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Is Lean Six Sigma really worth the investment?

By ILX Team | 23 April 2019

What’s your take on Lean Six Sigma? Big fans? Not so much? Or are you unsure who, what, when, where or how it even works? Well, some are of the opinion that it isn’t worth the investment, but we’re here to tell you otherwise…

Developed primarily in the manufacturing industry, Lean Six Sigma is a problem-solving methodology used to improve business processes, and create a culture of continuous improvement. It’s a meeting of two separate philosophies:

  • Lean: aims to improve efficiency by removing waste from organisational processes
  • Six Sigma: aims to reduce errors or defects by effectively solving problems during production processes

Tackling issues with quality management, including defects, errors and other forms of ‘waste’, Lean Six Sigma works by first identifying the root cause of issues, before designing a solution based on these findings — in other words, it is problem-driven rather than solution-driven.

Although some may argue that following best-practice models can achieve similar effects, the advantage of using Lean Six Sigma is that, instead of tackling issues that are common to all businesses, it takes a more dynamic and innovative approach and breaks down the specific issues of a given organisation.

So far so good, right? So why are some less convinced?

Isn’t Lean Six Sigma just for manufacturing?

There is a common misconception that, because Lean Six Sigma was birthed in the manufacturing industry, it is only applicable in a production environment within that sector. But think of it this way, it’s not only machines that can show faults — humans are just as capable of getting things wrong and needing improvement.

Likewise, issues and defects are not unique to manufacturing; problems occur everywhere and in every organisation, so a problem-solving methodology like Lean Six Sigma that is designed to resolve these issues, can be applied to any and all sectors, and can be used by organisations that deliver services, rather than products.

I don’t know anything about it!

There are also those that argue that they don’t know enough about Lean Six Sigma, or they don’t have the time to experiment with implementing it in their organisation. But the same is true of any methodology not currently used by a business, and that doesn’t stop people from implementing PRINCE2 in organisations where it hasn’t previously been used.

Fear of the unknown is not a new thing. But that shouldn’t be a reason to write Lean Six Sigma off altogether. Speaking to an organisation that specialises in Lean Six Sigma (like ILX) can help you to understand whether it’s the right decision for your business.

I can’t afford to implement a Lean Six Sigma programme

A popular reason not to consider Lean Six Sigma is that it costs too much money to put into action. However, the theory behind the methodology is that if wasteful activities and errors can be reduced, then the overall quality of the production process will get better. This means improvements in efficiency and effectiveness, which lead to higher profits and lower costs. The point here is that Lean Six Sigma should be looked upon as an investment — one that, in the long term, can help you to save money.

If you’re going to introduce it, do it right!

To really reap the benefits of Lean Six Sigma, an integrated approach is required.

By adopting Lean Six Sigma’s culture of continual process improvement, organisations can benchmark their ways of working from the back-end forward, creating their own best practices, based on the analysis of the existing issues. It can also be adapted and integrated alongside other process improvement and best-practice methodologies, to further introduce and reinforce this continual improvement culture.

It is definitely worth taking time to find out more about Lean Six Sigma and explore its benefits. Not doing so could hurt your business in the long run — continually putting out fires as and when they happen is ultimately going to be more costly and more time-consuming than spending some time upfront, implementing a problem-driven methodology. Time is money, use it wisely…


Why not take a look at our range of Lean Six Sigma courses and get in touch if you would like to talk about how we can help your business with process improvement.

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