What is Lean Six Sigma Process Improvement
What is Lean Six Sigma and what is the difference between Six Sigma and Lean Six Sigma?
Lean Six Sigma is a combination of two popular Process Improvement methods—Lean and Six Sigma—that pave the way for operational excellence. These time-tested approaches provide organizations with a clear path to achieving their missions fast and efficiently.
Before diving into details, it’s important to clarify the concept of process improvement. Since Lean Six Sigma is a system for analyzing and improving processes, we’ll break down those terms first.
What is a Process?
A process is a series of steps involved in building a product or delivering a service. Almost everything we do is a process—tying our shoes, baking a cake, treating a cancer patient, or manufacturing a cell phone.
What is Process Improvement?
Process improvement requires employees to better understand the current state of how a process functions in order to remove the barriers to serving customers. Since each product or service results from a process, gaining the skills required to remove waste, rework or inefficiency is critical for the growth of an organization.
Working On a Process vs In a Process
Employees are hired based on their expertise in a given field. Bakers are good at baking and surgeons are good at performing surgery. Professionals are experts at working in a process, but they are not necessarily experts at working on a process. Learning to work on and improve processes requires experience and education in Continuous Improvement. That’s where Lean Six Sigma comes in.
What is Lean?
Lean methodology has been labelled a process improvement toolkit, a philosophy and a mindset. It originated in the 1940s. At its core, Lean is a popular approach to streamlining both manufacturing and transactional processes by eliminating waste and optimizing flow while continuing to deliver value to customers.
What is Six Sigma?
Six Sigma is a process improvement strategy that improves Output quality by reducing Defects. It originated in the 1980s. Six Sigma is named after a statistical concept where a process only produces 3.4 defects per million opportunities (DPMO). We can also think six Sigma of as a goal, where processes not only encounter fewer defects but do so consistently (low variability).
Combining Lean and Six Sigma Into Lean Six Sigma
Although Lean and Six Sigma have been taught as separate methods for many years, the line has blurred and it’s now common to see Lean and Six Sigma teachings combined as Lean Six Sigma in order to reap the best of both worlds.
Lean Six Sigma provides a systematic approach, and a combined toolkit to help employees build their problem-solving muscles. Both Lean and Six Sigma are based on the Scientific Method and together they support organizations looking to build a problem-solving culture. This means that “finding a better way” becomes a daily habit.
Understanding both approaches and accompanying toolkits is extremely valuable when solving problems. It doesn’t matter where a tool comes from—Lean or Six Sigma—as long as it does the job. By combining these methods you have the best shot at applying the right mindset, tactics and tools to solve the problem.
The Steps of Lean Six Sigma
Lean Six Sigma uses a 5-step method to improve processes and solve problems called DMAIC.
- Define Phase: Define the problem
- Measure Phase: Quantify the problem
- Analyze Phase: Identify the cause of the problem
- Improve Phase: Solve the root cause and verify improvement
- Control Phase: Maintain the gains and pursue perfection
What Are the Benefits of Using Lean Six Sigma?
Organizations face rising costs and new challenges every day. Lean Six Sigma provides a competitive advantage in the following ways:
- Streamlining processes results in Improved customer experience and increased loyalty
- Developing more efficient process flows drives higher bottom-line results
- Switching from defect detection to defect prevention reduces costs and removes waste
- Standardizing processes leads to organizational “nimbleness” and the ability to pivot to everyday challenges
- Decreasing lead times increases capacity and profitability
- Engaging employees in the effort improves morale and speeds up people development
Organizational Development and Lean Six Sigma
Organizational Development (OD) is the application of the behavioural sciences to resolve organizational problems. Organizations achieve success through the integrated functioning of people, processes and technology.
Organizational Development practitioners understand that in order to support organizational change it is crucial to understand how the systems and processes of the organization are driven by complex factors such as behaviours and cultural norms.
Lean Six Sigma offers competitive advantages as a complement to Organizational Development, particularly when business transformation requires improvement of operational processes.
We recognize Motorola and GE for their successful implementation of Lean Six Sigma. What is often not highlighted is that both companies’ change initiatives started generating incredible business results when they married Lean Six Sigma with Organizational Development techniques. These organization’s and others since have found that driving change, and business results come from integrating the Lean Six Sigma toolbox with the broad and effective methods of Organizational Development.
Who Benefits From Using It?
The Business & Their Customers
Lean Six Sigma works for any size organization. The same success achieved by large businesses can be attained by small and medium businesses. Smaller organizations may actually be more nimble with fewer people and lower levels of red tape to navigate.
This method works for businesses looking for a roadmap to effectively meet their strategic goals. Applying it helps to increase revenue and reduce costs while freeing up resources to add value where the organization needs them most. The ultimate winners are the customers of the business who receive consistent, reliable products and services.
Lean Six Sigma not only improves profit margins, it positively affects employees by engaging them in the work of improving their own processes. Since employees are closest to the actual work of an organization—the delivery of products and services—their intimate knowledge makes them the best resources to analyze and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of those processes.
By participating in successful Lean Six Sigma efforts, employees build confidence and become increasingly valuable assets to the business. Studies show that employees who feel they’re able to positively impact an organization will perform better, be more accountable and live happier lives. By quickly mastering basic Lean Six Sigma skills, they will continually standardize work, root out problems and remove waste in an organization.
What are the Belt Levels?
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