Lean tools are used to streamline processes that don’t add value to an end user or customer by eliminating ‘waste’ and making them flow.
Lean is therefore associated with improving the supply of services – with faster flow, needing less effort, with less transactional ‘inventory’ and fewer defects.
Lean is a customer centric process and studying lean techniques will focus on what’s of value to your customer to reduce process variation and waste to provide a service exactly what’s needed at the right time.
Lean has been described as a ‘culture’ because it works best when everyone gets involved and people adopt the mindsets and behaviours to make it work.
In an organisation with a lean culture you are likely to see:
Continuous improvement towards a long term vision
People seeing activities as processes that can always be improved
Less non value added activities
Visual signs of how the organisation is doing.
Six Sigma is a robust diagnostic toolkit and a measure of process capability that focuses on process variation and defects which often present themselves as ‘issues’. The real benefit of learning how to apply six sigma methodology is to increase the depth and texture of the process analysis to understand what the data is telling us in terms of trends and correlations so that we can identify what are the priority issues and their root causes are and what would be appropriate countermeasures.
So lean is often associated with process speed and six sigma with defect diagnostics – together they form a process improvement roadmap and toolkit of choice to deliver continuous improvement.
Our experience has led us not to dive straight in with the business operators and scatter a few lean tools around but to provide alignment with the senior team first. An outcome from this alignment workshop is to identify a pipeline of value stream project opportunities and lean journey topics for improvement.
These projects after prioritisation should then drive the lean six sigma deployment – the focus on impact projects, the type of training, the choice of candidates and the front of house or back office location. Projects can be accelerated using rapid improvement workshops.
Key tactics are to focus on a key value/revenue/service stream to yield the biggest opportunity for applying lean six sigma. Investigation of the current process before heading off for the solution is vital to understand the current state capability and the process details so that the waste can be identified, interpreted and later eliminated.
Lean Six Sigma cannot be ‘imposed’ it has to be adopted by engaged and empowered staff – it isn’t just about the learning of new tools but more about the handling of acceptance and change. The best lean six sigma programs provide incremental rather than big transitions towards all staff becoming involved towards a continuous improvement culture.
A typical lean six sigma deployment would involve the following six steps:
Foundation. Map out the requirements and introduce the concept of a lean journey model framework.
Assessment. An audit with the senior team of the current process capability of the organisation using appropriate topics and measures.
The focus is to complete your improvement projects aligned to the business plan. We help you to establish a lean project pipeline and build a training plan.
Building capability. Candidates work hands-on in small teams with their projects throughout the training programme using both lean six sigma technical and change tools.
Performance. Improvement projects are tracked to completion and to update the lean journey metrics.
Sustaining. An internal lean coordinator is appointed to help deliver ongoing training.
Lean Culture. The engagement behaviours needed to support a lean culture are identified and reinforced including self-managing process improvement.