Lean Six Sigma – Culture of Continuous Improvement

Every organization I know, either has a continuous improvement culture or aspires to have a culture that strives for excellence. As people working in corporate have experienced a business is never about one moon wonders rather replicating behavior that adds value and contributes to success primarily in enhancing the bottom-line. Now, with time certain sets of behavior, actions, and processes required to evolve, since external forces are constantly changing. Your customers might have more options to choose from or the differentiation of your product and service might have blurred etc. Therefore, any strategic business partner would concentrate on developing a culture that consistently improves the process, systems, and procedures in place.  Now, what do you mean by improvement? Does it mean to jeopardize an already working system or re-working on something that is already been built? No! precisely, that is not the point. Instead, improvement of the business processes is more inclined towards having the right tool and knowing how to leverage them. If you are interested in taking your team, business unit or role to the next level then this is the right place for you! By the virtue of this blog, I would like to share my knowledge and insights about Lean Six Sigma and how it can offer structure to the initiative of continuous improvement. My name is Parul Mukherjee, have associated with several business improvement projects along with having formal certification in Lean Six Sigma Foundation. Six Sigma method can help minimize defects and variability in your operations and processes. We strive to make things better each day, every one of us and by comprehending and implementing Lean Six Sigma tools and knowledge, we will be!

In the golden words of Albert Einstein, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them“. I feel that these words are extremely relevant in any business development scenario or operation enhancement domain. This becomes even more fitting since Six Sigma is all about changing how we think about problems and solutions. We can take a well-known example of one of the pioneer mobile Tech Company- Motorola, who was grappling with quality issues and some quality problems which had contributed to huge loss to business since they were losing their market share to various competitors. Essentially, the whole concept of Six Sigma is to furnish consistent, reliable and dependable products to the customers. The entire process centers on three essential things,

1.      Defects

2.      Variability

3.      Clients

It is critical to know and understand how these three aspects work together. Six Sigma mandates a level of no more than 3.4 defects per million opportunities. For instance, when building an architecture there might be a million or even more opportunities to make an error that could produce defects. Therefore, an organization with only 3.4 defects upon completion is pretty close to perfect. The key to reducing defects to this level is by controlling variability. Naturally, every process has some variability inherently. Six Sigma is established on the belief that if there are variations, it can be reduced and could be held close to the middle of product specification limits which ensures that there is less chance for any defects to occur. Statistically, process variations can equate to half of the design tolerance that allows the mean to shift 1.5 standard deviations from the target. In non-statistical terms, this implies that the manufacturing processes are very in control and variability is extremely small.

We have touched upon the defects and variability, so where does the customer fit into this. Projects that are based on the concepts of Six Sigma have an extremely strong anchor on the results. They also provide structure for project management by the virtue of formal training and certifications of Green Belt, Black Belt and Master Black Belt each enhancing the level of knowledge and skills. With customers in mind, Six Sigma aspires for more breakthrough approach enhancement rather than a gradual approach. This concept can be considered as an important and more structured element of an organization’s continuous improvement philosophy and strategy.Six Sigma has developed from statistics based management of manufacturing defects into a sound business strategy to steer improvement in the process all across the organizations and its value chain. You can implement these methods to diminish variability in your transportation department to help enhance the on-time delivery to the customers. If you are working closely with the suppliers, six sigma can be a tremendous tool to reduce the quality issues with materials in the factory. Six Sigma is designed to guide quality efforts in every part of your business. The majority of people today are not working in a Six sigma environment but there is a strive to establish a solid program that already exists in all the companies.
“If you do what you always did, you get what you always got!” This saying of engineering forms a strong foundation of Lean Six Sigma where ultimately the goal is to perform things differently such that enhance results are achieved. Lean Six Sigma is the application of lean principles along with Six Sigma philosophy. In all the management schools, one is taught either Lean Principles or Six Sigma but there is no specific methodology or model that takes advantage of both the concepts and applies in the real-life scenario. Knowing from the real experience as well as some great learnings from global market leaders like General Electrics, Toyota and Google, applying Lean Six Sigma stimulate a more productive environment, result-oriented mindset and beneficial in driving excellence in the organizations across business unit and organizational departments. Now, the first question that comes in the mind is how can you apply Lean Six Sigma at your workplace in real life. Well, you can utilize this concept from minimizing the cycle time to improve the customer journey life cycle with the business. Lean is the elimination of all those activities, which are of non-value add or waste. It is a common perception that lean is only associated with the production floor rather its principles equally apply to all parts of the organization. It is very essential to eliminate activities that are unnecessary, require rework, waiting time and involve the redundant movement of people or material. 

The objective of the lean principle is to identify areas of waste and to permanently eliminate them. Lean Philosophy has a laser focus on tremendous improvements and performance measurements. We observe that advantageous of lean efficiencies through minimizing cycle time, advance production output, reduced inventories and achieve greater levels of quality in all aspects of the business. Essentially focus needs to be on discipline and attention to detail. With Lean Six Sigma, one can apply tools like DMAIC, TPM with error-proofing resulting in an outcome that ensures precision and quality. It can be dynamically be used in any product or service-based organization. If you are interested in learning tools to increase your quality in service or product or improve your business processes or customer satisfaction, you can write to me for details on Lean Six Sigma, tools that can be relevant to your business and different levels of certifications like Green Belt, Black Belt, and Master Green Belt Certification 


References

Snee, R.D. & Hoerl, R. (2002). Leading Six Sigma: A Step-by-Step Guide Based on Experience with GE and Other Six Sigma Companies. FT Press; 1 edition (November 11, 2002)


George, M. (2005). The Lean Six Sigma Pocket Toolbook. New York: McGraw-Hill.

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