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Blending Six Sigma and design thinking

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To be efficient, leaders can embed the basic techniques of Six Sigma, which involves measuring and analyzing operations. The new buzz, though, is mastering “design thinking”—understanding customers’ day-to-day problems.

To many, the two skill sets don’t fit together well. Yet businesses must figure out how to incorporate both approaches.

Chuck Jones, vice president for global consumer design at Whirlpool, explains how the two techniques can happily coexist:

Jones first proved the value of design with the introduction of the Duet washer and dryer, which gave Whirlpool a real stake in the front-loader market.

With success in hand, he invited Whirlpool’s Six Sigma experts to help him improve design processes. They came up with new metrics, such as how customers evaluate product quality, which allowed designers and Six Sigma types to understand each other.

—Adapted from “Welcoming the New, Improving the Old,” Sara Beckman, The New York Times. 

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