Like many tools, it is dependent upon two things: 1) How it is used, and 2) the quality of the data. Six-Sigma was originally designed for use by Motorola in the early 1980s. It was put in place in order to not only uncover, but to solve, certain manufacturing processes that were not working appropriately. It improved the company by defining a clearly focus on measurable issues that could be quantified and linked to profitability. It also increased an emphasis on managements commitment to utilizing the strategic planning system to actually implement a cause-effect relationship within the manufacturing model.
However, when all the bells and whistles come off, and all the statistical data and measurement are broken down, the model is really a quality improvement template. It is not designed for any subjectivity and often fails to take into account that margin of error is different on divergent products and services (e.g. A surgical instrument or medical device should have a lower rate of error than a new hardback novel). Further, some of the standards are arbitrary and force management to plug in data. That being said, it is both possible to overanalyze certain ineffectual data; in other words, making certain Six Sigma data more important than it really is to ROI. However, it does effectively help management identify areas of needed improvement, of inefficiency, and of redundancy (Larson, 2003).
Conclusions — Again, each quality improvement model is dependent and interdependent on the questions being asked and the strategic goals of the project. One of the more powerful ways of using these tools, however, is in combination. First, use SWOT modeling to uncover a basic overview of the situation — what are the standard strengths and weaknesses and what opportunities present themselves. Six Sigma may be useful then to uncover redundencies, particularly in the manufacturing sector, while BSC might be better implemented with field sales groups or organizations that wish to strategically develop a product or service (Van Der Wiele, et.al., 2006).
Van Del Wiele, T., et.al. (2006). A Comparison of Five Modern Improvement Approaches. International Journal.