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On October 28, Tufts Gordon Institute and The International Business Center at The Fletcher School hosted Don Linsenmann, Vice President of Business Process Excellence and Corporate Six Sigma Champion for DuPont. Entertaining and engaging both engineering management and Fletcher graduate students, Linsenmann’s talk detailed the role Six Sigma has played in the company’s transformation from a cyclical chemical company to the “world’s most dynamic science company.” A business management strategy initially started by Motorola, Six Sigma is now employed by hundreds of consumer and technology companies throughout the world including Fortune 500 companies Raytheon, Target Corporation, Bank of America, General Electric, Dow Chemical and, of course, DuPont.

Holding up a Rubik’s Cube, Linsenmann compared each of the six colors of the cube to a different part of the Six Sigma equation: strategy/vision; leadership; management; technology; methodology; and people. He then handed over the cube to various members of the audience, tasking them with aligning one side/color as he shared his insights on each of the six phases of Six Sigma.

Well known for discovering materials such as Nylon and Teflon, people automatically think of DuPont as a chemical company. DuPont was looking to transform itself to become “the leaders in environmental waste reduction,” Linsenmann said and “part of the strategy to change to a sustainable company included Six Sigma.” A company that has earned more than $130 billion in revenue, DuPont has 55,000 employees and 13 different business units – including crop protection, sustainable solutions and protection technologies. With each business semi-autonomously run, it becomes essential for there to be corporate-wide programs to ensure quality processes throughout the organization.

Addressing phase two of the management process—leadership —Linsenmann said the company has Six Sigma champions for every project. More importantly, the CEO, Ellen Kullman, is involved and her personal leadership style is felt at all levels of the company. In contrast, management, phase three of Six Sigma, is all about accountability. DuPont has specialized software to track each and every project with various metrics so any business unit president at any time can quickly pull up the dashboard and easily assess the project’s financial status.

Briefly reviewing the final three phases—methodology, technology and people—Linsenmann said all projects employ the Six Sigma DMAIC project approach: Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control. Using this roadmap, every decision is based on data generated from technology analysis tools. Finally, DuPont has a huge commitment to the training and development of its people. The company has trained 1,000 Black Belts (individuals who are 100 percent devoted to Six Sigma) and has 20,000 sales people with Green Belt certification.

Concluding his talk, Linsenmann pulled out a perfectly completed Rubik’s Cube. In order for Six Sigma to be successful each of the six sides needs to be aligned. “It’s not about the business of quality, it’s the quality of the business.”

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