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“There are many examples of successful Six Sigma applications.However, too often companies push the Six Sigma methodology over impact.This kind of innovation may be crowded out when you focus too much on processes you can measure,” she says.
Some of the quality experts are also of the opinion that Six sigma hardly has any role to play in this era of invention and innovation, while others feel that Six Sigma works very much in synchronization with innovation and hence can be a tool to effectively execute innovative techniques.
“To be successful, a company has to know how to do both – innovate and execute,” says Mike Nichols, prominent quality analyst and president of American Society for Quality.
“One exception will be incremental innovation such as product extensions (for example, multiple colors of post-it notes are innovations, but very different than a groundbreaking radical innovation like the ipod).
Such incremental innovation may actually increase because it is easy to measure in the short term, and managers can demonstrate improvement in metrics like time-to-market or costs,” adds Benner.
She thinks that 6S practices can be valuable in areas like manufacturing, where the activities are routine (and likely to stay that way) but need to be more efficient.
However, she says that these practices can be “dangerous” in areas of organizations that are responsible for innovation or creativity, such as research or new product development, or in organizations that need to be consistently innovative to compete in an industry,” Benner points out.
Nichols believes that the better a company becomes at executing, the more opportunities it opens up for innovations.
Six Sigma as well as Lean and Process Management can help any organization execute better, meet and exceed customer’s expectations, he says.
“Innovation is critical in many industries – especially industries that change rapidly, so a lack of innovation triggered by a Six Sigma initiative may limit a company’s ability to keep up with change, which in turn can have severe consequences for performance and even survival,” says Benner.
She says that this can happen for several reasons – the close focus on statistical measurement and a need for evidence of continuous improvement tends to create a focus on activities that can be measured easily According to Benner, it is easier to measure improvement in the ongoing current activities – selling today’s products to today’s customers – than it is to measure brand new activities.