Click here to preview the new Fast Company

Want to try out the new

If you’d like to return to the previous design, click the yellow button on the lower left corner.

Partial Quality Management?

The world of work has seen its share of movements. Some, like reengineering, have been seriously revisited — and criticized. Others, like Six Sigma, have neared sacred cow status.

Now, quality-improvement programs such as TQM, ISO 9000, and even Six Sigma, are coming under fire — or at least heavy questioning.

Managers have stretched the techniques, by applying them too broadly to more creative areas such as research and new-product development. And some companies are rethinking the way they use the systems.

Among the charges: Process management can help routine tasks more effective and efficient, but fall short for new projects — and innovation. It can force people to focus on optimizing older technologies rather than seeking to keep up with new tools and techniques. And such efforts don't meet the needs of projects and processes that aren't as easily measured.

Refreshing self-examination, I think, because Six Sigma can occasionally feel cultish. If you employ quality-improvement practices, what can you do to, well, improve their quality?

(Subscription required to access Wall Street Journal articles.)

Update: Fast Company most recently looked at Six Sigma in the September 2005 issue.

Add New Comment


  • qualityg

    from article: "truth room session (n.) meeting where a consultant tells a client something that's probably true, but not flattering."

    qualityg says... of course it's probably true, the consultant learned it from someone in-house. Flattering? Why should it be, it's the same message front-line workers have told management for years.

    Just ask your consultant by what method did they determine their findings? Ugh, same one I used at the last company I consulted with, or this is the model (fill in the blanks) we use for your industry.

    Consultant definition (if they were not trained by a master) - "they are like pigeons who fly in and drop their crap and fly away for others in-house to clean up. Cycle starts over with the next VP who does not know how to manage."

    Ask WSJ about "systems thinking."


  • Ethan

    "And some companies are rethinking the way they use the systems."

    Which they would have done up front, if they were effective managers in the first place.

    BPM is not meant to a) stifle or b) replace innovation, and other like-minded pursuits. This is more dreck in already brackish waters about what BPM is/is not. In short, effective BPM = effective innovation. Good luck to all in their search for how that's possible. ;-)