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  • Writer's pictureMark Fitzsimmons

Process Improvement using Lean Six Sigma

Lean Six Sigma has been around for decades and has become the preeminent organizational improvement approach, even if it isn’t yet a familiar term to everyone. Virtually every Fortune 100 organization uses it to improve the way they do their work; from designing new products and services to improving existing ones. Any organization serious about getting better at what they do should consider leveraging this proven methodology.

Lean Six Sigma is the process and set of tools that can be used to invent, design and continuously improve the products and services that customers depend on, regardless of the industry, the size of the business, or whether they’re in the private, public or not-for profit sector. It’s about using information to set your employees up for success and consistently meet the needs of their customers. By using Lean Six Sigma, an organization drives out unnecessary costs, improves employee engagement, and generates greater customer loyalty.

Sadly, too many organizations, regardless of what they do or even how big they are, spend significant time and money doing something wrong the first time—then spend resources fixing the original error plus any side effects. This is incredibly frustrating for customers, and for the employees who aren’t always set up for success and are the ones most likely to be on the receiving end of customer frustration. Despite the best intentions of most organizations, the products and services they deliver don’t always live up to their billing.

The Lean Six Sigma methodology incorporates strategies that have been developed to solve specific problems within an organization. By following a project management approach, it enables project leader’s and subject matter experts to draw from a collection of improvement strategies to solve the most critical problems faced by the organization; often ones they’ve spent countless dollars and hours of time trying to solve before. Moreover, it provides employees with critical problem-solving skills they can use for the rest of their career.

Not only are employees more capable, but morale improves significantly as employees are more successful and experience less stress. They know how to solve the problems keeping them up at night.

The methodology most commonly follows an approach called “DMAIC”. An acronym for the typical phases of an improvement initiative; or project:

The Lean Six Sigma Roadmap:

  • Define – In the Define phase, we transform each opportunity identified into a clearly defined Lean Six Sigma project. Secondly, during this phase the project team is chosen. The customer and customer requirements, the process to be improved and the project goals are defined.

  • Measure – Measure the existing system. Establish valid and reliable metrics to help monitor progress towards the goal(s) defined in the previous step. Begin by determining the current baseline and understanding the process as it is today. Use exploratory and descriptive data analysis to help you understand the data.

  • Analyze – Analyze the system to verify cause and effect relationships. Identify ways to eliminate the gap between the current performance of the system or processes and the desired goal. Apply statistical tools to guide the analysis.

  • Improve – Improve the system. Be creative in finding new ways to do things safer, better, cheaper or faster. Use project management and other planning and management tools to implement the new approach. Use statistical methods to validate the improvement and to ensure defects have been addressed and eliminated from the process.

  • Control – Implementation of the process solutions identified earlier. It is also time to establish controls and accountability for the proper operation of the process going forward.

Sustainable improvement in how employees interact with their stakeholders requires disciplined, local action coupled with a company-wide commitment to changing how employees are recruited, rewarded and recognized, managed, and positioned in roles. In an ever increasingly global market, any organization wanting to succeed needs to find ways for their people to respond faster and better to new challenges and changing environments.

Organizations that leverage Lean Six Sigma to understand their world through insights gathered from both structured and unstructured data will make better decisions about the way they engage with their stakeholders will be the ones who succeed.

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