The Faces of Six Sigma

The Rise of Quality

The Corporate Days

The Essence of Leadership

The Days at DuPont

Clearly the next part of the Six Sigma story was written by DuPont. For now, it should simply be pointed out that DuPont stands as an exemplar not just because it proved what Six Sigma could do - as that had been established by those who adopted it before. Instead, DuPont stands as an exemplar because of the way in which it systematically and precisely installed, deployed and implemented Six Sigma in the context of its overall strategic direction.

It is in this sense that DuPont's story represents a breakthrough in the way Six Sigma is practiced from a leadership and a managerial perspective. As much as this is true, we take nothing away from the fine companies that preceded DuPont in making Six Sigma what it is today. Their respective stories, too, hold enormous value in exposing what works and what doesn't work regarding Six Sigma.

Sewing machine accuracy

DuPont's unique contribution was in the way it made the leadership and managerial aspects of Six Sigma as turnkey as the project application aspects. Because of DuPont's experience, we now have a strong model for the mechanization of Six Sigma deployment. Before this, Six Sigma had been mechanized at the project and process level, but not at the operations and business levels of a corporation. In terms of managing Six Sigma prior to DuPont, companies simply enacted certain leadership practices in a loosely connected way according to their various corporate cultures.

The way DuPont managed its Six Sigma deployment was anything but loosely connected. In fact, DuPont was so regimented that its deployment thrust can only be characterized as one of sewing machine consistency and accuracy. It is in this very sense that DuPont stands as a model for other corporations to emulate - not in the rote application of methods and tools, but in the embodiment of Six Sigma deployment principles and practices on a global scale.

Don the Champion

It would be drastically remiss to characterize DuPont's role in the evolution of Six Sigma without characterizing Don Linsenmann, the co-author of this book. As DuPont's senior Champion, we can give great credit to Linsenmann, whose leadership was the most important factor in his company's Six Sigma success. We can say this without fear of being misread. At every Six Sigma corporation, the senior Champion is the foremost leverage factor in determining success or failure.

The fact that Linsenmann has been so successful cannot negate the criticality of contributions made by others at DuPont. If you ask Linsenmann who is responsible for the gains made in his company, he will tell you it's his Champions, his Black Belts, his master Black Belts, his green belts. He will tell you it's the leaders of DuPont's major businesses, and the managers who run their operations. But he won't typically mention himself, and maybe therein is a window into the psyche of an effective senior Champion.

Dr. Harry remembers the first presentation he and Mr. Schroeder made to DuPont and its CEO, Charles O. Holliday. They characterized the senior Champion as a business-minded hot shot who marches to the beat of his own drummer, site set on a goal, relentlessly and unceasingly engaged in its realization. For Holliday, Linsenmann was that man, and he was later chosen to lead DuPont's Six Sigma drive.

When Dr. Harry met Linsenmann, he saw a silver-haired, extremely tall smoothly imposing individual with a twinkle in his eye. Within 15 minutes of engaging in conversation, Dr. Harry felt Linsenmann's fear, his passion and his ambition all at the same time. He was no different than a bronc rider, thought Dr. Harry. Linsenmann knew Six Sigma was a bucking bronco, but he couldn't wait to get on it, and at the same time he didn't want to get near it.

One thing Linsenmann did have was passion for his company. If you didn't know it, you'd think his last name was DuPont. He was so personally invested in his company that he would incessantly call upon Dr. Harry and Mr. Schroeder to contribute more than they would have liked. In a very crafty but not deceitful way - in a positive, need-driven way — Linsenmann would suck Dr. Harry and Mr. Schroeder into his world. He needed help with this or that, or he needed another day or two of time. Like a ranch-working dog on a cow ear, he wouldn't give in until Dr. Harry and Mr. Schroeder gave in.

Dr. Harry would sometimes accommodate Linsenmann just to get him to go away! The guy was like a human, intellectual vacuum sweeper, much like the rare Dr. Thomas Cheek at Texas Instruments and Gary Reiner at GE.. Linsenmann would dig through the details of technical understanding, and he would assimilate the higher principles of leadership. He literally sucked up everything he could get from Dr. Harry and Schroeder, and he couldn't get enough. In every fiber of his being, Linsenmann saw the vision of Six Sigma, loved it and knew it was the right thing for DuPont to do.

Dr. Harry once said Linsenmann has "Du" written on one cheek, "Pont" on the other and certain chemicals stuck in the middle. In Linsenmann, Dr. Harry found an individual who captured his executive admiration. Linsenmann had sparked the empathy of Dr. Harry, who had been there and done that before. He had lived, breathed and felt what Linsenmann was about to do. Because of that connection and respect, Dr. Harry worked very closely with Linsenmann as he led his company on its Six Sigma journey.