Is Lean Six Sigma a Fad?

22 January 2019

 

Is Lean Six Sigma a Fad?

Have you lived through endless new corporate initiatives? I have, and it can be tiresome.

As an advocate of Lean Six Sigma, I sometimes get asked, “is this just another fad”? Call me biased, but I hardly think so.

For more than two decades I have dedicated myself to the challenge, of bringing Lean Six Sigma to others in a consolidated fashion, to make it understandable, accessible and practical to apply.

Having watched other programmes come and go throughout my career I can assure you, Lean Six Sigma is not a fad and there are 6 reasons why it is here to stay:

  1. Lean Six Sigma integrates many years of proven process improvement methods.

    Since Scottish economist, Adam Smith, published book one of The Wealth of Nations, which focussed on efficiencies in the workplace, there have been significant contributions on methods of achieving better results from processes. Frederick Taylor, Henry Ford, Edwards Deming, Shigeo Shingo, and Richard Schonberger, to name but a few, have shown us the way. For me, Lean Six Sigma is the integration of all that learning to create a cohesive and superior approach.

  2. Lean Six Sigma provides us with a framework to structure and manage process improvement.
    Have you experienced ad hoc approaches to improvement projects? Painful isn’t it? It’s painful for the project sponsor, the project lead and the team members, never mind the stakeholders who are expecting results. There are so many reasons why an ad hoc approach to improvement is problematic; its highly inefficient, risks failing and is inappropriate for a modern business environment.

    The Lean Six Sigma structured approach takes you through a series of simple steps ensuring you remain in control throughout.

  3. It stimulates creativity and innovation.

    I come from the school of thought where engaging people in creative and innovative thinking will lead to the best solutions in process improvement. Within the structured approach of Lean Six Sigma there is plenty of encouragement and space for creative input. Surely the best way to gain sustainable benefit is to address improvement opportunities using an established and proven model which combines both structure and creativity.

  4. Data based decision making.

    Whilst we all have opinions, it’s hard to argue with good data. Lean Six Sigma promotes the use of gathering, analysing and interpreting data in ways that lead to better decision making within organisations.

  5. We get the benefit of combining common sense with a little bit of science.

    Adding a bit of science to a lot of common sense has helped Lean Six Sigma stand the test of time. However, the approach does not need to be complicated and it’s a myth that improvement leaders need to learn rocket science or become geeks at statistics.  The methodology is completely accessible to people of all backgrounds.

  6. It works!

    Globally, Lean Six Sigma has been used to generate increased value and reduced costs for countless organisations. After embracing such a programme, I’ve witnessed my clients achieve many impressive results. Recent examples:

    • From 4% loss one year, to 4% profit the next
    • 5x increase in the speed of a core admin process
    • Elimination (total) of a top customer complaint

Lean Six Sigma isn’t a silver bullet for every challenge an organisation may face, but when applied appropriately and implemented correctly you will definitely feel the results.

I truly believe that if one day, the name or the packaging gets superseded, the underlying thinking, approach, tools and techniques will remain. It is inconceivable to me that even after implementing new technological innovations, we would stop looking for and eliminating wasteful and unnecessary effort. I cannot accept that finding and eliminating errors, mistakes, defects and customer complaints will become “old hat”.

Neither can I accept that the clever use of data to make good business decisions will become a thing of the past or that we will regress to a random approach of trial and error.

Continuous Improvement is here to stay, and in its current form, Lean Six Sigma continues to be one of the best ways to deliver it.