Six Sigma: A Brief History

In 1986, engineer Bill Smith of the Motorola Corporation introduced the now wildly popular Six Sigma concept. It is a business management strategy with the stated, implicit goal of reducing the amount of defects in production to a negligible level.

The idea for Six Sigma was the culmination of other quality control innovations up to that point in history, and combines what at the time had been proven to be the most effective and efficient parts of different quality control initiatives. One of the next steps, was the assertion that all aspects of production, even output quality, could be converted to quantifiable and measurable data. This leads to the assumption that manufacturers have complete control over the quality of process output. Also integral to Six Sigma is the emphasis on collective efforts and teamwork. It is expressly stated that quality improvement requires dedication and commitment from staff at all levels. Motorola itself was also the first multinational corporation to implement this initiative. 

Borrowing a concept from Eastern martial arts, practitioners of Six Sigma are ranked by “belts.” Different belt colors indicate different roles and responsibilities. For instance, Green Belts are the lowest rank, and are responsible for implementation in their department, along with other workplace obligations. Green Belts operate under the supervision of Black Belts, the next rank up. Black belt primary focus is on the execution of projects. The next rank, Master Black Belts, are more broadly responsible for the general, company-wide implementation of this method, as well as acting as a mentor for Six Sigma Black Belts and Six Sigma Green Belts. The last rank is Champion, who oversees all practices within the scope of an entire enterprise. Champions also serve to guide all lower-ranking Belts.

Whether it’s collecting data, implementing changes, or sculpting a vision for the future, practitioners of Six Sigma are and this initiative itself, is one of the most efficient means of quality control and process management available. It is the most tested and reliable way we have for achieving stable and sustainable business processes. Widely regarded as the standard of quality that all corporate entities should strive to achieve, Six Sigma has revolutionized the fields of quality control and process management