Why Lean Six Sigma is a customer centric tool for every employee


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This week I started my Lean Six Sigma (LSS) journey with the introductory session to the Yellow Belt qualification and my mindset has already been altered.

Like many people I’d heard of LSS, but didn’t really know what it is or does. Other than it’s something to do with Motorola and is big in manufacturing. I soon realised, however, that LSS is not just applicable to the manufacturing sector – it is all focused around the customer and creating value.

In fact LSS is a marriage of Lean Principles that aim to eliminate process wastage and Six Sigma methodology which focuses on reducing process variation. Consequently, LSS is a fact-based, data-driven philosophy of improvement that drives customer satisfaction and bottom-line results by minimising variation and wastage in processes.

And here was my big a-ha moment. When you start to think about process you realise pretty much everything you do is process driven – even down to how I brush my teeth in the morning. Therefore there is opportunity to enhance and improve any part of a business (or your home life, if you are that way inclined!).

LSS is often used as a very high level tool. Black Belt projects for example should save in the region of £250,000 per year and specialists can be engaged by organisations to unpick a problematic supply chain or to improve aircraft engine disassembly – both of which are important projects that will make significant impact on the bottom line. However, LSS is also incredibly effective for more every day, more pedestrian, less business-critical processes such as reducing expenses payment time to enhance employee satisfaction, or improving job acceptance rates. Whilst these might not be seen as high organisational priorities, they all contribute to business improvement and success.

And as Vincent Van Gough once said:
“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”

Imagine, then, the power of upskilling lots of employees in one business and providing them with a LSS mindset and suddenly each of their small improvements become incremental and their impact is hugely magnified.

With many organisations currently battling against the inclement business environment now has never been a better time to put process under the spotlight and look to see how efficiencies can be made. Not only will it save non-pay cost, but it will ultimately add value too. The ROI on Yellow Belt alone is £1:£5 and for Green Belt is £1:£20. In reality, however, this return is much greater as LSS is a designed as a continuous improvement methodology, so the benefits are not one offs and anecdotal evidence suggests that LSS trained individuals tend to be more loyal, staying longer at an organisations than those that aren’t LSS trained.

So Gemba (that’s LSS speak for going to see and review the actual place where the value is created) – – find out how LSS could change the mindset of every person in the business to one of continuous business improvement for customers and the impact this will have on your organisation.

Louisa Osmond
Louisa is head of executive education at Edinburgh Business School


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