Dr Andy Slaney, Principal Consultant and Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt, BSI explains the benefits to organisations of using the training initiative Lean Six Sigma
With its roots in manufacturing, Lean Six Sigma is now being applied across numerous diverse industries, in both the public and private sectors. Irrespective of whether the organisation involved deals predominantly with products, information or people – or a combination of all 3. Lean Six Sigma is about improving organisational performance and sustainability. It does this through the development of a precise understanding of customer needs, and how to meet those needs in the most effective and efficient way.
When utilised correctly, Lean Six Sigma can provide the organisational structure, project methodology, toolkit, philosophy and motivation to understand and seriously challenge poorly performing processes. That is irrespective of institutional objectives.
Lean vs Six Sigma
In order to understand the benefits of Lean Six Sigma training, it is necessary to understand a little more about Lean Six Sigma itself.
Firstly, the techniques and philosophies of Lean place a great focus on ensuring that processes are designed and operated to fulfil the needs of the customer and that all activities can be regarded as value-adding. Lean also stresses the need for processes to have unhindered ‘flow’ and not waste effort, time, materials, information, equipment, or assets.
Lean when combined with Six Sigma’s aggressive drive to consistently meet customer needs, reduce variation and promote process stabilisation, provides a powerful means by which organisations can improve.
Most individuals coming to Lean Six Sigma for the first time actually leave the training with a very changed and fresh perspective on ideas such as, what it means to be customer-focused, how much waste occurs every day in organisations and how they can contribute to making the organisation successful.
What is the organisational structure used when deploying a Lean Six Sigma based improvement programme? Initiated by Motorola, who first developed and codified Six Sigma methodologies in the 1980s, and based on the martial arts, you will often find the term ‘belts’ being used.
Although Lean Six Sigma programmes are fine-tuned to the organisation, typically a number of belt types exist in any major deployment. The belts receive an appropriate level of training for the role they are expected to perform. Some examples of common belt ‘levels’ are given below:
– White Belt – One-day training in the concepts involved with Lean Six Sigma. Will participate in problem-solving or continuous improvement teams;
– Yellow Belt – Two days of training in basic problem solving and facilitation skills. Will drive local problem-solving initiatives and be an active participant in larger improvement projects;
– Green Belt – 10 days training in advanced problem solving and continuous improvement tools, as well as a selection of leadership and project management techniques. Will drive and lead longer-term continuous improvement projects in their local area;
– Black Belt – 20 days training covering a wide array of practical, graphical, statistical and leadership tools used in Lean Six Sigma. These individuals are the most advanced improvement experts and change agents and are expected to drive difficult and challenging projects;
– Project Sponsor or Champion – Two days of training that promotes management involvement in all stages of a continuous improvement project’s lifecycle.
Many project-based methodologies and templates are associated with problem-solving and continuous improvement. Lean Six Sigma teaches the scientific method, as well as a pragmatic and common-sense approach to problem-solving.
Trainees are taught the DMAIC methodology, helping them to understand that improvement projects should follow some important phases, namely:
– Define the problem or opportunity;
– Measure the current state; data is key;
– Analyse to understand root causes;
– Improve and address process issues; validate improvements;
– Control the process long term to maintain the gains.
Those who have been Lean Six Sigma trained are less likely to engage in short term firefighting, will understand the importance of using objective data and will be in the best position to enact long term business solutions.
Philosophy and Motivation
Anyone associated with Lean Six Sigma, understands that engaged people are the most important asset to any organisation. Lean Six Sigma is inclusive, promotes ownership of issues and encourages everyone to be involved at some level, whether as a team member, team leader or as a project sponsor. A focus on process can eventually be used throughout, encouraging people to solve problems, continually seek improvements and never to blame others for organisational shortfalls.
In order to obtain the benefits of Lean Six Sigma, any institution embarking on the journey will need to train and coach its people well. Without adequate support, attempts at introducing a culture of continuous improvement, which Lean Six Sigma demands, will fall by the wayside.
Instead, the application of the ‘correct tools for the job’ and the ‘engagement of the right people’ to obtain your belt can help your organisation to start fighting and become the best in class.
Dr Andy Slaney
Principal Consultant and Lean Six Sigma
Master Black Belt