Critique (2) on Theoretical Paper

Author: Weiyong Zhang & Xiaobo Xu
Title of article: Six Sigma and Information Systems Project Management: A Revised Theoretical Model
Publication Project Management Journal (2008), Vol. 39, No. 3, 59–74

Summary: The paper focuses on how Six Sigma best practices can be fused into IS project management and can result into quality and success of IS projects i.e. how Six Sigma can impact IS projects positively.

To validate this, the author adopted a theory development approach by taking an existing model called R&R model by Ravichandran and Rai (2000) to develop a revised theoretical model that represents an improvement on the model to have what is termed a quality-oriented model. Here, the three basic aspects of R&R model (domain, constructs and relationships between constructs) are re-examined in the context of Six Sigma.

The author in supporting its research, reviewed the three views of IS project management, the quality-oriented organisational system approach to IS project management and then Six Sigma in terms of relevance to IS project management.

The author also mentions the limitation of the research which are:

  • That the revised model should be taken as first step to fussing Six sigma to IS project management
  • That the revised model is only applicable to IS projects and not any other type of projects

A: Quality of the Research

Item Your Comments
1. Is the research question or objective clearly stated?     Yes. The research objective is clearly stated in the abstract and further broken down in the introduction.
2. Is the research question interesting and important?     There is no research question explicitly stated except for the research objective which is interesting and important.
The research objective becomes more interesting as it contributes more to the number of to-be successful IS projects.
3. Is the work original?       Yes it is original as the researcher critically view the R&R model and capitalise on it to build a revised model that is better than R&R in the subject of IS Project Management.
4. Is the background research clear and relevant?     Yes it is relevant as it stated clearly that the study is based on theory development approach though based on the critique of an existing model.
5. Are there any ethical problems?   None that I know of.

B: The Research Method

Item Your Comments
Summarise the research method     The research uses qualitative methodology founded on explanatory propositions. 8 propositions were made upon which the revised model is based.
Does the research method seem appropriate for the research question?   Yes the method is appropriate for the objective of the research.
Are the methods adequately described?     Yes the methods are well described as to how they fit in to produce the revised quality-oriented organisation system.
Were the analyses done correctly?     Yes the analysis is done qualitatively. A diagram shows the revised model with respect to the propositions analysed.
Are the conclusions supported by the data?     Yes the established revised model based on the formulated proposition supports the conclusion.

C: Quality of Presentation

Item Your Comments
Is the work well presented?       Yes the paper is well presented with well formatted headings, subheading, text and tables.
The title of the article is not appropriate as I expected the title “Six Sigma and Information System Quality Management” rather than “Six Sigma and Information Systems Project Management” because Six Sigma is more of a process improvement and quality management methodology than a project management technique.
Is the paper well structured?     Yes it was well structured as there is abstract; introduction; literature review; analysis and then conclusion (stating clearly what limitation future studies should cater for).
Are symbols, terms, and concepts adequately defined?   No. No table of definition or ACRONYMS anywhere in the paper. Concept like Lean was expected to be defined in relation to Six Sigma but was not discussed at all in the paper.
Would additional tables, figures help to clarify the work?   No. The figures of R&R model and the revised model is enough.

D: Additional Notes

Use this section to record additional notes on the paper. In particular you should identify any links to other topics and papers from the module     The paper sees Six Sigma more from a project management practices rather than as a process improvement methodology. Jack (cited in Isixsigma, 2019) sees Six Sigma as a quality program aimed at improving customer satisfaction and reducing costs. Radhika (2012) stated that Six Sigma is in the domain of other quality management initiatives like Total Quality Management (TQM) and Total Quality Control (TQC).
The paper also failed to explain the difference between project management of a typical project and Six Sigma project.  According to (Peter, 2019), Six Sigma is not a new term for project management or a distinct project management techniques but a methodology that complements existing project management practices and standards. While typical project management according to Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) has phases like Initiating, Planning, Execution, Monitoring & Controlling and Closing (Bernie, 2017); the DMAIC method of Six Sigma has phases like Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve and Control (Ankit, 2018a) .
The paper also failed to address the application of Six Sigma to the quadruple constraints of project management which are Cost, Scope, Time and Quality. Anbari (2002) states that addressing these quadruple constraints may seems as mission impossible at first, but the application of Six Sigma in process areas of scope management, cost management and time management would result in more pronounced project quality, right measure of quality standards and improved capabilities.
Since the paper also sees Six Sigma as purely a project management methodology with respect to an IS project management, it should be able to state how project management feeds into a Six Sigma system but this was not done. According to (Daniel, 2019),  by relating project management and Six Sigma systems in terms of project life cycle, we can say concept and requirement phase go with “Define”; validation phase goes with “Measure” and “Analyse” while implementation planning, implementation and post implementation go with “Improve” and “Control”. Anbari (2002) also proposes a phase called “Recognize” to be added before the “Define” phase of DMAIC method of Six Sigma.
I am also of the opinion that the author should have brought in the Lean concept with Six Sigma as the world today talks more about Lean Six Sigma rather than Six Sigma alone. Lean creates customer value by eliminating wasteful activities (Ankit, 2018b). Lean quickens Six Sigma; the combination of which results in improved revenue, reduced cost, increase efficiency and produce effective people (GoLeanSixSigma, 2019).
The author also do not in any way mention any Six Sigma quality tools and template; and how they can be applied to achieve improved quality IS projects. Six Sigma tools like 5 Why, 5S System, Value Stream Mapping, Regression Analysis, Pareto Chart, Poka-yoke (Mistake Proofing), etc. (Dear Systems, 2018) should have been mentioned in relation to how they would be used to advance quality of IS project delivery.
The paper in an attempt to critically analyse Six Sigma in comparison with TQM could not provide pros and cons of why Six Sigma should be a best approach for process quality improvement except stating the Six Sigma principles which I agree were new with Six Sigma and might not be available in TQM but that is not enough to make Six Sigma superior to TQM. In fact, (Jason, 2018) quoted Joseph M. Juran as saying “Six Sigma is nothing new. For him, only the terms have changed, but the basic approach to quality improvement remains the same.”
No mention of any project management framework like Prince 2, Agile, PMP PMBOK, etc. in relation to IS project management. Six Sigma is deemed more fit for operational initiatives as a project management methodologies which this paper believed Six Sigma to be than for an IS projects where Agile, Waterfall, etc. might be alternative approaches (Lucidchart, 2017). Agile project management methodology principle of continuous improvements aligns more into Six Sigma principles (Jason, 2018) and as such would have been a proposed IS project management framework fused with Six Sigma as a quality management methodology.  


  1. Ravichandran, T., & Rai, A. (2000).Quality management in systems development: An organizational system perspective. MIS Quarterly, 24, 381–415.
  2. Radhika, C. (2012). Six Sigma and Project Management. Retrieved 15 February, 2019,
  3. Isixsigma (2019). What Is Six Sigma?. Retrieved 15 February, 2019,
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