As I mentioned in my earlier posting, both the CMMI and Six Sigma grew out of “essentially” separate industries.  The CMMI is most heavily rooted in the United States Air Force, embedded, real-time software engineering industry (the original Software CMM) industry.  Six Sigma, on the other hand, is mostly heavily rooted in the manufacturing quality, statistical process control arena.  It is important to note that both Six Sigma and CMMI also share roots derived from within basic original quality techniques, most notably both have evolved from theories and approaches articuated/ invented by Shewhart and Deming, among others.

In order to better enumerate the sources of Six Sigma and CMMI individually, below is a brief listing of each set of ‘roots’. (Please be aware: Neither listing is 100% complete nor 100% agreed upon by practioners from within each field!)
[tabs slidertype=”left tabs”][tabcontainer] [tabtext]Six Sigma[/tabtext] [tabtext]CMMI[/tabtext] [/tabcontainer] [tabcontent] [tab]

Six Sigma Roots

  • Possibly the ultimate roots of six sigma as a measurement standard, rather than as a quality standard, can be traced back to Carl Frederick Gauss (1777-1855) who introduced the concept of the normal curve.
  • Six sigma as a measurement standard applied to product variation and can be attributed to Walter Shewhart, in the 1920s, who demonstrated that three sigma from the mean is the point where a process requires correction.
  • Credit for coining the term “six sigma” goes to Motorola engineer Bill Smith.
  • The term “Six Sigma” comes from a field of statistics known as process capability studies.
  • Six Sigma originally referred to the ability of manufacturing processes to produce a very high proportion of output within specification.
  • Today, six sigma is a federally registered trademark of Motorola.
  • The underlying theories and approache are based on the work of pioneers such as Shewhart, Deming, Juran, Ishikawa, Taguchi among others.
  • Dr. Mikel Harry is credited with applying six sigma throughout Motorola. His paper titled “The Strategic Vision for Accelerating Six Sigma Within Motorola.”  describes the original application within Motorola. He became head of the Motorola Six Sigma Research Institute and the driving force behind six sigma.
  • Dr. Mikel Harry and Richard Schroeder of Motorola:
    • created the unique combination of change management and data-driven methods elevating six sigma from a simple quality measurement tool to the breakthrough business excellence philosophy.
    • expanded six sigma from the manufacturing floor to the boardroom by emphasizing entitlement, breakthrough strategy, sigma levels, and the roles for deployment of Black Belts, Master Black Belts, and Champions.
  • “Six Sigma achieved broad industry acceptance through the efforts of business leaders such as Bob Galvin of Motorola, Larry Bossidy of AlliedSignal, and Jack Welch of GE.”
  • Most recently, practitioners have combined Six Sigma ideas with lean manufacturing to yield a methodology named Lean Six Sigma.

This above information was largely sourced from Wikipedia and “The History of Six Sigma“.

CMMI Roots

In the 1970s due to increasing complexity of software and frequent project failure, individuals such as Edward Yourdon, Larry Constantine, Gerald Weinberg, Tom DeMarco, and David Parnas published articles and books with research results, in order to attempt to professionalize and improve the software development process.

Later in the 1980s as numerous US military projects involving software subcontractors ran over-budget and were completed far later than planned, an effort to remedy these problems was funded by the United States Air Force at the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) of Carnegie Mellon University. Since then the SEI has continued to encourage the development of methods and techniques to improve Engineering and Business processes.

Precursors to the CMM/CMMI included:

  • The Quality Management Maturity Grid developed by Philip B. Crosby in his book “Quality is Free”
  • Richard L. Nolan’s paper in 1973 describing the stages of growth model for IT organizations
  • Watts Humphrey’s development of process maturity concepts during the later stages of his 27 year career at IBM

Active development of a process maturity model by the US Department of Defense Software Engineering Institute (SEI) began in 1986 when Humphrey joined the Software Engineering Institute located at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In the late 1980s, the U.S. Department of Defense funded development in evaluating the process capability of software contractors.

Humphrey’s CMM/CMMI approach succeeded because of his:

  • unique insight that organizations mature their processes in stages based on solving process problems in a specific order
  • empahsis on the staged evolution of a system of software development practices within an organization
  • recognition of the need for tools to understand and improve business process performance.

Today, CMMI/CMM combines disciplines such as software and systems engineering, and dovetails with other process-improvement methods that might be used elsewhere within an organization, such as ISO 9000, Six Sigma, and Agile.

This above information was largely sourced from Wikipedia and “CMMI: A Short History“.

Over the next several posts, I will discuss in this topic in greater detail.  Again, as I noted at the outset of this series, should you have any queries, concerns, or items you wish to see discussed, please use our contact page to let me know.

Mark Rabideau

Mark Rabideau

Mark Rabideau is a Management Mentor/ Coach with over 40 years of Engineering and Management Experience. He is a CMMI Institute SCAMPI High Maturity Lead Appraiser and Six Sigma Master Black Belt. He is also licensed to teach both the CMMI-DEV and SVC constellations' courses. You may contact Mark directly by using the PEP contact page.