Six Sigma and MVQ

Six Sigma and MVQ

I provided this feedback on a LinkedIn comment on the six sigma post.

The Comment:

…Six Sigma has evolved over the years from manufacturing to different domains. It is adequately applied in software development projects.

Six Sigma is not about literal perfection but more about meeting customers’ specifications. In the digital world, customer specification is difficult to appraise hence market feedback is vital to value creation. Rushing an MVP to the market does not always mean customer adoption, hence tweaks are necessary to meet what the customer wants.

The nature of developing conventional digital products may require speed, but speed without adequately satisfying the customer (Six Sigma) is a market failure.

Case1: Browser adoption: Firefox vs. Chrome
Case2: Social Network: Hi5 vs, Facebook
Case3: Chatting platform: BB Messenger vs. Whatsapp
Case4: Search Engine: Yahoo vs. Google

My Response:

If you tell me that in manufacturing that you need to have products solidly perfected to avoid recall, I will agree that six sigma is critical. But in digital systems, the users are part of the products and that means “perfection” and rigorous statistical modeling to remove defects are not immensely catalytic.

Amazon launched Alexa knowing that it will use customers to improve Alexa. Under six sigma, that construct is not evident. Yet, you must still have to meet MVQ (minimum viable quality) but that can be attained without six sigma in digital solutions. If you got to Amazon, Facebook, Google and the top leading digital companies, six sigma is not a core philosophy.

You can satisfy customers on quality without applying six sigma as a digital platform. It is called MVQ. All the products you cited did not fail because of perfection miss, rather lack of innovation. It turns out that using six sigma, you will likely fail in digital systems. Today, it is innovation over perfection. Facebook which you cited is an enemy of six sigma with its mantra of “Move fast and break things.” You simply made my point.

You wrote “but speed without adequately satisfying the customer (Six Sigma) is a market failure.”. It is key to understand that the #1 factor on satisfying customers is SPEED.  If you miss that, then, everything fails.

Facebook has won with its “Move fast and break things.” That means, it pursues speed and digital innovation over “perfection”. For putting FB in your list, I do agree that you made my point. The key is MOVE fast, learn and update.

You cannot do that in manufacturing but in digital platforms that is the mantra. That speed of innovation is the reason you have satisfied customers. Who cares if Firefox is doing in 3 months what Chrome did last week even though it may do it better?

Six Sigma and MVQ

Quality is important but you should not blindly pursue the six sigma near absolute-perfection without a consideration of product cost. You must understand your product MVQ (minimum viable quality). China as a nation has mastered that construct. Visit a low-end store, you will see a toy car for $10; take another trip to a high-end store, you can also get a toy car for $500. If you check, they might have been made by the same company in China. But $500 will price many parents out for toys for their kids, while the $10 ones do the job even for six hours before they break. But the kids have received and used toys – they do not care!

A product Minimum Viable Quality (MVQ) is that version of a new product which allows a team to sell the maximum amount of products to customers with the least effort and at the best optimized price even when delivering value. That is where you need to build as you launch your product, and even at product maturity, do not deviate from it.

Facebook has the mantra of “Move fast and break things” because the cost of breaking things is marginal. Yes, fixing broken things in digital ecosystem is one update away. With that, Facebook launches faster, while meeting the MVQ (but not necessarily going for the rigorous quality that six sigma demands). If speed of innovation is an important factor in domains where the customers are parts of the products (they use your usage history to improve the products), working to be wholly near-perfect on launch is not a winning strategy.

Between six sigma and MVQ, go for MVQ if you are working on digital platforms. If your competitor launches today with MVQ, and in the spirit of using six sigma you launch a month later, you would be in trouble because in digital platforms, the competitor has acquired data that by month end will anchor a product that will beat whatever you have coming.

Simply, if you are working on digital platforms, MVQ on launch is more important than pursuing six sigma legendary near-absolute perfection. In digital, users are part of the products; the insights are more than any rigorous statistical modeling. Quality unbounded by cost is an illusion!

The Fading of Six Sigma


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2 thoughts on “Six Sigma and MVQ

  1. Thanks prof for this explanation. I however have an observation. I think six sigma and MVQ are two extremes.

    What the digital world need is ‘Agile six sigma’ in order to meet the ever changing VOC which is the bedrock of any improvement process.

    Am not sure Facebook will be that successful using the mantra of move fast…. fix it later if it were to be in a mission critical digital space.

    Facebook strategy would be a disaster in today’s Cyberspace of ‘Zero hour’ attack. A small boy or girl in a remote village like mine will crash your system if quality is neglected irrespective of how fast you had moved.

    I love F1. Ever noticed how long it takes to change tyres? That in my opinion is Agile Six Sigma in action.

    Thank you once again Prof.


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