Every project manager aims to streamline and simplify the workflow by eliminating unnecessary and repetitive tasks to complete projects smoothly.
One of the most popular and widely adopted methodologies is Lean Six Sigma, a combination of the Lean Technique and the Six Sigma methodology. The lean methodology emphasizes eliminating waste in the procedure, and Six Sigma provides a proven project management process.
Organizations worldwide have adopted these two philosophies and used them to improve their efficiency and eliminate or reduce the wastage of resources.
Before learning the basic principles of Lean Six Sigma, it is necessary to understand the difference between the two philosophies.
Lean vs. Six Sigma
Six Sigma has been a tried and tested go-to project management method since its inception in 1986. Commonly, the six sigma method has five principles to solve the problem; DMAIC, which is an acronym for define, measure, analyze, implement and control. The main objective of implementing DMAIC under Six Sigma is to reduce the variations in process and defects.
On the other hand, Lean is a philosophy that aims to eliminate any waste and focuses on providing the best customer experience. According to Lean principles, there are eight wasteful activities: defects, overproduction, waiting, non-utilized talent, transportation, inventory, motion, and extra processing. Under the Lean approach, organizations utilize methods like Value Stream Mapping to document the entire process of producing a product or service to find and eliminate wasteful activities.
Now, when you combine these two methodologies, you get the best of both worlds. Not only does the combined approach help reduce defects and wastage, but it also builds momentum to build toward an organizational culture change.
It helps shift the mindset of employees and management to focus more on continuous improvement through rigorous optimizations. The change in the attitude and culture of the organization fosters an environment that maximizes efficiency helping increase profitability.
5 Principles of Lean Six Sigma
1.Focus on the customer
Focusing on the customer is one of the most common, yet vital priorities for any business.
No matter what industry, the organization must always listen to the customer and value their needs and preferences. It is essential to consider them one of the top stakeholders in the business.
Establish the degree of quality that you have promised your customers before you begin making any significant or even modest adjustments to your current workflows or process. Every action you take should help your organization move closer to offering the most value possible to the customers.
2. Map the value stream
Before you improve anything, you must know about all the steps that are involved in the process.
It is important to identify the workflow to assess which actions add value and which do not. Once you have determined the value of your actions, you can focus more on the actions that add value and eliminate the wasteful actions or look for ways to minimize the time spent on them.
The best way to understand the value stream is to make a flowchart that clearly illustrates the steps in the production process.
Only after you have understood how the process works will you be able to identify the root cause and eliminate any bottleneck. Managers often use fishbone diagrams or 5-Why Analyses to find out the root cause of a particular issue.
3.Create flow in the process by eliminating waste
Before you make any significant changes to the process, you need to remove waste. While this sounds like a simple step, waste is often hidden in intricate activities. So, it is important to establish what counts as waste and then determine how you can remove it.
Both ideologies have established that activities that do not add value to a customer are considered waste. To make things easier, the waste can be divided into two categories: non-value but necessary, and non-value and unnecessary.
Non-value and unnecessary activities are pure wastes, and must be eliminated entirely, whereas non-valued but necessary actions can be minimized or reduced.
4.Communicate with the team
People often do not adapt well to changes, which means the employees will not adapt to changes unless the top management intervenes. It is the responsibility of the leaders to communicate new practices and standards with their respective teams.
5.Create a culture of change
Lean Six Sigma demands a lot of change in the organization, so it's important to create a culture that welcomes change and motivates employees to accept them. Moreover, the organization must always be on the lookout for new ways to streamline the process to achieve perfection in operations.
These principles provide a framework that can help create an efficient and effective organization that prioritizes its customers' needs while fostering an internal environment of continuous improvement and change.