Six Sigma Vs ISO 9000

by : tjacowski

The debate over whether or not to choose Six Sigma over ISO 9000 is getting more interesting with each passing day. In an attempt to determine which of these is the better of the two, it is highly pertinent to discuss that in the context of applicability of them to industries. And there exists a huge amount of difference between the approaches of these two methodologies in tackling the issues.

Six Sigma - A Critical View

Six Sigma utilizes a multi-faceted approach to doing business with total improvement of the end product being the goal. In doing so, Six Sigma defines and analyzes the processes critically almost always focusing on process improvements. The statistical tools used in Six Sigma help not just in the adoption of processes but are also critical tools of Six Sigma implementation.

Process Development Stages

Let us examine the above statement as applicable to a process for easier understanding. While working on process improvement, the Black Belts break up the original sequence of different events that comprise the entire process and each event is further subdivided internally. This enables the "belts" to take an entirely different view of the process via the entire process as a whole. The powerful statistical tools employed at this stage of evaluation make the picture clearer and help the "belts" to arrive at decisions about the value additions those made to the process by different events.

This principle obviously goes beyond standardizing the processes and setting the pathway for being vigilant about adherence to the Six Sigma methodology. Useless values which have lost meaning make way for more meaningful events and eventually more robust and comprehensive processes. In a Six Sigma environment, customer demands will assume a key role in driving the processes towards aligning all activities with the vision of the leader of the company. The approach is "how to" rather than "what to" deliver.

The ISO 9000 Approach

The ISO approach towards quality management concentrates on standardization of the activities of production. The eight quality principles of ISO 9000, along with its twenty-four requirements outline business processes. The emphasis here is on the control of events in each aspect of doing business by documenting evidence and reports. The eight principles of ISO 9000 include prioritizing customer data, purchasing and quality systems, among other critical aspects. ISO 9000 recognizes each process, whose end goals are the same, as an independent entity. Documented quality requirements typically decide, based on set rules, whether or not a particular process adhered to that standard.

Document and Process Control

Maintenance of quality is achieved by adhering to key process and document control. Operating procedures and process control documents restrict deviations outside the concepts of what you should be doing in every process. What-you-should-be-doing is given emphasis under standard conditions rather than dealing with process improvement.

Stalwarts in industry are examining the possibility of merging the best practices of the two. Several industry leaders have already acknowledged the benefits of using both methodologies to compliment each other. Another view is that, as Six Sigma implementation is what you do within your company (unlike the certification in ISO) the company does not get recognition for achieving successful Six Sigma implementation. However, as long as the culmination of a business activity is defined by both methodologies as retaining and improving the customer base along with maximizing the bottom line, rejection of one in favor of other will be hard to justify.