Six Sigma and the Lean approach both have essentially the same goals. While lean experts attribute the waste to the unnecessary steps in the production phases that do not significantly add value to the products and services offered, Six Sigma practitioners attribute the same wastes to variation within the processes.
Lean, Six Sigma, or Lean Six Sigma: Is it Either/Or or And?
This is a very commonly asked question that still arises in Six Sigma circles. Experts believe that both Lean and Six Sigma have their own place in any given performance improvement program. It is not really a question of which approach to use, but which approach to use when. The nature of the processes and the target objectives will ultimately have a bearing on the right strategy to use.
Furthermore, increasingly more Green Belt, Black Belt, and Master Black Belt training programs include both of these approaches rather than focusing on just one.
Many businesses today have integrated both methodologies, using a Lean Six Sigma implementation. Used together, the techniques help overcome the individual shortcomings of each approach.
Overcoming Individual Challenges
Lean focuses on cutting the unnecessary steps that do not add any value to product creation. The process of ascertaining whether a process adds value or not is to see if a customer is willing to pay for the same. Lean leaves a streamlined process in place while minimizing all wastes. However, a major challenge is the lack of quality.
This is where Six Sigma steps in and contributes to efficient business process management. The methodology helps reduce the number of defects and is associated with organizational leadership. Ultimately, the implementation of the approach helps to attain results that are real and measurable.
While Lean practitioners simply work on a project and often leave it suboptimally improved without emphasis on reducing variability, Six Sigma methodology takes in a large amount of data and uses statistical analysis.
Most experts, therefore, recommend an integrated approach that uses both Six Sigma and Lean principles. While little effort must be made by an organization to catalyze a combined training of both these approaches for its employees, the benefits are many.
Furthermore, having an understanding of different approaches rather than expertise in just one is likely to be helpful in dealing with the day-to-day challenges in a more efficient way instead of force-fitting one approach to solve all problems.
The Integrated LSS Approach
The Lean Six Sigma (LSS) approach is a powerful methodology that combines the best of both worlds. Instead of comparing the Lean and Six Sigma techniques, businesses must realize that they can, in fact, work wonders when used together. The following are the main highlights of the integrated LSS approach:
- Businesses must realize the importance of visualizing the value stream
- It is the customer who creates value and it is thus important to consider his needs and requirements
- Elimination of the steps that add no value to the process
- Use of data to trace the sources of variation which cause defects
- Aiming for perfection in operations while also realizing that no process can actually be perfect but there is scope for continuous improvement
LSS emphasizes value creation for the customer. Value is traditionally defined as the right products and services delivered at the right quality and at the right price and time, which makes them worth the money for the customer.
While most businesses compare Six Sigma and Lean approaches, it is important to realize that both work towards the same end goal, i.e., to remove waste and improve quality. Both approaches take different routes to the same effect. However, there’s no denying the fact that when used together, they take on a different and more powerful form.