Mr Banker

When disaster threatened, it was Six Sigma to the rescue. Thanks, Six Sigma.

Conference call: problem solved

A few weeks ago I received a disconcerting letter from Qantas: apparently my prized “platinum” status was at risk.

Dismayed, I sprang into action to arrange some business travel as quickly as possible. As I have manoeuvred myself into a role that has no customer contact I was unable to schedule a program of customer visits, so I turned to business conferences.

It is always best to attend a conference on topics you know well, so that you are able to answer questions on the subject without the annoyance of actually attending. Unfortunately, this was not possible at such short notice, and so it was that I found myself attending a conference on Six Sigma.

Having been put to that inconvenience, I have decided to scribble a few brief notes on the topic. Possibly they will be of interest to my readers; certainly they will quiet my noisome editor and quell her demands for relevancy, if only for a few weeks.

The name Six Sigma was originally derived from statistical measurement but now appears to be a brand that describes a group of quite useful problem-solving tools.

Six Sigma requires a careful and measured approach to problem-solving – which in your correspondent’s view is probably its major weakness. A problem that can wait six months for a solution doesn’t seem to be much of a problem and in banking might even be described as a stable operating environment; but perhaps things are different for entrepreneurs.

Six Sigma imposes a rigorous post-implementation review to ensure that benefits promised in business case assessments are actually delivered. That sort of accountability will make Six Sigma beloved by CEOs but despised by senior management.

Six Sigma is shrouded in regression analysis and Greek letters, disquieting for those of us with “statistics” listed on our medic alert bracelets.

Resolute in his view that good employees solve problems regardless of methodology and that poor employees fail to solve problems despite good tools, your correspondent rates Six Sigma as interesting but not life-changing.

Unfortunately this piece must be cut short. I must dash to catch a plane to travel to a conference about customer service and banking. Apparently having branches that customers can enter is once more a good thing, but rest assured if that turns out not to be the case, I will report.


The Banker of Last Retort holds a senior position in one of Australia’s top financial institutions. For national security reasons his identity must remain confidential.


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments