The Future of Six Sigma and What About Baseball?

Future of Six Sigma

I was looking back at some old notes and realized I had not published what follows on the future of Six Sigma and baseball.


Future of Six Sigma

Got this cool image from

I’ve been troubled for a few months now regarding the future of Six Sigma and what direction my career should (could) take.  If Motorola introduced what seemed to be the next best thing since sliced bread (baked, packaged, and delivered a la ISO9001 of course) and TQM, why hasn’t widespread adoption outside the business world occurred?

If Six Sigma is good enough for Motorola, GE, and Tyco and thousands of others, why isn’t it good enough for our governments, schools, and hospitals?

Malcolm Baldridge compensates for the lack of 6s in the healthcare industry but where are they with statistical analysis and SPC?

During my holidays I read a good book which seems to have piqued my boss’s interest for the shear Billy Beane Factor:  Moneyball:  The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis, ISBN-13: 978-0393324815, published by W.W. Norton & Co.


Moneyball goes to great lengths to explain the Oakland A’s success at seasonal ball game wins on the lowest payroll in Big League ball.


As it turns out, the problem in professional baseball was that everyone was looking at the wrong stats.  Let me take that back.  More relevant stats needed to be made available and scouts had to stop recruiting on emotion and gut feeling and identify true talent.  Up until then it didn’t seem that any statistical analysis had been extensively correlated.  This screams measurement system analysis (MSA) to me.

Bill James realized this in the late seventies and his annual Baseball Abstract provided the Oakland A’s the necessary data and approach to the first non-official Six Sigma Baseball project.  But what about the future of Six Sigma?

Some of you are probably wondering where I’m going with this, or have read Moneyball (no mention of Six Sigma or SPC for that matter) but hold on:

Isn’t Six Sigma just another means to deliver the best possible perhaps even perfect? product, process, or service as possible at the lowest cost possible as quickly as possible? It’s as simple as y=f(x).  Don’t bore me with Voice of the Customer (VOC), Quality Function Deployments (QFD) and Houses of Quality, Kanos, Designs of Experiments (DOE), Analysis of Variances (ANOVA), etc.  I don’t want to oversimplify and denigrate the Six Sigma approach, however, let’s not complicate things either.  how can the future of Six Sigma change or improve this?


Here’s my DMAIC take on baseball.




What are the Oakland A’s trying to accomplish?  World Series?  More ticket sales?  Increased revenue from merchandising?  Happier fans translates into increased ticket sales.


The catch here is that if fans want to see slugging and home runs, this doesn’t necessarily translate into wins.  Read Moneyball to find out how fans react when established sluggers were told to walk bases.




What are we measuring?  Errors, On-Base Percentages? Runs? Strike-outs?




What are the correlations that we need to identify to better analyze the game and increase wins.  What works now may not work in the playoffs.


Understand that a batting average of .288 in the season, may actually be .201 when a certain batter faces a certain pitcher.




Do change-up pitches always work with the same batters?  Does the speed of a fastball correlate to the number of strikeouts?




How do we make better trades and optimize the drafting process?  Will a first-round draft pick be necessarily better than a sixteenth-round pick?




Remember the Upper and Lower Control Limits Specifications for whatever it is you’re monitoring.  The LCL and UCL can apply to the strike zone, the acceptable number of men on base with two outs, the batter’s count, etc.


Consider a pinch-hitter or a relief pitcher.


The Future of Six Sigma and What About Baseball?


While much work has been done over the past twenty years with regards to the Six Sigma in improving manufacturing, product design, and service industries, with increasingly more resources being made available with software engineering, healthcare, and financial sectors, where are we with 6s in our personal lives?  Wouldn’t it be great if we had our own personal toolboxes our neighbors used


Would anyone be so kind as to demonstrate the Cpk or sigma level of a baseball team, recruiting process, or any other interestingly fun spin on Six Sigma and baseball?  Many Six Sigma practitioners are responsible for increasing efficiencies and reducing costs by hundreds of percentage points.  Has anyone begun simple projects to monitor their fuel economy on their way to work, or find more efficient ways of saving time on their daily subway trip to work?


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