The State of Six Sigma and Process Improvement

Two weeks ago, I attended IQPC’s (International Quality & Productivity Center) Lean Six Sigma and Process Improvement Summit in Orlando, Florida. During the past 4 years, I have watched the conference, the attendees, and their projects evolve. The IQPC did an excellent job keeping the quality of the conference at an A+ level despite wrangling with the effects of a down market and near zero travel budgets for many companies. This conference has earned it place as one of the premier Six Sigma events of the year.

With attendance numbers on par with last year (which are only slightly down from a few years ago), the major difference that I noticed was the attendees’ passion. As the economy has worsened and media’s perception of Six Sigma waned, practitioners and champions are more passionate and committed now than ever. Perhaps it’s because they still have jobs and their companies understand the value of cost reduction in both their processes and product/ process development programs. They – and the companies who employ them – have every right to be excited and passionate because they are making positive changes to their organizations that will hopefully lead them to recovery and stability faster than others.

Many companies, large and small, represented practically every industry. Farmers Insurance and Capital One were two representatives from the insurance and banking industries. Technology and pharmaceuticals were well represented by Seagate, Motorola, Merck and Johnson & Johnson. In addition, the energy sector was well represented, as were the military, aerospace and services sectors. (If you want a complet list of companies attending, it may be available at

The overriding message heard over and over again, was, “We need to make your Six Sigma deployments stick.” Initially, I found this to be an interesting message since it came from a group of many highly intelligent and motivated individuals who were obviously very successful in doing just that: “Making it Stick”. This message serves as a clarion call for all of us. We need to look for new tools, philosophies and approaches to make our improvement initiative better and “stickier” so that they can pass the test of time.

The highlight of every year is the awards ceremony. There were many great projects honored this year, and congratulations to the winners and everyone who submitted their projects! At the awards ceremony I had the pleasure to meet a great group from the Bahamas Telecommunications Company. They are the pioneers for Lean Six Sigma for their company. (I tried to get them to need an onsite training session in some of the Palisade tools, but have been thus far unsuccessful!) Good luck on your Six Sigma Journey, I hope to see you accepting an award next year!

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