3.4 in a Million – Applying Lessons From Greatness

by University Communications,

The Six Sigma program saved Motorola over $16 Billion in the 1980s. General Electric reported savings of $12 Billion over the first five years of its implementation. Today, organizations of all sizes and industries seek practitioners who can help them attain the lauded performance of a mere 3.4 defects per 1,000,000 opportunities.

At Willamette, the system of quality management methods is taught by Henry Bi, Associate Professor of Operations Management and Information Systems. In Bi’s Lean Six Sigma class, “Students learn concepts, frameworks, and problem-solving tools that reduce waste and cost, improve quality and speed, improve business processes, and achieve high organizational performance. It’s designed for students who are interested in pursuing their management careers in operations, analysis and systems, or sustainability management.”

Researches The Sources Of Performance

Professor Bi joined Willamette University in Fall 2009. Prior to Willamette, he taught courses in information systems management and operations management at Pennsylvania State University as well as at the University of Arizona when he was a doctoral student.

“My current research focuses on determining: what is high-performance and low-performance for individuals, organizations, and countries; who are high-performers and low-performers; and why different performances exist. The motivation of this research is to find the best management practices underneath high-performance so that others can learn and improve.”

In 2013, Bi’s research and teaching ethos drove him to earn a Six Sigma Black Belt certified by the American Society for Quality. Six Sigma creates a special infrastructure of practitioners in the system. ‘Champions’ take responsibility for implementation across the organization. ‘Black Belts’ apply the methodology to project execution and special leadership. ‘Green Belts’ operate under the guidance of Black Belts and take up implementation.

Drawing on his experience and certification, Professor Bi developed Willamette’s Lean Six Sigma course with three goals in mind: “First, help our students to understand why reducing waste (lean) and reducing variations (six sigma) in products and services are important. Second, help students gain a competitive advantage in the job market by working toward their Six Sigma Green Belt certification. Finally, in the long run, if more people practice reducing waste and reducing variations in products and services, then everyone will live in a better place with better products and services.”

Outstanding Teaching Translates Knowledge to Action

In 2012, Professor Bi received the University’s highest teaching award -- Jerry E. Hudson Award for Excellence in Teaching, which honors faculty members who have gone above and beyond in leadership, service and teaching. He also won the Award for Meritorious Service to Students twice; in 2011 and 2012.

Since developing the Lean Six Sigma course, Professor Bi has helped several students each year attain their Six Sigma Green Belts. These students’ “success comes from their persistent, hard work: course preview before the semester starts, daily quizzes, and tons of practices in learning the complex Six Sigma body of knowledge during one semester,” he says.

“My experience studying under Professor Bi has been nothing but awesome,” says Doug Cox MBA’14, one of the students who earned his Six Sigma Green Belt while studying at Willamette. “His Six Sigma Black Belt certification and experience in operational efficiency and excellence truly influence his teaching. He wants his students to excel, but will only give you the grade that you have earned. I am lucky to have had the honor of learning from him.”