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?

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