SPC Guide
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Six Sigma and beyond

I read Tom Pyzdek's column "Why Six Sigma Is Not TQM" in the February 2001 issue today. I agree that TQM and Six Sigma are not exactly the same.

 One difference he mentions is that, with Six Sigma, people outside the quality department are involved using the tools from the quality toolbox to improve the business. However, while the idea of people outside the quality department doing "quality" activities is an important concept, it isn't new. In fact, that very idea has been the focus of numerous articles suggesting that the role of the quality professional would one day become that of training and coaching other people within the organization to use (as in apply) the tools that we all know can add value. Some have gone so far as to predict that quality professionals would work themselves out of existence.

 The trouble is that this future has been predicted and advocated for some time without it actually coming to pass, except on a limited basis at a small number of companies. And herein lies the crux of the matter. Those companies that have been successful with Six Sigma (or TQM for that matter) are those in which top management decided that this was the course to steer. And what I see happening again is that because the media has touted the success of "Six Sigma" where it has worked, other management teams think they can buy it and install it and it'll make their company better without requiring their participation. In other words, too many executives are still looking for the quick fix.

 As I'm sure Pyzdek knows, that type of management doesn't work, Six Sigma, TQM or any other process notwithstanding.

--Jim Brumbaugh


A quality manager's guide to the Internet

One addition I would suggest for people looking to optimize their Internet connections is that they look into cable-modem and T1 lines as well as DSL and 56K modems.

--Jerry Kluza


I realize there are a lot of Web sites out there, but I think The Association for Quality and Participation's site, , has excellent information to offer.

--Bob Schober
President, Rock Valley Chapter AQP
Rockford, IL


Performance improvement

H. James Harrington's December 2000 column was of interest to me. I have spent my entire career in the military, government and large public corporations. The typical lament is that "quality" isn't improving; it is, but slowly. Much of this inertia stems from the fact that political parties dominate so much of government at the top levels, and they respond to various well-funded interest groups that keep them in power. Their priorities are often misplaced and distorted. A good example is that more money was spent on investigating, prosecuting and impeaching the president for a marital cover-up than on the investigation of security problems at the World Trade Center or the fuel tank malfunction resulting in the crash of a TWA flight near Long Island.

 The other difficulty is that the Constitution was purposely set up to create the problems Harrington refers to. The founders weren't interested in creating a flowchart of simplicity and action and quality indicators; they were interested in promoting inaction. They wanted representation of state and local interests to be co-equal and not subordinated to the federal interest. To them and many U.S. citizens, the "Secretary of Governmental Quality" is another volume of regulations in the Federal Register that usurps their power.

 A good start at reform could be the elimination of the electoral college, which is a known-to-be mischievous system (as was sorely demonstrated in the November 2000 election) that should have been abolished many years ago but still persists. Yet each time termination of this unrepresentative entity of party hacks comes up, various party interests defeat the matter by treating it as ephemeral, and concentrate on other diversionary measures.

 The electorate is inherently conservative and does not want marked change, and I believe that it thinks "quality" is an ephemeral buzz word in most circumstances. Only when the electorate is directly affected, such as when water or food is contaminated or lives are truly threatened, does it appreciate "quality."

 --Christopher Hahin, PE

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