A Framework for Applying Six Sigma Improvement Methodology in an Academic Environment

Lawrence O Jenicke, Monica C Holmes, Anil Kumar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Purpose - The six sigma methodology has been successfully implemented in many organizations leading to tremendous quality improvements in products manufactured and services delivered. However, academic institutions have lagged other organizations in implementing six sigma. The purpose of this paper is to examine the challenges of implementing the methodology in academia and proposes a framework that serves as a guide for implementing six sigma in academic institutions. Design/methodology/approach - Several unique aspects that differentiate an academic environment from a manufacturing setting for six sigma are identified. A three-tiered framework to organize the six sigma improvement methodology and related academic performance indicators into a hierarchy fitting academic institution governance levels is proposed. Examples of strategic objectives and performance indicators by levels of implementation for the DMAIC process are also provided. Findings - The findings suggest that the unique structure of an academic institution make it an interesting candidate for implementing six sigma. The three-tiered framework for six sigma can be used by administrators, faculty, staff and students as an implementation guide. Research limitations/implications - The paper shows that significant differences between the environments make implementation in many areas within an academic institution challenging. However, there are limitations to the application of six sigma in an academic organization. The six sigma methodology has been more thoroughly developed and refined in manufacturing environments than in service systems such as in a university. Practical implications - This paper helps to stimulate thinking about the application of a proven quality management methodology to academic settings where structured formal improvement programs such as six sigma are not commonly found. Originality/value - The value of this paper is to provide a three-tiered hierarchical structure for applying six sigma in academic organizations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)453-462
JournalTQM Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2008


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