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Six Sigma History

Six Sigma history is relatively recent. As a quality management methodology Six Sigma was designed by Bill Smith at Motorola in the late 1980's. Bill is known today as the true father of Six Sigma.  He forged the path for Six Sigma through Motorola's CEO Bab Galvin who endorsed Bill's efforts and enthusiasm.

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During the late 80's Motorola began spreading Six Sigma as a discipline throughout it's company, leveraging Mortorola University.

Soon, a culture of quality permeated and in 1988 Motorola was recognized with the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award which was a crowning Achievement. Six Sigma didn't gain widespread notoriety until nearly a decade later as General Electric adopted the methodology under the leadership of Jack Welch. As GE connected Six Sigma principles and results to executive income and published the benefits of six sigma in their annual report, Six Sigma become a highly sought after discipline.

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Most Six Sigma programs include elements of Lean or Lean Manufacturing because they work extremely well together.  While Six Sigma is focused on reducing variation, shifting the mean and delivering within customer specifications, Lean is focused on eliminating waste, delivering value striving toward perfection. The two work hand in hand as the benefits of each are benefits of the other.  Lean was first recognized as a Toyota initiative in the mid 1960's with TPS (Toyota Production System). However, both Ford and Boeing utilized similar methods and manufacturing concepts in the early 1900's.

Six Sigma history remains immature in many respects and despite many critics, the history of six sigma continues to be written with every new corporate deployment and/or government agency that seeks to drive improvement throughout their organization.


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