December 22, 2005

...Learn TDD with Codemanship

See Six Sigma & Die

Every once in a while, people call me up about process improvement and ask if I "do Six Sigma". There's a deeper question here, of course. Do I actually "do" process improvement at all? In the strictest sense, the answer is no. It's the hot topic of the manufacturing paradigm vs. the product development paradigm. Six Sigma, and other approaches that are process-oriented, set out to improve the performance of repeatable, predictable processes. They apply strictly to endevours like manufacturing where the same process is repeated verbatim many, many times.

According to one Six Sigma web site:

"Six Sigma is an approach to business improvement that focuses on the reduction of variation in all work processes. Process variation results in unwanted side effects including defects and inefficient operations. Many of the world's leading companies have adopted this approach to business improvement. The systematic reduction of variation results in high quality processes which in turn leads to customer satisfaction and increased profits."

Taken from

I've written before about my beliefs on equilibrium and organisational death. Lack of variation is most definitely a sign of equilibrium, and removing all process variation can result in institutionalised group-think. It may be a good thing if you're churning out radio-controlled Daleks 10,000 at a time, but in software development that bears little or no relation to what we do.

The design of the Dalek required creativity and innovation. No doubt many designs were tried before the BBC settled for the one we know and fear now. Innovation and creativity require randomness and variation, as well as an effective method of cumulative selection. The results of the creative process are inherently non-repeatable. If they were, then it wouldn't be an act of creation: it would be an act of copying, which is what manufacturing is, for example.

So, no, I don't "do Six Sigma", and that's largely because Six Sigma has nothing to do with creativity or innovation, and therefore has nothing to offer people who create and innovate - like you and me, for example.

Using the evolutionary paradigm:

Agile Process Improvement => Biodiversity

Six Sigma => Eugenics
Posted 15 years, 4 months ago on December 22, 2005