Lean Six Sigma

How do I do a Lean Six Sigma (LSS) Project?

First, you should familiarize yourself with what a Lean Six Sigma project is all about.

The Lean Six Sigma (LSS) projects I’ve done in the past have all used the Lean Six Sigma Quality Transformation Toolkit (LSSQTT), a structured problem-solving system that’s currently packaged as an Excel workbook (but has evolved in the past, and can be expected to evolve in the future to adapt to new software technologies). The LSSQTT was developed by John W. Sinn of Bowling Green State University. (Feel free to email me at nicole dot radziwill at espresso-labs dot-com if you have any other questions about the LSSQTT.)

  1. Define your problem in terms of quality goals
  2. Set up your team’s quality management system, which often involves applying the DMAIC methodology
  3. Apply a lean tool (e.g. VSM, SIPOC) or a Six Sigma tool (e.g. SPC) to your problem
  4. Evaluate the results
  5. Evaluate how everyone on your team performed during this phase of the project
  6. Review results, identify ways to apply the results to further analysis of the problem, and identify ways to improve personal performance through the next phase of the project
  7. Apply those findings to your problem and your quality management system; introduce a new lean or Six Sigma tool, and do Steps 4-7 again
  8. Every so often, “lean out” your project findings and boil the portfolio down to its most important elements
  9. Formulate conclusions

Here are some examples of completed project portfolios using the LSSQTT. Only the second could be considered a “classical” LSS project; the first is a creative example of how to structure any project the same way you would reduce waste or reduce variation.

One of the things I worried about when I first started using the LSSQTT was: Is this right? Is this “the correct way” to do a Lean Six Sigma project? What I discovered as a result of going through the process was that two things make a LSS project: a) using any structured problem-solving approach, usually based on DMAIC, and b) achieving tangible results that might include reducing costs, improving customer satisfaction, improving cycle time or efficiency, or reducing time and effort (labor). You don’t have to worry about finding the “right” approach – but you do have to find an approach that helps you and your team take an ambiguous, unconstrained problem and generate real business value.

3 replies »

  1. Nicole,
    I like your blog so far. I’ve been looking for thoughtful blogging on LSS and other continuous improvement techniques. Can you recommend any other blogs on the topic?
    -Jon

  2. Hi Nicole.
    Nice Blog. Let’s not lose sight of what makes a Lean six Sigma project successful. The application of Lean (waste reduction) and the goal of Six Sigma (3.4 defects per million). Although the DMAIC structure is a powerful approach to problem solving and process improvement if the goal isn’t to reduce waste in the process (Lean) to achieve 3.4 defects per million opportunities (6 Sigma)then you have an improvement project on your hands that may be of tremendous value to the organization but is not truly a Lean Six Sigma project. To Jon’s question – isixsigma is a good site for Lean practitioners.
    To Nicole – keep up the good work, you’re still my hero, however I don’t know where you get the energy to do all that you do. Look at the time on your post – 2:31AM. Are you crazy?

  3. Just as a point of clarification – don’t let the goal of 3.4 defects per million opportunities keep you from implementing an improvement process. Lean Sigma uses the Six Sigma tools to reduce waste but doesn’t set your goal explicitly at 3.4 defects per million opportunities. Any measurable and sustainable waste reduction improvement is a success with a Lean Sigma project. It is throwing that Six in there that tends to hang up people. I know that it is a technicality but hey, clinging to technicalities is all that some of us have!

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