If you’re unsure about the differences between Six Sigma, Lean, and Lean Six Sigma, you’re not alone. Truth be told, the buzz surrounding these methodologies is often more confusing than clear. There are a lot of misconceptions as to how each methodology works and who it can benefit.
The risk factor here is more than potential misunderstanding and a headache. Miscommunication about Six Sigma, Lean, and Lean Six Sigma often leads to individual professionals or entire organizations signing up for training that fails to meet their original expectations. Let’s set the record straight on the goals of each of these methodologies, their similarities, and differences.
Six Sigma: Efficiency First
The heart of Six Sigma lies in the analysis of cause and effect leading to improved process quality via the reduction of process variation. Processes become more predictable and more controllable. Six Sigma has its roots in statistical methods as far back as the 1700’s during the early European industrial era but is most commonly associated with Motorola in the USA during the 1980s. The business improvement methodology is beneficial for countless industries and business operation such as new product development, process improvement, and customer satisfaction.
Six Sigma applies to not only individual products and processes but also to broad company initiatives. Not only does the methodology help you achieve results desired by all businesses (such as higher revenue and customer retention), it also helps to instill a culture of productivity, efficiency, and engagement. Sound like a culture you’d like to foster in your organization? Get started by registering for one of our Six Sigma certification tracks.
Lean: Value Add Only
Lean focuses on identifying and eliminating all forms of waste in production, service delivery, and general business processes. Used to optimize manufacturing and administrative processes, Lean works to rid processes of steps that do not add direct value to the product or service at hand.
For a better idea of the type of activity that is eliminated, check out the 7 Wastes of Lean:
When implemented correctly, the methodology generates a neat, efficient process that creates value for the end customer. Companies that use Lean focus on removing non-value added activity from individual processes and their organization as a whole. The result? Total operational excellence. For deeper insights into Lean, sign up for NWCPE’s Lean certification track.
Lean Six Sigma: The Results-Generating Duo
Six Sigma and Lean are not incompatible methodologies that can only be implemented apart from each other. In fact, Six Sigma and Lean can be deployed together under Lean Six Sigma for a cohesive approach. The tools and techniques of Six Sigma allow organizations to pinpoint the cause and effect of process inputs and outputs. Lean rids these processes of waste and drives operational excellence to bring maximum value to the customer. You can think of Lean as focused on the reduction of the opportunities for failure while Six Sigma reduces the probability of failure for each opportunity.
Organizations of all sizes and industries can greatly benefit from Lean Six Sigma’s delivery of higher revenue, decreased waste, and improved processes.
The training you (or your organization) select will be largely dependent on the nature of your processes, the process maturity of your organization and, most importantly, your personality and interests. All in all, organizations should aspire to all three methodologies and will need people skilled in them as well. If you’re ready to broaden your knowledge in all three, be sure to take a look at our upcoming courses in Lean Six Sigma.