Project Management

Six Sigma and Innovation

Patti Gilchrist, PMP, is a Senior Technical Manager with more than 20 years of IT experience. Visit her website at

Six Sigma is a disciplined, data-driven approach for process improvement. It focuses on voice of customer (VOC) to deliver quality and offers a set of techniques and tools to improve the quality of processes by methodically identifying and removing the causes of defects (errors) and minimizing variability in processes.

To further elaborate its methodology, Six Sigma uses a set of quality management methods (most of which are empirical, statistical methods) to drive toward six standard deviations between the mean and the nearest specification limit in a process to ultimately eliminate defects. (For additional information and background of Six Sigma, refer to Wikipedia).

Sound complicated? Perhaps even a bit intimidating? Not everyone is an advocate of Six Sigma.Is it toodisciplined and overly process-oriented to be effective at driving innovation? Is it stifling creativity? Some think so, yet many others disagree. So before you jump on any bandwagon to dismiss such data-driven methodologies, consider how Six Sigma tools can be used to brainstorm and to promote innovative thinking.

John Mitchell, a principal at Applied Marketing Science, Inc., believes that those “who think VOC stifles innovation either do not understand the meaning and purpose of it, or don’t know how and when to use it.” In his article “Is VOC Killing Innovation?”, …

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