History And Evolution of Six Sigma

History And Evolution of Six Sigma

Last updated on 01st Oct 2020, Artciles, Blog

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History And Evolution of Six Sigma

Six Sigma is a set of management techniques designed to improve business processes by considerably reducing the odds of defects. It was introduced in the 1980’s by Bill Smith, while working as an engineer for Motorola. To this day, he is considered the father of this process.

While the Six Sigma method is a relatively new and revolutionary process, which keeps on expanding on a worldwide scale as we speak, the methodology used to define it can be traced back to the eighteenth century. Simply put, Six Sigma is not a self-contained method, but rather a complete and diverse blending of quality management practices and techniques over the years.

However, this shouldn’t be perceived as a weakness. In fact, knowing that some of the methods and techniques found in Six Sigma have been successfully used throughout history should render this process quite tempting to try out.

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Overview of Six Sigma Methodology

Six Sigma works in more ways than one to gear up an organization to bring out the best customer satisfactory results. 

Six Sigma is a wholesome package wherein everything circles around producing high quality goods and services, which, in turn, helps in building trust among the customers and helps in the overall growth of the organization. 

To achieve this, Six Sigma uses either of the two fundamental methodologies which are: DMAIC and DMADV. 

The DMAIC is an abbreviation for Define, Measure, Analyse, Implement, and Control, that perfectly describes the 5 phases of this methodology. Here the organization’s existing products are optimized to improve their quality to the highest possible extent. 

For this, first, the goal is defined, then the parameters which may affect the whole process are measured and analyzed. Next, changes, if any, are made at the appropriate places, using the results from the analysis. Next, the implementation of various control measures helps to avoid the repetition of mistakes. 

DMADV follows steps as described by its name that is Define, Measure, Analyse, Design, and Verify. This methodology purely focuses on building a high-quality product or services from scratch. 

This method climbs up the ladder to achieve high quality through 5 steps. It first defines the organizational goals related to that product/service. The next step involves measuring and analyzing the resources and techniques to produce the best design, which is the next step. Once designed, the product goes through a verification process that gives the best possible outcome. 

Father of Six Sigma

It was in 1987, when William Bill Smith, while working with Motorola, invented a new technique called Six Sigma that turned tables for the company in terms of the overall quality of products. It was a time when Motorola was struggling to come up with metrics efficient enough to analyze and share the improvements among the authorities. 

Through meticulous planning and strategizing, Bill Smith, along with Mikel Harry, came up with sets of rules and named it Six Sigma. The Six Sigma implementation was so successful that Motorola became the first company to bag the Malcolm Baldrige Award. 

The brain behind this revolutionary concept was that of William Bill Smith. Therefore he is crowned as the father of Six Sigma. 

“If you want to improve something, involve the people who are doing the job.”- William B Smith.

The Development of Concept and Design

Long before William Bill Smith developed the concept of Six Sigma at Motorola, Walter Shewhart, in the late 1920s, implemented a similar approach to produce quality products. It, however, didn’t gain much popularity. 

It was in 1987 when Bill Smith and Mikel Harry leveraged their knowledge of statistics to bring out the used several iterations and came to the conclusion that the point of correction lies in the range of six times the deviation. It helped companies to understand the area of defect and hence produce optimal results.

They used statistical quantities like mean (mathematical average of a processed data set) and deviation (the difference between the mean and the set data limits) to identify products that fall out of the desired range. 

The Refinement Period

Once the concept of Six Sigma started to gain traction, few companies took to implement the strategy. The technique, however, lacked proper design. It was in 1993 that Mikel Harry, while working with Asea Brown Boveri, noticed that while implementing Six Sigma, the higher officials were only focusing on the quantifiable results. It made him understand that it was not quality, but the business growth was needed to achieve much more efficient results. 

It made him rethink the whole objective and refine the technique in a way that organizations can take maximum advantage of. Hence, a new deployment tact was introduced, which used a hierarchical structure like a Champion. Black belt. Green belt and white belt. 

During this period, the success stories of Motorola in diminishing errors from their system and products garnered a slow yet steady momentum to popularity. 

The Awareness Period

Even though few companies were leveraging the advantages offered by the Six Sigma, it was still to reach more people globally. 

The historical moment came in when Jack Welsh, of General Electric, used Six Sigma to carve out the best results. The business world remained in awe for the amount of success this company achieved due to the proper implementation. 

Once Jack Welsh implemented the Six Sigma technique in the year 1995 in an attempt to focus their time and energy on producing high-quality products. He applied it during the low times of General Electric when Jack found that the company could not produce optimum results. 

With the execution of Six Sigma, the results came out to be impressive. It was then when the Six Sigma started getting global attention and received its due importance. 

Many Fortune 500 companies followed the lead and focussed on the production of quality goods through an optimum business organization in the form of Six Sigma. The results came out to be good for the growth of the organization.

History of Six Sigma

Evolution’s of Six Sigma:

1979 – 1986: Period of Evolution:

During the period of evolution, Six Sigma had gone through several versions from RDMAICSI to DMAIC. Mikel Harry and Bill Smith played a critical role in this period to evolve six sigma technology.

1986 – 1992: Period of Design:

When Six Sigma was picked up by other organizations after Motorola won it’s Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, they designed the Six Sigma methodology to suit different industries (other than manufacturing).

1993 – 1994: Period of Refinement:

Six Sigma went through yet another phase of refinement and steps such as Design of Experiments were taken to advanced levels by individuals such as Taguchi, etc.

1994 – 1996: Period of Results:

Most manufacturing organizations started gaining the results and reflecting them in their quarterly financial statements.

1996 – 1997: Period of Awareness:

In this period, the world started to know the power of Six Sigma. It was no longer a methodology known to a few organizations.

1997 – 1998: Period of Adaptation:

Organizations learn Six Sigma techniques and implement them in their day-to-day processes. Eventually, they started gaining benefits.

1999 – till date: Period of Enlightenment:

Six Sigma has now become the basic hygiene requirement of most of the organizations. Individuals with Six Sigma expertise are given preference over other individuals.

History of Continuous Improvements:

In the 1800’s: Management encouraged employee-driven improvements, and incentive programs were set in place to reward employees that brought about positive changes in the organization.

In 1894: National Cash Register’s program included reward schemes, employee development opportunities, and improving labour-management relationships.

Early 1900’s: much attention was given to scientific management

1930’s: Continuous Improvement programs were introduced in Japan by management experts like Deming, Juran, and Gilbreth.

1970’s: Japanese developed their own ideas and quality control

1980’s: Evolution of Six Sigma

1990’s: Introduction of Balanced Scorecards

2000’s: Evolution of Hybrid Methodologies such as Lean Six Sigma, Agile, among others.

Course Curriculum

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Deliverables of Lean Six Sigma Project

Embarking on a Lean Six Sigma initiative begins with a management decision to embrace a change that says “There’s a better way to run our organization.”

The readiness assessment includes a review of the following areas:

Assess the outlook and future path of the business:

  1. 1. Is the strategy course clear for the company
  2. 2. Can we meet our financial and growth goals?
  3. 3. Does our organization respond effectively to new circumstances?
  4. 4. Evaluate the current organizational performance:
  5. 5. What are our current overall business results?
  6. 6. How effectively do we meet customer requirements?
  7. 7. How effectively are we operating?
  8. 8. Review the capacity for system’s change and improvement
  9. 9. How effective are we in managing system changes?
  10. 10. How well are our cross functional processes managed?
  11. 11. Are our current efforts in conflict with six sigma

The above assessment will go a long way towards deciding if current efforts are sufficient or whether the timing is appropriate to undertake a six sigma effort.

Lean six sigma can be applied as a targeted approach. A number of so-called lean six sigma companies have improvement techniques and teams in place and only assign black belt assistance as needed. A decision on six sigma might be negative if the following conditions exist: The company already has an effective improvement effort in place. Current changes are already overwhelming the company’s resources potential gains aren’t sufficient to finance the necessary investments

The Problem Solving Strategy Y= f (X)

  • Y is a function of X.
  • To get results, should we focus on the Y or X?
  • Y is equal to the Effect and X is equal to Causes.
  • If Y is Headache, then X’s are Stress, Lack of Sleep, Eye Strain and Infection
  • Y is a Dependent variable, output, Symptom to be monitored
  • X are independent variables, inputs, Causes to be controlled

The Problem Solving Strategy should always Focus on the Causes and NOT on the Effect.

  • Identify the Customer
  • Six Sigma quality is built around the customer.
  • Everything starts and ends with customers.
  • They define quality and set expectations.
  • They rightfully expect performance, reliability, competitive prices, on-time delivery, service, and clear and accurate transaction processing.
  • At times, the customer of the project may not be as evident as initially thought.
  • The receiver of the next operation, an internal department, could be thought of as a customer.
  • The external customer of a process could be the purchaser.
  • But yet, if the purchaser is a distributor,
  • The primary customer of the process will or should have the highest impact on the process.
  • The primary customer is of utmost importance to the process.
  • The sorting out of the primary customer may take some discussion on the team’s part.
  • The question of: “Who is the customer?” may bring out discoveries of “Which customers make us money?”
  • That is, are there certain customers that make up the bulk of company revenues?
  • Is there a small proportion of customers that simulate the Pareto law?
  • The case is that 80% of the revenues come from 20% of the customers, or that 80% of the net profit comes from 20% of the customers

​Customers can constitute:

1. Current, happy customers

2. Current, unhappy customers

3. Lost customers

4. Competitor’s customers

5. Prospective customers

The following methods to collect information and data from customers or would-be customers:

1. Surveys

2. Focus groups

3. Interviews

4. Complaint systems

5. Market research

6. Shopper programs

The traditional methods of obtaining customer information could also include:

1. Targeted and multi-level surveys

2. Targeted and multi-level interviews

3. Customer scorecards

4.Data warehousing

5. Data mining

6. Customer audits

7. Supplier audits

8. Quality function deployment

The information gathered should allow the organization to identify customer requirements and to spot upcoming trends. The trends will be new ways for the company to gain or retain customers. Customers seem to be more satisfied if they receive feedback than if they do not receive feedback. Clearly, the voice of the customer is critical to business success. Likewise, Green Belts and Black Belts must consider how both internal and external customers can be identified and what their requirements might be in order to understand and improve the business process. The relationship that management can develop with either basic customer type will affect the company’s ability to be effective in delivering customer satisfaction.

Future of Six Sigma

Six Sigma focuses on consistent improvement in the various processes of a business strategy, irrespective of the department it belongs to. 

One of the future aspects of this is the evolution of Lean Six Sigma processes, which are already gaining popularity among the businesses. Individuals and enterprise teams are getting trained in widely-recognized Lean Six Sigma training programs, where they gain an in-depth understanding of combining Lean strategy with Six Sigma to produce exceptional results for an organization. 

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Also, Six Sigma techniques can be used for product design and development processes. Its versatile nature can comfortably accommodate changes in its structure as and when needed to meet the customer requirements of quality. 


The role of Six Sigma in maintaining the customer-business relationship while keeping the whole organization intact and satisfied is undeniable. 

William Bill Smith, the father of Six Sigma, introduced this statistical technique along with Mikel Harry to refine the overall organization structure to produce maximum error-free products. Since then, numerous companies have leveraged this productive technique and found an effective way to attain their organizational goals. 

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