Despite the popularity and financial benefits Six Sigma programs produce, Six Sigma has its weaknesses. Critics of Six Sigma recommend inclusion of systems thinking, a method that examines an organization as a system and views its processes holistically with Six Sigma. The purpose of this quantitative study is to compare organizations that use Six Sigma only and organizations that use an integrated approach. The research questions explore to what extent organizations that implement an integrated quality improvement method differ in the success and duration of their Six Sigma programs compared to those that implement Six Sigma as a standalone method. In addition, the study investigates factors that contribute to the success of integrating Six Sigma and system thinking, as well as differences in leadership support for an integrated model compared to those that use Six Sigma only. Conceptually, this study is framed within the theories of Six Sigma and systems thinking. The data was collected through an electronic survey of 289 participated from professional associations, whose membership include practitioners of Six Sigma and systems thinking. A descriptive analysis was conducted including frequency distribution and cross tabulation analysis. The results of this study suggest there is no statistically significant difference in the Six Sigma program success between those organizations that use Six Sigma only compared to those that use an integrated approach; they both report success. However, there is evidence of organizations that use the integrated approach of systems thinking tend to use feedback loops more frequently, have a more holistic view of quality management, and examine their organization's interdependencies more than organizations that use Six Sigma only. There is evidence that as the duration of the organization's use of Six Sigma matures so does the respondents' support for factors of systems thinking concept. Evidence also supports that an integrated approach contributes to the success of Six Sigma programs. No empirical research on an integrated approach to quality management was available. This study contributes to providing an explorative foundation for further research as well as creating a survey questionnaire previously not available to explore the integrated approach with Six Sigma programs.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Organizational leadership; Six sigma (Quality control standard); System theory; Comparative management; Total quality management; Organizational behavior

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Schmieder-Ramirez, June;