What is Lean Six Sigma?

12 October 2020

Lean Six Sigma

What is Lean Six Sigma?

You’ll see the terms Lean, Six Sigma and Lean Six Sigma thrown around a lot, but what does it actually all mean? What is Lean Six Sigma? There’s a boatload of information available about the subject, and hours and hours of learning to be done in order to fully master it all, but the answer to this question is actually quite simple.

Lean Six Sigma and Process improvement

At its most technical, Lean Six Sigma is a process improvement methodology that is used to increase productivity and customer satisfaction by removing waste and reducing variation. However, Lean Six Sigma is about more than a methodology; at its core it is about a mindset (Article: The Lean Six Sigma mindset) of Continuous Improvement, of looking at both the ways you design and carry out your work and finding ways to improve them.

Lean Six Sigma is Continuous Improvement

These days, there is a growing need for adopting this mindset of continuous improvement. In this era of digitalization, globalization and rapid advances in technology, change is the only constant. To adapt to this continuous change, organizations need to continuously improve in order not to fall behind. After all, the environment will continue to change, and so will your competitors.

Practical Applications of Lean Six Sigma

Lean Six Sigma can be used in a wide variety of fields, including but not limited to manufacturing, healthcare, retail, customer service, accounting and government. In fact, the number of businesses and organizations employing Lean Six Sigma continues to rise, as there are few companies that do not stand to benefit from it.

Background Lean Six Sigma

The Lean Six Sigma methodology is the result of a fusion between two older methodologies, namely Lean and Six Sigma. Where Lean focuses on improving the speed and flow of work processes, Six Sigma focuses on improving quality, limiting variation and preventing defects. Due to the complementary natures of these methodologies, they eventually began to be used in unison, and Lean Six Sigma was born. A more detailed article about the history of Lean Six Sigma can be found here.

Initiatives, Methods and Tools

As a methodology, Lean Six Sigma is divided in two types of initiatives of continuous improvement, namely ongoing initiatives and project-based initiatives, for which there are several methods you can employ. And for implementing these methods, in turn, there are a variety of Lean and Six Sigma tools to choose from.
Examples of methods and tools used in Lean Six Sigma are Kaizen, Poka Yoke, Value Stream Mapping, 5S Management and DMAIC.

Lean Six Sigma Belts

Lean Six Sigma uses the concept of ‘Belts’ to designate a level of skill and an area of proficiency in the Lean Six Sigma methodology. This concept is borrowed from Japanese Martial Arts, but the only things you will combat in Lean Six Sigma are Waste and Variation. Each ‘Belt’ or ‘level’ in Lean Six Sigma focuses on a different role and skillset within Continuous Improvement initiatives. The most common Belts you will read about are: Yellow Belt, Green Belt and Black Belt. For more information on the belts and different types of Lean Six Sigma Courses, we will refer to The Lean Six Sigma Company, our partner in the subject of Lean Six Sigma.

So, What is Lean Six Sigma?

In summary, Lean Six Sigma is a process improvement methodology driven by a mindset of Continuous Improvement, which is divided in ongoing initiatives and project-based initiatives, each of which employs a variety of methods and tools.

This methodology and mindset is necessary in order to cope with a constantly evolving environment, which comes with rapid changes in customer demand and expectations.

Lean Six Sigma contains multiple grades of proficiency, divided in ‘Belts’, for each of which The Lean Six Sigma Company provides a variety of courses, including our Online Yellow Belt, 5S Management and Kaizen courses.

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