Book Review: The Six Sigma Way — How GE, Motorola, and Other Top Companies are Honing Their Performance

Who Should Read This Book

If you are curious about Six Sigma, you are a student in business management, or you are in software development and trying to formulate an opinion on whether Six Sigma applies to software, this book can be helpful.


At its core, Six Sigma is a data-driven methodology that focuses on reducing defects and improving process quality. The book outlines the key principles of Six Sigma, including the DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) process, which provides a framework for identifying, measuring, and improving processes. It also covers the roles and responsibilities of Six Sigma teams and the tools and techniques used in the methodology.

One of the strengths of “The Six Sigma Way” is its focus on real-world examples. The book provides case studies from companies such as GE, Motorola, and AlliedSignal, showing how they have successfully implemented Six Sigma and the results they have achieved. This makes the book informative and engaging, as readers can see how the methodology works.


The book is divided into three major parts:

Part 1: An Executive Overview of Six Sigma

The book’s initial section introduces Six Sigma as a strategic approach to achieving sustainable success before exploring three significant topics.

The first topic delves into the fundamental concepts of Six Sigma, while the second topic provides a detailed comparison between Six Sigma and Total Quality Management (TQM). The third topic aims to address the question of the applicability of Six Sigma in the service industry.

The authors of the book position Six Sigma as a comprehensive framework rather than just a quality control methodology. However, a more realistic interpretation would not support such an expansive definition. The author’s presentation of the book as a holistic framework seems more of a marketing tactic than a genuine attempt at framing the subject.

As for the comparison between Six Sigma and TQM, I think the distinctions presented in the comparison table are not as stark or clear-cut as the authors intended.

Concerning utilizing Six Sigma to enhance software development projects, I find that it has some potential but may fall short of the authors’ expectations as a framework that can be widely applied to the service industry.

Part 2: Gearing Up and Adapting Six Sigma to Your Organization

This part of the book focuses on the organization’s preparedness for implementing Six Sigma projects, covering three key areas.

The first area concerns staff training and the roles and responsibilities of green and black belts within the organization. The authors delve into the significance of training programs and the importance of designating trained individuals to lead Six Sigma projects.

The second area centres on leadership readiness, emphasizing the importance of leadership support and engagement in the success of Six Sigma projects. The authors provide insights into the leadership qualities and behaviours necessary to implement Six Sigma methodologies effectively.

The third area addresses the scope of Six Sigma projects, guiding when and how to apply Six Sigma principles for optimal results. The authors offer valuable insights into selecting appropriate Six Sigma projects and identifying the right metrics to measure success.

Part 3: Implementing Six Sigma: The Roadmap and Tools

There are seven chapters in Part 3 of this book, and they are titled as follows:

  • Chapter 12: Identifying Core Processes and Key Customers (Roadmap Step 1).
  • Chapter 13: Defining Customer Requirements (Roadmap Step 2).
  • Chapter 14: Measuring Current Performance (Roadmap Step 3).
  • Chapter 15: Six Sigma Process Improvement (Roadmap Step 4).
  • Chapter 16: Six Sigma Process Improvement (Roadmap Step 4A).
  • Chapter 17: Expanding & Integrating the Six Sigma System (Roadmap Step 5).
  • Chapter 18: Advanced Six Sigma Tools: An Overview.

These chapters serve as the foundational framework for Six Sigma methods. Despite the differences in writing style and rigour, the content provides a technical perspective on the essential practices of Six Sigma methods.

Three chapters, namely 14, 16, and 18, diverge significantly from the rest of the book, offering highly informative content. These chapters provide valuable insights into specific aspects of the Six Sigma methodology, delving into areas such as measurement systems analysis, statistical process control, and design of experiments.




How Was the Book Received?

“The Six Sigma Way” has generally been well-received by the professional community. The book has been widely cited and referenced in Six Sigma literature and is considered a classic text on the subject. Many professionals and organizations have used the book as a guide to implementing Six Sigma in their own companies, and it has been credited with helping to popularize the methodology.

However, like any book, “The Six Sigma Way” has also had its critics. Some have argued that the book oversimplifies the methodology and does not go into enough depth on certain topics. Others have criticized the book for being too focused on the experiences of large, well-established companies like GE and Motorola and not providing enough guidance for smaller organizations.

Overall, though, the book has been widely recognized as a valuable resource for anyone looking to learn about Six Sigma and how it can be used to improve business performance.

Has the Book Achieved Its Aim?

In my view, the book tried, without much success, to present itself as a thorough reference to Six Sigma, but more importantly, to present Six Sigma as more expansive than it is. “The Six Sigma Way” is a good read for anyone interested in Six Sigma and its technical aspects.

However, if you want to read just one book on process management and improvement, I recommend The Toyota Way by Jeffrey Liker as a far better alternative.

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