Learned New From Lean Six Sigma – With a myriad of businesses reaching a global spectrum every second in India, there is a great emerging need for efficient process enhancement methodologies that completely satisfy the ever-improving business strategies. The origins of Six Sigma and Lean are very distinctive, and their amalgamation has cause stirs and has improved the face of management and process control.
What is Six Sigma?
Six Sigma is mostly associated to quality and quality measurement in organizations. But, it’s not restricted to just the quality aspects of businesses. Six Sigma aims at deploying close-knit processes, which deliver a high level of quality, and it’s through the data- and information-driven approaches and methodologies that Six Sigma earns its name as eradicator and eliminator of defects and misalignment of processes. This yields a high-quality output, which is input to the next department/consumer.
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Six Sigma is prevalent at a very grass-root level in the field of consumerism and product development and production. Catering to products and services alike, this standard and advanced model for sheer perfection is extremely customer-centric. A defect in terms of Six Sigma is anything that falls off the realm of customer specifications.
The main objective of the Six Sigma model is to put into practice a measure-based business strategy that aims at continuous process improvement and bring the count of variations between products on the same belt to less than 3.4 defects per million opportunities. This dramatically increases the output capability of business processes as it utilizes the input resourcefully and efficiently, making sure the customer is the central consumer of the products.
What is Lean?
As put, the word says it all. Lean demonstrates the use of less for more. Lean is that methodology for business strategies that utilize resources and creates a wave of value for customers. The concept of Lean aims at the reduction of waste to a mere minimal or zero. An organization or business adopting Lean manufacturing and Lean production focus its processes to increase the value that it provides to its customers continuously.
The way it functions goes something like this: waste is eliminated at every stage along the value stream, and this gives us processes that require lesser resources, which include human effort, time, space, capital, costs, and provides lesser gaps or defects. Products with this approach undergo serious transformations, imbibing quality and value at every stage. It also promotes shorter time-to-market intervals giving customers the deals of the century.
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The Lean Six Sigma methodology doesn’t only cater to manufacturing. Its concept is widespread and applies to each process of every kind of business. Its simple yet effective approach makes it possible for management to adjust to changes quickly and conduct the transition more smoothly. Lean transformations look through 3 business aspects, namely: Purpose, Process, and People. Keeping a keen tab and evaluating these aspects often guide businesses through a successful transition from traditional business systems to a lean and skimmed through the model of extensive value creation.
Put them together – Lean Six Sigma!
Now that we know our way through Six Sigma and Lean approaches, we know how beneficial putting the two together would be to use – it’s a sure-shot winning formula. This concept eliminates waste while getting processes to achieve a perfect quality system, providing optimum value to customers.
Lean Six Sigma aims at eliminating the 8 kinds of wastes (or Muda): Transport, Inventory, Motion, Waiting, Over-production, Over-processing, Defects, and Skills (TIM WOODS).
With the best of both worlds, you are now in the zone of a broader spectrum of tools and methodologies to choose from than singling out the benefits of Lean to the benefits obtained from Six Sigma. The Lean Six Sigma paradigm offers you a more efficient and greater chance and countering issues with the business strategy and processes and enables you to tackle the problems of waste and defects in a more concise, precise, and scalable manner.
Lean Six Sigma, simply put, takes the Lean approach of getting rid of unnecessary processes or resources that don’t add value to the end product of that stage and combines it with Six Sigma’s ideology of systematically zeroing on to and eliminating the defects within a particular process; all this with the main component of a collaborative team effort.
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The Effects of Lean Six Sigma on Your Business
Lean Six Sigma tools & techniques aim at providing quality, efficiency, and agile factors to your ongoing business to get your ROI and revenue sky-rocketing as per your business strategy. Here are a few important effects or pillars of results that come from a Lean Six Sigma tools implementation:
- Customer Satisfaction: This doesn’t result in customer satisfaction but customer satisfaction optimization. Since the focus is directly on the needs of the customer, this comes as a priority, thus, assuring the customer of the quality and value of your product or service.
- Raising the Bar: You can give your business that competitive edge over others with a precise implementation of this powerful tool for business management.
- Teamwork and Collaboration: You will find stakeholders from every strata of the business being a part of the streamlining process, especially the top management. This will increase the stakes and make the company goal ever more prominent and bold.
The 6 Lessons I Learned from Lean Six Sigma
Now since you’re all brushed up upon the topic of Lean, Six Sigma, and Lean Six Sigma, here’s a take on the best 6 lessons that Lean Six Sigma has taught me over my tenure as a project manager.
#1: DMAIC (“duh-may-ik”) – Five Phases of Solving a Problem
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Define – Defining the problem is of utmost importance and is the singular most essential step. In this phase, it’s mostly the project leaders that scale out a high-level view of the process and gather data to understand the customer demands and needs with regard to the process.
Measure – Measuring up the extent of the problem gives you the opportunity to tap its core and prepare a complete plan of data collection. Here you can determine the start and end of your project.
Analyze – During this phase, the data collected and the process are thoroughly reviewed and analyzed to get a holistic view of the root causes that promote waste and defects.
Improve – Here, the team starts to develop innovative and creative solutions that kick-start the improvement of the said process to the levels of Six Sigma and Lean.
Control – Improvement, once implemented, need to be sustained and continuously monitored for longevity. This phase also includes planned reiteration of the steps for Lean Six Sigma, and detailed documentation of the entire process that leads to waste and defect reduction.
#2: Lean Six Sigma as a Culture
The Lean Six Sigma principles dictate the process to be followed not as a set of rules but as a way of working. Inculcating these principles will affect the way a business functions as a unit, thus, giving it ample time and space to narrow down the problem points and improve on them, whether in a particular lean six sigma project management or any change initiative.
The way to make it culture is to have them practised at every stage in every segment of the organization, exposing the benefits of lean six sigma and advantages. This culture would be sophisticated and well-balanced and would always tip the organization to acquire the quality of the highest level.
Integrating the systems of Lean Six Sigma with the current business systems involves a lot of preparation and lean six sigma training to employees, and these need to be done on a company-wide scale. Results are the focal point of any methodology incorporated at the organization level, and with this in mind, these integrations should be conducted with the inside-out and outside-in approaches.
#3: The Almighty 3 Ps
Policy – Process – Procedure, these three Ps are governing factors of Lean Six Sigma that exert control and continuous improvement at every value stream. With the systems built around this concept and approach, there also needs to be a proper documentation and adherence system to get the most out of the system.
- Policy – Policies are the guidelines to effective use of process improvements, set by the principles of Lean Six Sigma to ensure efficiency in resource utilization and business strategy.
- Process – A close look at the process is the only way to tap on the benefits of Lean Six Sigma successfully. Each process is important and cutting out the waste on each of them will yield great results.
- Procedure – Procedure is normally well-documented to ensure that the implementation is correctly pursued and conducted. It’s a step-by-step commentary on the process implementation.
#4: Data! Data! Data!
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Data comes as the central character within business improvement tools and methodologies. Without data, you will be simply shooting aimlessly in the sky. Once you’ve collected the right amount of correct data, brainstorming, analysis, and implementation becomes easier for the team and the company as a whole. You will be able to:
- Pin-point pain areas – You will know if your problem is in fact, process flaws or behavioural depending on the data collected.
- Decide effectively – With data properly jotted down and mapped, decision making comes easily to different stakeholders at different hierarchical positions.
- Get down to the details – Data should be collected accurately and from all strata of the business. It won’t be valuable if it’s not holistic.
- Know the current status/scenario – Only if you know your current standing will you know how far you are from improvement and determine the level of improvement needed.
- Understand the road ahead – Once you have the data and information mapped, you can scale out a plan to the end goal.
- Analyze using accurate facts and figures – You can go right through the decimal points with accurate data, which can be simply valuable to different industries, for example, the healthcare industry.
- Reach the root cause – More the data, better the analysis, and faster do you reach the cause of the problems, thus, finding ways to eliminate them.
#5: Elimination of non-value streams
Both Lean and Six Sigma, advocate the utilization of process to the T and eliminate the process of wasting and the concept of defects, within a product or service. This is a serious concern and what I learned is that a simple jotting down or WBS activity can aid in reviewing all the processes from the start of the cycle to its end, hence, giving you an overview of the business structure. Post reviewing, you need to make sure that you eliminate unnecessary or non-valuable tasks within the structure. This step is essential to cutting down and prioritizing your tasks towards a project or company goal.
This step should be initiated as early as possible and should be targeted at becoming a win-win situation for both the company as well as the employees, thus, promoting the Lean Six Sigma culture within the organization.
“More with Less” is the catchphrase here, which enables companies to invest in less, but with the efficiency of the processes can yield more than what would have been without the implementation. And, while you know what ‘more’ would mean, I would describe it as substantial.
#6: Specificity is Key
Being specific in your goals and objectives makes the process of results extraction simpler and much more meaningful. If you want to achieve a particular target, your goal statement should resonate with the exact details of the goal to be attained. You can’t mention that “next year the company needs to break even off the newly launched product and spread that profit consistently over the coming 5 years”, it needs to have details like the facts and figures of where we are and what exactly would be the forecast for the coming 5 years once the break-even takes place.
Quantifying goals is a fundamental aspect of running businesses and sustaining them. Lean Six Sigma thought me the importance of this fundamental aspect and its repercussions if not looked after carefully. Identifying quick wins or small-term milestones, within the company’s greater goals, and attaching figures to these goals can turn the tables around for the business and prove to be a success metric for the implemented Lean Six Sigma approach.
Though these lessons sound idealistic but aiming for them does have its own fruits once the canon is shifted to its correct position. Halt! Fire round!
Let us know what you think about this short, 101 class on Lean Six Sigma in the comments section below, and do let us know what else you learned while implementing this awesome tool into your business strategy.