Overview of Six Sigma

Overview of Six Sigma
Quality History Influencing Six Sigma

Listed Below are some of the well-known quality pioneers and what they contributed to both the business and technical foundation of six sigma. This list is far from inclusive.

An overview of six sigma with contributor Philip B. Crosby.  

Philip B. Crosby was corporate vice president of ITT for 14 years. In 1979 he founded Philip Crosby Associates, Inc. in Winter Park Florida. Mr. Crosby consulted, spoke and wrote about strategic quality issues throughout his professional life. 

Crosby believed that quality was a significant part of the company and senior managers must take charge of it. He believed the quality professional must become more knowledgeable and communicative about the business. Crosby stated that corporate management must make the cost of quality a part of the financial system of their company.

Statement on Quality

"Quality is Conformance to requirements."

Philip Crosby preached four absolutes of quality management:

  • 1. Quality means conformance to requirements

The requirements are what the customer says they are. There is a              need to emphasize a " do it right the first time" attitude.

  • 2. Quality comes from prevention 

Opportunities are available to correct problems in the system.

  • 3. The quality performance standard is zero defects

You must insist on zero defects. Otherwise it is acceptable to send              out nonconforming parts and goods. If there is a nonconformance              then action must be taken to eliminate and prevent it from occurring            in the future.

  • 4. Quality measurement is the price of nonconformance

A measurement of quality is needed to get management's attention,            prioritize problems, correct problems and to measure progress.

A measurement The four absolutes of quality management are basic requirements for understanding the purpose of a quality system. 

Philip Crosby also developed the 14 step approach to quality improvement.

1. Management Commitment

2. Quality Improvement Teams

3. Measurement

4. Cost of Quality

5. Quality Awareness

6. Corrective Action

7. Zero Defects Planning

8. Employee Education

9. Zero Defect Day

10. Goal Setting

11. Error Cause Removal

12. Recognition

13. Quality Councils

14. Do It All Over Again

Philip B Crosby Awards and Books


  • Fellow ASQ
  • Past ASQ President

A selection of some of  his more popular books include:

  • Quality is Free: The Art of making Quality Certain (1980)
  • The Art of Getting your Own Sweet Way (1981)
  • Quality Without Tears: The Art of Hassle-free Management (1984)
  • The Eternally Successful Organization: The Art of Corporate Wellness (1988)
  • Leading the Art of Becoming an Executive (1990)
  • Completeness: Quality for the 21st Century (1992)
  • Running Things: The Art of Making Things Happen (1992)
  • Quality and Me: Lessons from an Evolving Life (1999)

Dr. W. Edward Deming

An overview of six sigma with contributor Dr W. Edwards Deming.  

William Edward Deming was one individual who stood for quality and for what it means. He is a national folk hero in Japan and was perhaps the leading speaker for the quality revolution in the world. He did summer work at the Hawthorne plant while working on his PhD. At the Hawthorne plant he became acquainted with W. Shewhart and studied Shewhart's statistical methods.

The World War II effort enabled W. Edward Deming to conduct classes in statistical methods to thousands of American engineers, formen, and workers. The Statistical methods were later credited to be a major factor in the war effort. But, as he would state it, after the war, all traces of statistical methods were gone in a puff of smoke.

There were several visits to Japan between 1946 and 1948 for the purpose of census taking. He developed a fondness for the Japanese people during that time. JUSE (Union of Japanese Scientists and Engineers) invited Edward Deming back in 1950 for executive courses in statistical methods. He refuses royalties on his seminar materials and insisted that the proceeds be used to help the Japanese people. JUSE named their ultimate quality prize after him

William Edward Deming would return to Japan on many occasions to teach and consult. He was well know in Japan, but not so in America. Only when NBC published its white paper "If Japan can, Why can't we?" did America discover him. An overnight success at age 80, W.E. Deming died at the age of 93. During his last 13 years, Deming gave American industry a dose of strong medicine in quality. His message to America is listed in his famous Edward Deming 14 points and 7 deadly diseases.

Edward Deming 14 Points

The Fourteen Obligations of Top Management:

1. Create constancy of purpose for improvement of products and service

2. Adopt a new philosophy; we are in new economic age

3. Cease dependence upon inspection as a way to achieve quality

4. End the practice of awarding business based on price tag

5. Constantly improve the process of planning, production, and service - this system includes people

6. Institute training on the job

7. Institute improved supervision (leadership)

8. Drive out fear

9. Break down barriers between departments

10. Eliminate slogans/targets asking for increased productivity without providing methods

11. Eliminate numerical quotas

12. Remove barriers that stand between workers and their pride of workmanship, the same for all salaried people

13. Institute for education and retraining

14. Put all emphasis in the company to work to accomplish the transformation

Seven Deadly Diseases That  Management must cure:

1. Lack of constancy of purpose to plan a marketable product and service to keep the company in business and provide jobs

2. Emphasis on short-term profits

3.Personal evaluation appraisal,by whatever name, for people in management, the effects of which are devastating

4. Mobility of management; job hopping

5. Use of visible figures for management, with little or no consideration of figures that are unknown or unknowable.

6. Excessive medical costs

7. Excessive cost of warranty, fueled by lawyers that work on contingency fees

Edward Deming

Edward Deming's philosophy focused on individuals as fellow members of a system, and treated people as partners, customers, neighbors, and friends.  While the Deming philosophy benefits the individuals in a firm, the company itself should be able to reap the benefits from this new philosophy. Among the economic benefits to gained are:

  • Reduction of the economic burden
  • Expansion of markets
  • Survival of organizations that serve customers

Deming's Chain Reaction

Deming shared the following chain reaction with Japan in the summer of 1950:

Improve Quality > Decrease costs (less rework, fewer delays) > Productivity improves > Capture the market with better quality and price > Stay in business > Provide jobs.

Deming's chain reaction is summarized by Delavigne and Robertson (1994) as the following series of events:

1. The quality and productivity rise

2. Costs decrease 

3. The time required for development and production is reduced

4. Management begins to know their cost, "they have a system"

5. Increased division of labor and specialization occurs

6. The near-term future is more predictable

7. The standard of living rises

8. The system has a future and can provide "jobs and more jobs"

As the above sequence is occuring, the marketplace is responding to the firm:

  • The customer obtains reduced prices
  • There is increased cooperation
  • New products and services are provided to the customer
  • There are higher levels of customer satisfaction
  • There is a reduction of competition for share of the market  

Thus, a "chain reaction" of good things can occur through the Deming philosophy.

Dr. William Edward Deming Awards and Books


  • Shewhart Medal ASQ 1955
  • Second Order Medal of the Sacred Treasure, first American 1960
  • Honorary Member ASQ 1970, numerous others. 


Over 200 papers, articles and books have been published, only 2 are listed  here.

  • Quality, Productivity, and Competitive Position (1982)
  • Out of the Crisis (Deming 1986)
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