Best Six Sigma Movies

Best Six Sigma Movies
Best Six Sigma Movies

Best Six Sigma Movies. Photo by

Hey, you can’t study all the time. Why not take a break? The funny thing is, once you put on the Six Sigma glasses, you begin to see it everywhere. Here’s a lighthearted look at movies that I see as great examples of Six Sigma concepts or techniques.


Storyline: A true story and based off of the book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, the story arc follows a Major League Baseball team that had the absolute minimum amount of finances to pay players. That precluded them from being able to afford top talent as there is no salary cap in baseball and many teams had budgets astronomically higher than they did. Worst of all, if they did develop players the teams offered them more money and off they went.

Six Sigma Tie In: By using rigorous data analysis, hypothesis testing, the team discovers that the underlying assumptions that all Major League baseball teams had on what makes good players – and produces wins – was fundamentally incorrect. Their research leads to a much different cost-benefit analysis than anyone else used. They actually implementing their findings, the team was able to out-compete many teams with bigger payrolls.

Side note: I’d wholeheartedly recommend any of Michael Lewis’ books or guest speaking events.

Jerry Maguire

Storyline: Another sports-centric movie. This time focused on a sports agent. Jerry, the agent, one day realizes that his business model is focused entirely on the bottom line and neglects to account for the (sometimes) terrible human cost. In other words; sports agencies can get rich at the expense of their clients. The story arc is how he rejects that model, how he pays for the decision to stand on moral ground both professionally and personally, and how he succeeds in the end.

Six Sigma Tie In: Sometimes Six Sigma gets portrayed as an evil corporate tool that has no regard for humanity. I love Six Sigma because it is precisely not that. All value in Six Sigma comes from valuing the client. The Critical to Quality Tree progression show how you take what is important to the client and translate that to what your business must do to meet those needs. I see the Jerry Maguire story as one where a practitioner realizes that current practices are immoral and unsustainable because the business model fails to deliver quality to its clients. For fun, imagine drawing a SIPOC diagram for a sports agency! In the end, Jerry’s CTQ mapping leads to many improvements and a sustainable model of quality – something we might call in Six Sigma a control plan.


Storyline: Paranormal researchers perform experiments and discover that ghosts are real and are taking over New York City. Of course, their findings and methods do not sit well with the establishment (Colombia University) and they are forced to strike out on their own and create a company.

Six Sigma Tie In:

Admittedly, this is my favorite movie of all time, so perhaps I’m biased here. I’ve been told that I can use a scene in Ghostbusters to explain anything. In terms of Six Sigma, I see this as a triumph of the entrepreneurial spirit. Especially product design as we see in Theory of Inventive Problem Solving TRIZ and Design for Six Sigma.

The Ghostbusters see a need that no one else recognizes or even believes until it gets out of hand. They use rigorous data collection methods (“Just grab her!”), sampling (“according to this morning’s sample, the Twinkie would be 35 feet long weighing approximately 600 lbs!”), designed experiments and hypothesis testing to create an innovative product. They offer their services as a pilot and ultimately scale up to rid the earth of inter-dimensional horror. Talk about identifying the root cause of all issues and strong quality controls!


Gung Ho

Storyline: Set in the 1980s, a Japanese automaker buys an American auto factory. The clash of cultures between middle class American labor and Japanese quality movements.

Six Sigma Tie In: From books like the Toyota Way, it is no secret that much of the American quality movement has its roots in Japanese efficiency. When I see this movie I think about how important management and line worker relations are to the effectiveness of manufacturing, but I also think of techniques and philosophies like kaizen, 5s, the Ishikawa diagram, Taguchi Robust Design, SMED, Lean pull systems, andon, and “go to the Gemba.”


Jurassic Park, Gremlins, all of their sequels and all they inspired

Storyline(s): People fail to account for the flaws inherent in humanity in a process. Despite stern warnings, or the seemingly impossible, man’s hubris courts disaster while seeking entertainment.

Six Sigma Tie In: Talk about a Control Plan gone wrong and the cost of poor quality!! When the dinosaurs get loose and start breeding, and the Gremlins go about their psychotic ways, you know a Master Black Belt is out there designing a Failure Mode Effects Analysis FMEA to better address these issues.


The Imitation Game

Storyline: Alan Turning, the father of modern day computing contributes to the British war effort during World War Two by cracking the supposedly “uncrackable” German Enigma code.

Six Sigma Tie In: In addition to being a wonderful portrayal of an intensely brilliant and complicated man, I saw a story of team dynamics. Of course the problem at hand is mathematical. One of statistical probabilities and innovative ways of solving problems. But the story is all human. Professor Turing wasn’t initially selected to lead the team. He wasn’t even asked to join. His social ineptitude and vast intellect conspire against daringly novel ways of selecting team members, approaching the problem, and overcoming organizational roadblocks.

Trading Places

Storyline: This off color 1980s comedy is a classic in the “switch” genre. Two immoral and very rich brothers place a bet between them on what is more conducive to success; nature or nurture. When the opportunity arises they arrange it so that a big-time Philadelphia commodities broker switches places with a small-time con artist. 

Six Sigma Tie In: Akryod & Murphy’s comedic genius takes racial tension and turns it to comedy with great satire. But from a Six Sigma perspective, the brother’s way to settle their argument is really through a Designed Experiment.

Office Space

Storyline: A man who is deeply disgusted with his office career of prepping lines of code for the big Y2K event has a life-changing experience with a hypnotist that completely changes his outlook on life. This change of philosophy affects him personally and professionally.

Six Sigma Tie In: Really, who cannot identify with this movie?  The scenes in this movie with TPS reports and “I’m gonna have to ask you to come in Saturday…” just scream Lean wastes. The scene between Bob and Tom is a great example of value stream mapping identifying waste.

Bob: “What would you say ya do here?
Tom: “Well look, I already told you! I deal with the goddamn customers so the engineers don’t have to! I have people skills! I am good at dealing with people! Can’t you understand that? What the hell is wrong with you people?”


The Aviator

Storyline: After inheriting his father’s machine tool building business, Howard Hughes realizes that he can leverage that company to even greater success in fields people are just beginning to realize the potential of and that satisfy his personal passions; aviation and cinema.

Six Sigma Tie In:

Hughes’ success came from sheer gut and a ridiculous, compulsive attention to detail & quality control. Many techniques like the fishbone diagram require practitioners to work with front-line employees to understand the truth of the matter.


The Lost Interview

Storyline:Amazing interview with Steve Jobs from 1995. He had been kicked out of Apple at that time and it would be 2 more years before he took it over again. Interesting perspectives on careers, passion, strategy, management and vision.

Six Sigma Tie In: Job’s had an incredible ability to focus on quality. Very much resonating with the philosophy of Six Sigma, Jobs believed that quality was the single most important ingredients in a company’s success. If you’ve ever had to explain this philosophy to new or hesitant adopters, try watching this interview.

The best example I see in the interview is how he would question “business as usual.” His cost accounting and inventory control example is a case study in applying the 5 whys to a business problem. He would begin with an innocent and curious question about why things were done the way they were. And he’s keep at it until he understood the answer. Eventually the accountants told him their process was the way it was because that’s how it was always done. Meanwhile, it turned out that they didn’t have accurate data because their systems controls were awful. The improvements made from that line of questioning are now a point of competitive advantage for Apple.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Storyline: An absolutely documentary on one of the world’s best sushi chefs.

Six Sigma Tie In: Quality and the pursuit of quality is everything. Superb quality transcends everything else.

So what movies have you recognize Six Sigma applications? When you are studying – or teaching these techniques – what are some of the movies you reference to bring the point home?

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