Lean Six Sigma is a powerful and proven methodology. There are countless documented cases where the application of this methodology has delivered hundreds of thousands, and even millions of dollars in savings to practicing organizations. However, it is not right for everyone. The first question I ask of people considering Lean Six Sigma is “do you produce a product or service where the consequences of slight variations would render your product or service useless, or dangerous to your end customer?” If the answer to this question is no, then the “Six Sigma” element of “Lean Six Sigma” is likely to be overkill. In fact as a consultant, if I were to recommend a Lean Six Sigma deployment to your organization when you did not need the analytical power of Six Sigma, I would be attempting to sell you something that did not add value to your organization. This is in fact one of the 8 forms of waste in the Lean model – Overproduction.
It is common to hear that Lean is all about speed, while Six Sigma is a driver of near perfect quality. While both of these statements are true, Lean when applied correctly actually includes as one of its two pillars a comprehensive element of quality (Jidoka – Quality at the source). Problem solving and root cause analysis are key components of the Lean Organization. The tools that are usually associated with Lean tend to be simpler in nature, but are nonetheless very effective. These tools are easy to understand, easy to deploy, and can be used at many levels of the organization. Although I have been a practitioner of both Lean and Six Sigma for over a decade, I still reach into my Lean toolbox more often for problem solving (especially in a team setting).
Lean Six Sigma still offers a powerful methodology for those organizations that need it. The rigorous statistical analysis, understanding of the input / output variation, and the DMAIC framework deliver proven results. Advanced tools such as design of experiments and multiple regression can save organizations thousands of dollars in developmental and quality costs. Combine this with introducing the process velocity components from the Lean model and organizations can develop highly efficient processes that produce staggering levels of quality. However, service organizations and producers of products that have higher allowable variation derive little value from these advanced statistical tools.
At the end of the day it is up to Business Leaders to determine what approach is best for them. If you are considering Lean Six Sigma, I would love the opportunity to speak with you. Together we can asses your needs and develop a solution that is tailored to your organization.
Until next time,