Six Sigma for MBAs

It was only a matter of time before the ever-popular Six Sigma would reach the college classroom. I was reading an article about how York College in Southeastern Pennsylvania has begun to offer a course in Six Sigma in its MBA program. This is one of many MBA programs now offering Six Sigma courses. The York College program is designed to give students an understanding of Six Sigma, but not get them certified. The college plans to add several more classes to create a Six Sigma concentration so that students will be able to sit for the certification exam. Whether or not the students do become certified, I do think it’s a good idea to teach the Six Sigma tools. However, I sure hope that the MBA program will place sufficient emphasis on the strategic end of Six Sigma, not just the tools. As business schools hopefully teach about business strategy and policy, Six Sigma will be taught as a methodology linked to strategy and not just as another haven for tool heads, a subject about which I ranted on Spend Matters last August. Hopefully the head of the business school, who referred to Six Sigma as “lean operations practices” sits in on a few of the classes himself to gain a better understanding of what Six Sigma actually is.

While York College and others may thinks they are in the forefront of teaching continuous improvement practices and tools to students, there’s a high school in Massachusetts that in the 1990’s adopted TQM both as an internal process and as part of the high school curriculum – Minuteman Tech in Lexington, MA. The superintendent was ahead of his time with this approach. I have two sons who graduated from this school. What was good about teaching TQM and its problem solving techniques was that the students not only learned about the principles and practices in the classroom, but they saw the school implementing what it was teaching them. Minuteman was ahead of its time. And sadly, with the retirement of that superintendent, the school no longer espouses continuous improvement as part of its curriculum or operations.

In the case of York College, it appears that Six Sigma will simply be part of the curriculum, but not be adopted outside of the classroom to improve the performance of the whole college. While the students will have the knowledge gained in the classroom, they will not get the opportunity to experience Six Sigma in action in the college, which would give them far more understanding than just pursuing it as a course of study.

Sherry Gordon

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