Updated: 2 hours ago
Short Answer: Yes, given the changed landscape of our work and home lives, Six sigma is Still Relevant in 2022. The results of Lean Six Sigma can be unbelievably great, and any investment will be worth it…that is IF the goal is to achieve meaningful results. What counts as meaningful results? Read on!
As we close our eyes and picture the reader, we can see the faces of the hundreds of dedicated, hard-working and trusting people whom we've had the honor of teaching how to be competent Lean Six Sigma practitioners…and can't help but have the question in the back of our minds, "Is Lean Six Sigma Still Relevant? Is Six Sigma Outdated?"
We'll use a simple analogy here. Is diet and exercise still relevant to your health? Of course. But what if you use the same approach that was around way back when Lean and Six Sigma first recognized? You’d be having extra sugar in your coffee for energy, smoking a no-filter cigarette to calm down all while attached to a fat-jiggling exercise belt machine to create a sexy bum! The principles of eating better and moving more will always be relevant. But how we achieve those objectives and what works for our current reality is what must evolve. Just like Lean Six Sigma.
The principles of Six Sigma will always be relevant. But how we achieve those objectives and what works for our current reality is what must evolve
HOW DOES LEAN SIX SIGMA WORK?
Lean Six Sigma combines the two methods of Lean and Six Sigma. In short, Lean focuses on sources of waste and poor flow and Six Sigma reduces defects and variation. Together, Lean and Six Sigma achieves a cycle of continuous improvements towards the final goal of maximum effectiveness and efficiency. These highly efficient and effective processes result in delighted customers and highly engaged and capable employees. Lean Six Sigma uses different tools and techniques depending on the type of project. Six Sigma typically uses the DMAIC phases for its projects. DMAIC (pronounced “duh-may-ick”) is a process that focuses on structured problem solving. It is an integral part of Six Sigma, a method of continuous business improvement. The 5 phases of DMAIC are
As a simplified example, here is how we would use the DMAIC cycle to get healthy
Stating the problem that my health is not currently in good condition.
Determine the baseline measure for health, which I decide is my weight.
Identify the biggest contributing factors to my unacceptable weight. I analyze my lifestyle and verify that I consume too many empty calories and do not get enough exercise.
Come up with solutions to target those two specific causes; specific solutions to minimize empty calories and to move more.
Create ongoing measures and habits to make sure I don’t slide back. For example, using an app to track what I eat and to track my energy burned each day.
Check out our DMAIC post for more detailed information!
WHY IS LEAN SIX SIGMA IMPORTANT?
Most people can relate to workplace scenarios like crushing unpredictability, chaos to meet deadlines, no time to plan or strategize, intense stress trying to keep up with growth, uncertainty of how to scale, demanding customers, thin profit margins, escalating costs, employee turnover, facing the same problems over and over to name
a few. These are extremely common and, in short, most people are working extraordinarily hard just to keep up, let alone to improve, grow and scale!
There are many success stories, of course, but this is usually because high profit margins and rapid growth hide
inefficiencies and poor quality. And a lot of times, success happens because the key success factors just happened to align…for a while. The real challenge is to reliably deliver a valuable product or service, while running an efficient and scalable operation at the same time as creating a highly competent and engaged team. And then keep that going as things change! This is something that very few achieve.
LEAN AND SIX SIGMA IN THEIR HEYDAY
Anyone who’s heard of Lean, Six Sigma or the blended Lean Six Sigma has likely heard the impressive success stories of Toyota, GE and Motorola. In the 1980’s, they famously aimed to gain from the success of Lean Manufacturing in Japan from decades before. These organizations committed to and executed on the main principles of process improvement, which – at the time – made it worth it. How did they do it? Large groups of people in a classroom, massive binders with printed slide after slide about the technical aspects of Lean Six Sigma techniques. Organizations either focused on Lean (primarily to reduce waste) or Six Sigma (decreasing defects and variation). And it was almost always focused on Manufacturing.
...frankly, there was an over-emphasis on the count of Lean Six Sigma belts (people certified as Green Belts or Black Belts) instead of on meaningful results.
And frankly, there was an over-emphasis on the count of Lean Six Sigma belts (people certified as Green Belts or Black Belts) instead of on meaningful results. And when there was a focus on results, many times, it was a narrow and singular focus of Dollars Saved. Not Customer or Employee-focused. So, many times, from a customer or an employee perspective, Lean Six Sigma would have been viewed as worthless.
We’ve come a long way since cigarettes and the vibrating exercise belt in the name of health. And for the health of our businesses, for the joy and fulfillment of our employees and to create real value for our customers, we must move a long way from the sad, copy/pasted slides, the old manufacturing or cartoon examples, the stale paper templates from 30+ years ago. And we must focus on increasing capabilities to solve meaningful problems instead of focusing on number of people trained.
we must move a long way from the sad, copy/pasted slides, the old manufacturing or cartoon examples, the stale paper templates from 30+ years ago.
IS LEAN SIX SIGMA STILL USEFUL IN 2022?
Is exercise still useful in 2022? Sure! If your focus and your methods have evolved since 1950! It’s exactly the same with Lean Six Sigma. The results can be unbelievably great, and any investment will be worth it…that is IF the goal is meaningful results:
Is exercise still useful in 2021? Sure! If your focus and your methods have evolved since 1950!
Meaningful Results: Instead of counting numbers of people trained or dollars saved, results must focus on delivering greater…
Value and Experience for Customers
Joy at Work for Employees
Sustainability & Scalability of the Organization
And to achieve these results, we must evolve to a more modern approach for building capabilities. To be relevant today, learning must…
Include Hands-on Practice
Utilize Physical or Digital Application
Allow for Flexible Goals (Focus on improving Work, Community, Self)
Include Flexible Business Types (Service, Transactional, Manufacturing…)
Result in Competence
Lean Six Sigma Through the Pandemic
One of the greatest advantages to Lean Six Sigma is it's designed to thrive through times of change and challenge. And the 2020 and beyond has definitely provided more than enough change and challenge!
Now, more than any other time, we have the crushing need and the opportunity to become stronger and better through superior ways of working by creating productive, flexible, adaptable & agile environments.
The after-effects of the pandemic interventions caused incredibly unique scenarios. Not only are we continually facing major changes, challenges, and uncertainty, so is everyone around us (our customers, our co-workers, our community, our friends and our families). Through all of this, we have seen a dramatic deterioration of quality, service, standards, employee engagement, confidence, enthusiasm, and hope and excitement about the future. With the proper skillset, this global shit show can be the catalyst for true and extraordinary improvements in all aspects of life.
We can stand by and accept the degradation and things crumbling around us, or we can make an effort to become better, to see the opportunity and then make the world - or at least your world - better than it was before.