Key Criticisms of Six Sigma: A Systematic Literature Review

Michael Sony, Jiju Antony, Sung Park, Michael Mutingi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)
10710 Downloads (Pure)


Six Sigma has been one of the most popular initiatives to improve management processes over the past few decades. Amidst the success stories on the Six Sigma, there exist some literature studies on the criticisms of Six Sigma. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the existing literature on the criticisms of Six Sigma through a systematic literature review. The criticisms need to be analyzed so that there is growth in the knowledge and understanding of Six Sigma. This paper analyzes literature through various electronic databases such as Academic Source Premier (EBSCO), Google Scholar, Business Source Premier (EBSCO), Emerald Insight, IEEE Xplore Digital Library, JSTOR, ProQuest, Science Direct, Taylor & Francis, PubMed, Wiley, Inderscience, Scopus, and World Public Library. Sixty-one relevant articles are found and analyzed in depth. This paper finds 12 major themes of criticisms on Six Sigma. Based on the findings, 16 research directions are offered. Amidst the plethora of literature review on the success of Six Sigma, this is the first comprehensive systematic literature review on the criticisms of Six Sigma. The authors firmly believe that such criticisms will help the academicians as well as the practitioners to understand some of the rudimentary gaps in implementing Six Sigma as a business improvement strategy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)950-962
Number of pages13
JournalIEEE Transactions on Engineering Management
Issue number3
Early online date8 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020


  • Critique
  • Six Sigma
  • Six Sigma limitations systematic literature review (SLR)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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