Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Chicken or the Egg: Six Sigma and Lean - By Joseph A. De Feo

Companies debating the relative merits of these practices should instead learn to combine both.......

How many times have you heard, “Lean is in and Six Sigma is out” from a colleague? The funny thing about this is that I used to hear the same thing 23 years ago. Only then it was, “Lean is in, and quality improvement teams are out.” Little has changed since then.

 Everyone is looking for a simple answer to cost reduction and quality improvement. My biggest concern, and it should be yours, is that both are needed, not one or the other. It is not about which came first, or which is better or even easier. It is about what problem your organization is facing today. Do you have customer dissatisfaction, product or service complaints, defects, high cost of failure? Or are you trying to improve speed and throughput, and reduce cost of waste? These are the questions one needs to ask before arguing about whether to use lean or Six Sigma.

Organizations have a number of methods available to deal with process and performance problems. Six Sigma and lean have become two of the most widely recognized and effective methods for creating breakthrough improvement. Both have evolved from the basis of prior methods, such as Joseph M. Juran’s universal sequence for breakthrough quality improvement, Walter A. Shewhart’s and W. Edwards Deming’s plan-do-check-act (PDCA) cycle, and Toyota’s specialized focus on driving out waste. Lean and Six Sigma both take different approaches in the quest for greater effectiveness, efficiency, and cost reduction.

Six Sigma: improvement by putting customers first – Focus on Defect Reduction:

The quality improvement methods on which many Six Sigma projects are based—define, measure, analyze, improve, control (DMAIC) and define, measure, analyze, design, verify (DMADV)—focus on identifying and meeting the needs of customers first, and the organization or business second. In this way, revenues increase and costs decrease, improving results.

Lean, by contrast, is the process of optimizing organizational systems by eliminating or reducing the “waste” within them. Anything that does not offer value is considered waste. Lean methods and tools can provide significant improvements in organizational efficiency. During the past decade, lean has experienced a rebirth in manufacturing-based industries, as well as service- and health care-based organizations. Lean is not a replacement for Six Sigma or vice versa. It focuses on different problems. It is typically an internally focused means of cost reduction. It is badly needed but should work in concert with a systematic Six Sigma practice.

More than just a formal program or discipline, Six Sigma has become an operating philosophy that can be shared beneficially by everyone: customers, shareholders, employees, and suppliers. Fundamentally, it is also a customer-focused methodology that drives out customer dissatisfaction, raises levels of quality, and improves the financial and time performance of organizations to breakthrough levels.

The term “Six Sigma” means to attain a target for quality that is close to perfection, to achieve 3.4 defects, errors, or mistakes, whether that involves the design and production of a product or a customer-oriented service process.

Many large organizations have experienced great success employing Six Sigma and lean Six Sigma methods. Today, many organizations combine lean and Six Sigma as their improvement methods of choice. These methods help both traditional manufacturers of goods, as well as producers of services and information, to improve their bottom lines and increase customer satisfaction.

Lean: improvement by waste reduction:

Lean in particular is based on creating a “pull system” to produce faster, rather than the traditional “push systems” used by most organizations. One of the main goals is to always pull from the customer demand, not push to the customer.

Lean methods and tools have made their way into most industries. A method that was used in manufacturing to reduce waste is now used to improve cycle time, flow, and velocity, improve workplace department performance, and reduce waste in hospitals, insurance companies, and financial services. Value-stream mapping is another important lean tool. It maps and documents all the tasks (material and information flow) and the metrics associated with them (cycle time, costs) within a process, including inherent waste. This provides the guidance to select the right problems and solve them as process improvement projects. There is a standardized approach and set of tools, such as rapid improvement events or kaizen (a Japanese word for “improvement”), to attack embedded wastes and increase the velocity of a process. Improving velocity exposes the problems—or waste—so that they can be eliminated, thereby making the processes faster, better, and cheaper.

6S (actually called 5S, but we add one more S for safety) is an abbreviation for “sort, set in order, shine, standardize, sustain, and safety.” It’s a lean tool for achieving a highly effective workplace that is clean, well-organized, and standardized to enable all employees to perform to the best of their ability. The benefits of an efficient workplace include prevention of defects, prevention of accidents, and elimination of time wasted searching for tools, documentation, and other elements to produce goods or services.

One key component of being lean is the need to create “value” as seen from the eyes of the customers. The operational definition of value is the benefit the customer gains from using the product or service. Value is created by the customer. Providing value to the customer is why the producer exists. Lean starts with defining value in terms of products or services and customer benefits provided at the right time at an appropriate price. Anything that does not provide value to the customer can be considered waste.

Lean Six Sigma: the chicken-or-egg phenomenon

In the Six Sigma methodology, the two primary methods are DMAIC to improve processes and products, and DMADV to help ensure that products and processes function well starting with the voice of the customer through to the delivery of goods.
The DMAIC steps are:
  • Define the problem as clearly as one can (for DMADV, define the design goals).
  • Measure the current level of performance and the voice of the customer.
  • Analyze collected data to determine the causes of the problem or the failures of existing designs.
  • Improve by selecting the right solutions to solve the problem or create new designs.
  • Control to hold the gains, for both the improved process or newly designed goods/services.

Organizations worldwide are continuously under pressure to control costs, maintain high levels of safety and quality, and meet growing customer expectations. This improvement process has been adopted by many large organizations, like Samsung Electronics, GE, and smaller organizations like Molex (electronics), A. Schulman (plastics), J. R. Simplot (food processing), and Highmark (insurance) to name a few.

“Lean Six Sigma” is quite simply the integration of lean and Six Sigma methodologies. Lean’s focus on efficiency, and Six Sigma’s  focus on effectiveness can lead to faster results than either method applied independently of the other.


  1. A very comprehensive and detailed article, turned out to be very useful for me as I was looking for some information on process improvement idea's using six sigma techniques.

  2. Umm this one is really good specially when u explain it with a simple example of making tea...great going...
    i am in...Six Sigma Certification

  3. Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma started life as improvement methodologies with very different focuses. This would allow the skilled improvement practitioner to have a more rounded toolkit at his disposal when faced with any business problem.lean six sigma

  4. Good article and want to know about Six Sigma eLearning in DMAIC
    PROCESS CAPABILITY DMADV and other Six Sigma Tools For details visit :

  5. Nice post, I bookmark your blog because I found very good information on your blog, Thanks for sharing- more information

  6. Six sigma certification will enhance your extent of learning and along these lines you will have more employment opportunities.
    Six Sigma Black Belt Certification in India | Green Belt Training in India

  7. Nice Article. Explaining about Six Sigma and Lean. Thanks for sharing such useful article. Keep writing like this in future.

    See more at Best iso 9001 consultancy in chennai

  8. Thanks for your great information, the contents are quiet interesting.I will be waiting for your next post. Diversity & Inclusion Training | Human Resources Management | Human Resources Training

  9. Vey much informative blog!i found this blog very useful in terms of lean and sigma certifications.

    ISO 9712 certification body
    ISO 9712 certification training in India


  10. My name is Leah Brown, I'm a happy woman today? I told myself that any loan lender that could change my life and that of my family after having been scammed separately by these online loan lenders, I will refer to anyone who is looking for loan for them. It gave me and my family happiness, although at first I had a hard time trusting him because of my experiences with past loan lenders, I needed a loan of $300,000.00 to start my life everywhere as single mother with 2 children, I met this honest and God fearing online loan lender Gain Credit Loan who helped me with a $300,000.00 loan, working with a loan company Good reputation. If you are in need of a loan and you are 100% sure of paying the loan please contact (

  11. I was very impressed with all your posts. It all has added insight for me. Hopefully your blog more successful. Research Discovery/Discovery phase

  12. An item appears to be rather amazing. As well as post gives us quite a few facts. come to be content, My spouse and i seriously discovered rather brilliant and also unique suggestions. Which means this may be helpful to anyone... Cheers intended for making this enjoyable website. End Of Tenancy Cleaning West Yorkshire

  13. Hi there,
    Nice Article I really enjoyed this post Thanks For Sharing, check out this
    Ascent WORLD is one of the World’s leading ‘total solutions’ providers, offering a simple, cost-effective route to ISO Certification in India & Sri Lanka. Ascent offers a wide range of certifications, like ISO 9001, ISO 14001, ISO 45001, HACCP, CE Mark and more.

    With Ascent world, ISO Certification is no longer a painful process

  14. I really loved reading your blog. It was very well authored and easy to understand. Unlike additional blogs I have read which are really not that good. I also found your posts very interesting. temporary storage units

  15. Must say that overall I am really impressed with this blog. It is easy to see that you are passionate about your writing. If only I had your writing ability I look forward to more updates and will be returning. home window replacement cost

  16. The Six Sigma and Lean Six Sigma approaches aim to achieve the same thing: more effective processes that yield a bigger bottom line Six Sigma and Lean Six Sigma

  17. We are really grateful for your blog post. You will find a lot of approaches after visiting your post Buy weed

  18. Your online diary all around orchestrated various individuals together with required truth fresh particular individual ought to be banter with. You'll find and basically any courses of action with this particular survey may be superb. Supreme best calls for abundance proposed for supplying. best supplements for male hair loss

  19. It is a helpful place with the minute put in the. I simply based your blog useful and prepared to be able to file I truly savored evaluating people postal mail mail messages. automation edmonton

  20. It is a technique connected with first deposit boosting. I do feel these views should be utilized by every organization to raise cash in relation to applications. Many thanks with regards to putting up this kind of beneficial facts to be able to most of us, and protect putting up like helpful articles. cannabis cultivation businessplan Canada

  21. It's very challenging, You're a remarkably particular stemless glass. Really like joined up having people nourish and count on seeking further of your respective amazing publish machine shop edmonton

  22. Lots of people views plus pertinent progress conveys to should be set this specific. Some more men and women, Pawl Pap-rota plus Kalle Man or women, are generally additionally creating this kind of web site. how to open a dispensary

  23. Love for the function that you've got spend this kind of. Really intriguing facts. I love in addition to express our aid of your respective views along with your document, and anticipating ones pursuing document. ειδήσεις από την ελλάδα

  24. Love to your investigated putting up! When i in fact savored evaluating the concept, you can be an excellent document writer. My goal is to make sure that When i hunt for your blog all of which rewind in the foreseeable future.
    hemp cbd business plansample

  25. Love with regards to generating this kind of helpful document, When i transpired onto your website and review several publish. I love your thing connected with generating... vacation rentals on pompano beach florida

  26. Love with the have a look at plus the excellent images, that ended up brilliant. That is helpful web page to be able to put in minute with. I simply discovered people useful website and prepared to be able to file that i incorporate definitely savored evaluating people perfectly composed web sites. pintu besi jakarta

  27. Many thanks exclusively for this specific publish. That is certainly almost all When i can easily file. Any person virtually all completely incorporate developed your site web site towards the one thing unique. Any person undoubtedly definitely determine what that you will be emphasizing, you have insured having insurance policies many crevices. appreciate it.... Best online casino England

  28. Many thanks to your post. I’ve been thinking of publishing an exceptionally similar post over the last little while, I’ll likely maintain that small and nice and link to this specific as an alternative if that's trendy. Many thanks fibreglass rebar