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I am always being asked this key question “Can Lean Six Sigma deliver results?”

It is critically important to determine the real needs of any business before embarking on a particular path towards implementing any improvement program. Many companies are implementing and using  Lean Six Sigma tools to drive their cost reduction program to improve productivity.  However, they may be biting off more than they need to chew on to deliver fast and profitable results. Here is an interesting article by Chris Turner on Lean Certification Online.

Can Lean Six Sigma Deliver Results?

Over the years, I have seen many improvement systems come and go.  Every week there seems to be a book introducing another buzzword and proposing a new method for improving your business processes. Amid all the hype, there is one key question for any business owner to ask; “Are any of these new systems effective?” Lean Six Sigma is one such process improvement system that has been getting lots of attention and is driving companies to jump onto the buzzword bandwagon.

Lean Manufacturing AwarenessEach week, I receive several calls from companies asking me about Lean Six Sigma and how they can implement a program to support their continuous process improvement. The conversation always starts with a clear statement from the person on the phone telling me that they want to implement a Lean Six Sigma program and asking if I can help them to achieve this goal? My response to their inquiry is; “What are you hoping to achieve by doing this?” Now, all I hear is silence!

After a few moments, I hear; “What do you mean, what are we hoping to achieve by implementing a Lean Six Sigma program? We want to improve our business processes and cut costs. Isn’t that what a Lean Six Sigma program is supposed to do? ” As you can see at this point the person is absolutely convinced that a Lean Six Sigma program is going to improve their processes and cut costs. The problem is that neither of these are guaranteed, that is, process improvement and/or cutting costs when implementing a Lean Six Sigma program. Wow, most people’s jaw start to drop at this point in the conversation. So let me explain!

When you start delving into the reasons why most companies want to implement a Lean Six Sigma program, it is usually because they have heard about other organizations that have used it, and they are convinced that they need it to stay competitive. However, after an in depth analysis of their current business operating system, you find that they do not need it after all. Why is this? Well, it’s because they do not have the internal capabilities to develop the infrastructure to support the implementation of a full blown Lean Six Sigma program.  They do not have the internal discipline to drive the process.

What the analysis shows is that they need something that will give focused improvement, and deliver fast results. To achieve this they need to start introducing lean principles with some basic problem solving tools. To do anything else would be like trying to crack a walnut using a sledgehammer. It would be a clear case of overkill! I can tell you that 98% of the companies I work with do not need to implement a Six Sigma program. I know, at this point in the conversation most people are tuning out and have stopped listening to my heretic ramblings. How dare you say such things?

Here’s what Ishikawa, the father of quality circles had to say about it. “95% of all process problems can be solved using the seven basic quality tools.”These are simple to teach and easy to use problem solving tools.

  1. Cause and Effect Diagram, also called the Ishikawa Diagram or Fishbone Chart.
  2. Check Sheet
  3. Control Charts
  4. Histogram
  5. Pareto Chart
  6. Scatter Diagram
  7. Stratification, which is sometimes replaced with the Run Chart or Flow Chart.

So, you might want to go beyond the hype, and re-think your desire to implement Lean Six Sigma as your improvement program of choice. There are easier ways to get fast, and positive results. Put away the proverbial sledgehammer and focus on what you are trying to achieve, and the best way to get there.

I think this is an informative article that might get people to start thinking about the needs of their business rather than believing the hype about Lean Six Sigma. I know from experience that implementing Lean Six Sigma is not easy, and it can be frustrating too. I agree with the advice to really look at what your organization is capable of supporting. Hopefully, this will stop business owners and management teams from  trying to fit their organizations into a round hole when they really need a square one. They need to start their process by asking the question “Can Lean Six Sigma deliver results?”

If you enjoyed reading this article: Can Lean Six Sigma Deliver Results, please share it with your work colleagues and friends.

You will also enjoy reading this article: Which is better, Lean or Six Sigma?

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