Is Lean Six Sigma Truly Universal Enough to Work for Any Process?
As Lean Six Sigma is becoming more and more accepted in various areas – including some unexpected ones – more people are understandably becoming critical and skeptical of the methodologies behind it. Which is good, because any criticism is guaranteed to bring out the flaws and shortcomings of Lean Six Sigma as quickly as possible. On the other hand, it’s good to dig into the kinds of questions that get brought up on a regular basis, as they can give some insight into what people commonly misunderstand.
For example, the universal nature of Lean Six Sigma is often brought into question, with many people obviously skeptical that it can be applied so easily to a wide variety of environments. And the truth is, trying to blindly throw these methodologies on any problem can rarely lead to good results. Calculated, methodological application of this kind of thinking can provide an adequate solution to many types of problems.
Favoring critical thinking and a results-oriented approach
Lean Six Sigma encourages us to think critically about any situation in which they’re applying the methodologies, and to be on the lookout for areas in which the data may not reflect the reality of the situation. On the other hand, it also favors the idea that actual results to the organization matter above all else, and this alone can be a useful way of thinking for many types of organizations.
Then there’s the fact that Lean Six Sigma encourages organizations to always strive for continuous improvement, and we’re starting to get a good idea of why it’s enjoying so much popularity in almost all of the major companies.
Thinking outside the box
We’ve even seen lean and Six Sigma applied in some unusual areas where one would not think to expect them – for example, the work of governments, sports professionals, creatives, libraries, farming, and many more. The truth is, Lean Six Sigma is just a general framework for approaching the development of an organization/project, and it defines the best steps to take to eliminate waste and improve results. But it doesn’t require the underlying work of the organization to be of any specific type, and it’s flexible enough to be adapted to all sorts of situations.
Some simple questions to ask if Lean Six Sigma applies to your organization:
- Does your organization provide a product or service?
- Does your organization have customers, donors, stakeholders or investors?
- Do your customers and stakeholders have any complaints or issues with your product or service?
- Do you have processes that create the product or service?
Almost every organization can answer YES to these questions. If so, then Lean Six Sigma applies to them.
However, there are some issues you might encounter in trying to use these techniques in an area where it’s traditionally not been used before. This requires an experienced approach that can take into consideration the many types of common problems that organizations run into.
It makes it important to have at least one good Lean Six Sigma specialist available in the company, preferably someone who’s also directly experienced with the work of the organization itself. They should be responsible for guiding the company through the implementation, and they should simultaneously attempt to transfer some of their skills to the company leadership.
On that note, if an organization decides to move towards implementing Lean Six Sigma in their work, it’s important that they look into proper training and certification as early on as possible. The more people that are on board with this style of thinking, the faster you’re going to see results in the organization as a whole.
A great thing about Lean and Six Sigma is that it’s still very new (even today), and there is a lot you could potentially contribute to the field if you are trying to implement it in a new area (such as social work and nonprofits, environmental issues, etc). Sharing your experiences can be a good way to boost the community as a whole, and you never know when you might run into the solution to a problem that’s been troubling another company for some time.
The flexibility of Lean Six Sigma makes it easy enough to implement in a variety of contexts, including organizations that have never worked with these methodologies before. However, it’s important to approach these situations with an experienced hand, and the guidance of someone who knows exactly what they’re doing, when it comes to bringing Lean and/or Six Sigma on board of a new organization. It’s also important to ensure that all employees and leaders of the company are brought up to speed with the knowledge necessary to apply these methodologies correctly, so an initial burst of training for everyone should always be part of the early roll out.
What are some other non-traditional application of Lean or Six Sigma that you’ve heard of? Add your comments below…