What does a successful Lean Six Sigma implementation require? How to reduce process inefficiencies and achieve greater business performance through continuous Improvement?
The Lean Six Sigma method proposes a holistic approach to improve your business performance where Lean thinking is combined with the problem-solving techniques of Six Sigma. As a result, you can identify the root cause of a problem or where you need to improve, measure your operational efforts, and introduce a new organizational culture across your company.
To understand how this works, let’s go over the fundamental Lean Six Sigma implementation steps.
You need to complete seven necessary actions to identify what needs improvement to create a plan to sustain the achieved progress. Let’s go over them in more detail.
Before embarking on the project, communicate the need for the implementation with strategic management and get their support. There should be a shared understanding of the need for Improvement and commitment to seek change actively. Implementing Lean and Six Sigma should be an integral part of the organization’s strategic goals to achieve a company-wide acceptance.
An essential prerequisite to successfully implementing the LSS method is to have all necessary resources and knowledge are at your disposal. Ensure that you can train the methodology to the designated employees for the roles of Yellow Belt, Green Belt, or a Black Belt. In addition, you may need to hire external consultants and mentors to help you spread the Lean and Six Sigma ways to achieve greater performance.
By identifying who is responsible for the entire implementation initiative, you will create a sense of accountability and engagement. The Lean Six Sigma Champion or the LSS team plays a crucial role in leading the implementation and showing how the undergoing change would add value to the work.
As one of the leading Lean Six Sigma principles states, the focus of all activities is on what creates value for the customer. Therefore, you need to specify what “value” means for your clients. Once you determine the customer value, match it against your system in place to identify improvement areas.
A Lean Six Sigma team steps in to create an action plan to tackle the incorporation in compliance with the customers’ expectations. The plan should support several key points:
During this phase of the LSS cycle, you need to gather as much data about the particular problem. Then, you can utilize various problem-solving techniques to help you measure the problem in its entirety.
For instance, the Value Stream Mapping technique will allow you to identify problematic stages of your workflow and show all non-value-adding activities in it. Employing the Pareto Chart analysis tool, on the other hand, will help you to categorize the root causes of the problem and detect their distribution frequency. Thus, you can narrow down your improvement efforts into specific domains.
A successful LSS implementation will allow you to make data-informed decisions which would be impossible without a well-defined measurement system in place. For instance, you can measure your process performance through indicators such as eliminating process inefficiencies or reducing the time to complete a project.
Committing to improve and sustain the achieved Improvement is crucial for the entire Lean Six Sigma implementation initiative.
To help you sustain the achievements and keep a continuous improvement trend, create an environment where people can learn, share knowledge, and be up-to-date with the market trends. Furthermore, by facilitating communication across teams and departments, you will encourage collaboration and thus, maintain the continuous improvement flow.
Depending on your specific context, you may need to closely monitor your workflow, use a control technique to manage the change, establish teams dedicated to acting upon “emerging” issues, so the workflow is not disrupted, etc.
The adoption of the Lean Six Sigma approach tackles both waste reduction and problems’ root causes simultaneously. While the methodology incorporation depends on the business context, the cycle includes the following seven key steps:
Step 1: Get Strategic Management Support - Communicate the need for the implementation.
Step 2: Raise Awareness - Ensure you have all the required knowledge and resources.
Step 3: Establish Ownership - Identify who is responsible for the entire implementation project.
Step 4: Define What Value Is - Determine what creates value for your customers.
Step 5: Set Priorities - Prioritize activities in line with the strategic goals.
Step 6: Gather Measurement Data - Map the operations activities and identify inefficiencies.
Step 7: Establish Control to Sustain Improvement - Sustain improvement and control over the future processes.
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