This research has been undertaken to develop insights into the meaning given to the Six Sigma improvement approach by practitioners around the world. Although a body of knowledge has been developed which centres around standardized improvement methodologies, the approach to Six Sigma varies between organizations. Some use it as a general quality philosophy, while others use it as a statistical tool only. This indicates that there is confusion about the meaning of Six Sigma and its benefits to organizations. To investigate possible differences between organizations in different parts of the world, a descriptive questionnaire survey has been undertaken aimed at organizations in The Netherlands, UK and USA. Firstly, respondents from the three countries are found to show little variation in their perceptions about the meaning of Six Sigma, suggesting that it is a transnational concept. Secondly, a successful Six Sigma implementation builds upon a number of quality management prerequisites, such as an existing quality culture and a certain level of quality maturity. Thirdly, the sustainability of Six Sigma over the long term depends on factors which are equally important in any other long term change and improvement process. This is the first research that employs a large scale questionnaire survey project to collect and describe the opinions of practitioners in three advanced industrialized countries about the meaning and benefits of Six Sigma

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ERIM Top-Core Articles
International Journal of Production Research
Erasmus Research Institute of Management

van Iwaarden, J., van der Wiele, T., Dale, B., Williams, R., & Bertsch, B. (2008). The Six Sigma improvement approach: a transnational comparison. International Journal of Production Research, 46(23), 6739–6758. doi:10.1080/00207540802234050