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The Great Debate

In regard to identifying the clear difference between TQM and Six Sigma ("TQM vs. Six Sigma," H. James Harrington and Praveen Gupta, November, 2006), the definition of Six Sigma that I was taught states, "Six Sigma is the methodology which takes a process currently under control and reduces variation within that process." With that being said, I would see TQM and Six Sigma working concurrently. TQM would take a process that's out of control, apply the tools (i.e., PDCA or its equivalent) to bring it under control, monitor that process for a period of time to ensure control, then apply Six Sigma to reduce variation. Depending on the system, TQM would be applicable for a number of years prior to implementing Six Sigma methodology.

--Jeff A. Mansfield

Neither author clearly defines the core elements of Six Sigma or TQM. Both the benefits and summary sections dance around their topics. Drill down to the essence and you'll find that both of these programs are the packaging of fundamental quality tools. No more, no less.

--Ray Jersey

The problem in the Six Sigma-TQM debate is allowing TQM to be characterized as a fuzzy, indistinct concept. Framed this way, surely a results-oriented approach such as Six Sigma would prevail. But let's move from TQM as a generic concept and do the comparison with a true TQM process such as the Baldrige criteria. Framed this way, we see Six Sigma as a successful tactic largely used to improve the performance indicators around products. But we see Baldrige/TQM as a driver for developing, deploying, improving and integrating systematic approaches in leadership, strategy, customer relations, data and knowledge management, human resources, and process management. In this context Six Sigma is a nice tactic but no more than a footnote compared to how Baldrige drives performance in every aspect of your organization.

--Bob Noga


The Bad Old Days?

As a senior quality professional, it saddens me whenever I hear a colleague such as H. James Harrington wax nostalgic about the "good old days," when major companies treated their employees "like fine china" rather than like "paper plates" ("'We' and 'Them' Companies," "Performance Improvement," August 2006).

The "good old days" were terrible for many Americans, especially minority Americans. Many workers had grinding assembly-line jobs where craftsmanship was not important and the work was not fun. I remember being warned not to buy an American automobile assembled on Monday because the workers were hung-over and careless. If I had to work under those inhuman conditions, I would probably drink heavily, too.

Our country has improved in almost every way. The workers of today are better educated and more capable than ever before. If treated respectfully and given challenging work, today's "self-oriented" workers will surprise even H. James Harrington.

--S. John Vindekilde

Onward, Quality Soldiers

As a quality manager and chairman of the trustee board of my church, I found Dirk Dusharme's article very interesting and applicable ("Leadership, Corinthians Style," http://qualitydigest.com/qualityinsider ).

I have often regarded the Bible as an instrument of guidance for proper living but not as a guide for better organization and management in the workplace. I say, wherever you get the knowledge to help others, share it.

--Johnny L. Graham

I have been wishing for years that technical magazines would depict Christian management and its positive applications to leadership in industry. I have been teaching Christian management principles for the past 22 years and can assure you that anyone who reads and applies the contents of this article will excel in their position and in the eyes of those with whom they work.

--Robert E. Belcher


Smile, You're Being Audited

I welcomed the article by Jack West on auditing ("Smile, You're Being Audited," "Standard Approach," November, 2006). It's important to note that the interpretation of a standard can differ tremendously from auditor to auditor.

Some are very lax in their approach, and others are looking for nonconformances. A company hopes that the auditor quickly aligns with the organization's processes and management. Creating an atmosphere of togetherness is very important at the start of the audit. The auditor should put the company's employees at ease with the audit process. Make the audit an enjoyable experience, and employees' understanding and appreciation of the standard will increase.

The bottom line is that the standards work. There are countless success stories illustrating this, and the auditor can make a positive contribution with the right approach. Standards should be seen as integral parts of the company and not add-ons that are audited on a yearly basis. It should be noted that none of the standards guarantee quality, but the quest is to achieve consistency. This is also true of the auditor.

--Alex Bowie