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Six Sigma is driven from the “outside-in,” that is, it begins with the customer. The emphasis is on understanding customer needs and translating them into requirements for core processes.

It creates a culture where the customer comes first and there is an unrelenting focus on exceeding customer expectations... 

As Jack Welch Stated...

“The best projects begin not inside the business but outside it, focused on answering the questions, How can we make the customer more competitive? What is critical to the customer’s success? One thing we have discovered with certainty is that everything we do that makes the customer more successful inevitably results in a financial return for us.”

The American Quality Revolution

Before Six Sigma There Were Lessons Learned...

On June 24, 1980 NBC aired “If Japan Can, Why Can’t We”.

The show detailed how the Japanese were capturing American markets by following Dr. Deming's quality improvement advice. Dr. Deming speaks for 9 minutes on the details of why American businesses are losing market share. Minutes after Deming’s appearance on NBC the Quality Revolution in America began.

Already hailed as a national hero in Japan, Deming becomes "The Prophet of Quality" overnight.

Go back in time and watch as America awakens and unravels. Witness Dr. Deming first changing Japan and then America. 

Learn more about the history of quality here.

In The Beginning...

The history of Six Sigma is now a collection of knowledge and experiences spanning several decades. 

It is said to have had its start in a Motorola boardroom when Art Sundry, a sales manager for Motorola's most profitable business at the time, said-- “The real problem here at Motorola is that our QUALITY STINKS!”

Motorola had always been and was still one of the world's best manufacturers, regardless of the hard times it was facing.

CEO Bob Galvin decided to check Sundry's claims. Instead of calling on executives he visited Motorola factories, shipping docks and other operations. He went all the way through the entire process to the individual end-users. And when he got there, they told him, "Your Quality Stinks."

Motorola was ready for change! They were BLEEDING MONEY and knew that higher quality products would reduce production costs as well as increase customer satisfaction. 

Bill Smith, a Quality Engineer from Motorola, is credited with being the Father of Six Sigma.

Smith worked with co-founder Dr. Mikel Harry who eventually developed the four-stage Six Sigma Process: Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control (MAIC). The Define (D) phase was later added by GE (DMAIC).

Bill Smith wrote an internal quality report at Motorola which eventually caught the attention of CEO Bob Galvin. The report sat on Galvin's desk for two years before Smith worked up the courage to ask Galvin if he had read it.

Sadly Bill Smith passed away in the cafeteria at Motorola. He never made a dime from his work.

Listen as his wife tells the story...

The Wife Behind Six Sigma

The Leaders

In the mid 1980's Bob Galvin of Motorola articulated the first objectives of a new Process Improvement Program.

  • 10x levels of improvement in service and quality by 1989
  • 100x improvement by 1991
  • Six Sigma capability by 1992

In 1988 Motorola won the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.

Texas Instruments and ABB work closely with Motorola to further develop the process. Application experts begin leaving Motorola for "greener pastures" elsewhere.

In 1995 AlliedSignal begins its initiative directed by Larry Bossidy. Bossidy's success captures the interest of Wall Street.

General Electric

Although Six Sigma clearly began at Motorola, it was GE’s wide scale adoption and success that truly opened the eyes of the business world.

In 1995 Jack Welch invited his friend, Allied Signal CEO Bossidy, to speak at GE’s executive council meeting. Bossidy was a highly regarded ex-GE vice chairman.

Welch was skeptical but requested a financial analysis. Their analysis showed that shifting their processes to Six Sigma capability would save GE $10 billion.

Jack Welch, begins the most widespread undertaking of Six Sigma even attempted. By October 1995 it was company policy at GE. Dr. Mikel Harry was hired and spent the next 4 years training GE managers.

Welch insisted that no one would be promoted to a management position without at least a Green Belt. Welch stated that Six Sigma was the most ambitious undertaking the company had ever taken on...

His speeches to executive staff are legendary....

“Quality can truly change GE from one of the great companies to absolutely the greatest company in world business. When GE does something, it does it all the way! Everyone in this room must lead the quality charge. There can be no spectators on this. What took Motorola ten years, we must do in five - not through shortcuts, but in learning from others”.


The one thing that any company can do, whether in good times or bad, to yield financial benefit is to INVEST IN AND IMPROVE QUALITY. Reducing defects and non-value added activities in processes delivers immediate benefits.

Studies in industry show that the average company is three to four Sigma. Sadly, many of these companies are firmly set in their ways, complacent in the knowledge that they are at least as good as their competition.

Among the traits shared by these companies are...

  • Profitable and growing
  • Market prices declining
  • Competitors increasing
  • Have a quality assurance program
  • Spending 10-25% of sales dollars on repairing or reworking product before it ships
  • Unaware that world-class companies have similar processes that are greater than 100X more defect-free
  • Believe that a zero-defects goal is neither realistic nor achievable
  • Have 10X the number of suppliers required to run the business
  • 5-10% of the firm's customers are dissatisfied with product, sales, or service and will not recommend that others purchase products or services

Major differences in philosophy, policies and procedures, actions, behaviors, and beliefs, between companies which are at four Sigma capability and those which are at six.

The biggest single difference is mindset!

Under-achieving companies are complacent, unaware and unable to accept the idea that they must make quantum leaps in process quality if they are to gain, and keep, their competitive advantage.

Six Sigma Benefits

The benefits of achieving Six Sigma are clear and obvious, both from the company's standpoint, and more importantly, from their customer's standpoint.

The company is able to produce its product in the most efficient means possible, resulting in an end product which is very competitively priced and of the highest possible quality. Truly, "The highest quality producer is the lowest cost producer".

If all departments in a company are operating at Six Sigma, then the products will be at the top of their market and far ahead of the competition.

But! Product quality is not an automatic guarantee of success; even a product with excellent manufacturing quality will fail in a market place that does not want it, or where it is not adequately supported.

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Table of Contents

About Free Six Sigma
All about Free Six Sigma
Keep up-to-date with all additions and changes to Get notified when free tools get released! Subscribe here.
Free Six Sigma Tools and Training.
"MASSIVE TOOLBOX" of 100's of Free Six Sigma Tools, Free Quality Improvement Tools, and Free Training, Procedures and Forms.
Free Lean Six Sigma Training
Free Six Sigma Training is now available for individual and corporate use. Free world-class interactive training courseware with built-in tools and templates.
Six Sigma Belts
Six Sigma Belts Follow The Karate Metaphor.
Benefits of Eliminating Waste
Getting lean and eliminating waste will deliver the following benefits.
Top Accredited Six Sigma Certification Providers
Although the cost of obtaining Six Sigma Certification has plummeted, SALARIES REMAIN HIGH
Design for Six Sigma
Organizations that have adopted Six Sigma have learned that if they do not design for Six Sigma, they will not achieve it.
Lean Manufacturing, Simple Concepts To Deliver Quick Value
Lean, or Lean Manufacturing, is the elimination of waste and implementation of continuous flow for products and information.
Lean Enterprise
Companies must find a ways to do it better, faster and cheaper! Transitioning to a Lean Enterprise is often the best solution.
Six Sigma Metrics Simplified
Six Sigma metrics drive knowledge! Do you know, do you really know, what’s going on in your organization?
Six Sigma Project
Six Sigma projects are key to generating return on investment and the organizational momentum and appetite for more.
What is Six Sigma
So what is Six Sigma? If you’re familiar with Six Sigma then undoubtedly you have heard the financial stories.
Six Sigma Process - 12 Step Detailed Roadmap
What’s critical-to-satisfaction, $$$$, cycle-time, defects, etc.? You need to have a reason to initiate the Six Sigma process.
Process Quality Improvement - A Simple Roadmap To Results
Implementing a quality improvement methodology in a company is one the healthiest things that a company can do.
Process Capability Study
A Process Capability Study is the direct comparison of voice-of-the-process (VOP) to the voice-of-the-customer (VOC).
Get Your Business Processes To Work Right!
In order to get your processes to work right you must follow four basic rules.
Mastering Quality Audits Basics In 10 Minutes Or Less
Quality audits are a form of Quality Control, they are inspections. They are planned and documented assessments.
Benefits Of Quality Assurance
Implementing Quality Assurance delivers increased sales that result from-
What is Quality Control
A state of control is not a natural state for any process. Left without quality control most processes will eventually produce outside of limits.
Quality Management Simplified
Think of a Quality Management System as a “wedge” behind your business. As your business innovates and improves over time, the QMS “wedge” maintains the gains by standardizing processes
Statistical Quality Control
Statistical Quality Control (SQC) tools fall into three broad categories...
Total Quality Control, Alive And Well?
Total Quality Control is not a term that is heard much in the U.S. anymore. But, the theories, methods and practices espoused by TQC are alive and well.
Total Quality Management, Just As Relevant Today As Yesteryear
By implementing Deming's principles of Total Quality Management (TQM), Japan experienced dramatic economic growth

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