Back to [Lean Six Sigma] Basics: How to Turn Common Sense into Common Practice

Back to [Lean Six Sigma] Basics: How to Turn Common Sense into Common Practice

By Discovery Lean Six Sigma

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One of the beautiful aspects of Lean Six Sigma is how it simplifies the overly complex systems that organizations tend to put into place over prolonged periods of time.

In that context, Lean Six Sigma can look a lot like common sense. However, it’s not common practice. There is a significant difference between recognizing common sense, practical steps that can lead to change and putting them into practice.

The methodologies of Lean Six Sigma help bridge that gap.

Doing so requires a commitment to learning the tools and techniques the methodology offers and understanding how to best put them into action. That sounds easy, but it’s far from it. Even companies that commit to Lean Six Sigma often drop the ball through miscommunication, lack of commitment and poor leadership.

Think Like a Kid

One way to focus on the basic principles of Lean Six Sigma is to look at the most straightforward tools and what they are meant to accomplish.

A great indication of how this works can be seen in these life hacks for raising kids using Lean principles. The writer, an expert in using Lean Six Sigma at corporations such as Amazon and Charles Schwab, advocates approaches such as incorporating Lean tools such as visual cues and one piece flow into parenting practices.

Does this mean you should treat your employees like five-year-olds? Of course not. But it helps to illustrate that, like so many systems built by adults, modern businesses are often overcomplicated. Lean Six Sigma can help break down complex processes into manageable parts.

In fact, that’s exactly what Lean Six Sigma is designed to do: eliminate waste and errors, keep the customer in mind and create better products.

Here are some steps to keep in mind before implementing Lean Six Sigma in your organization.

Have a Compelling Reason

When company leaders say they want to adopt Lean Six Sigma because they want to be more “efficient,” everyone agrees. After all, who opposes becoming more efficient?

But concepts such as improved efficiency don’t exactly light a “process improvement” fire under managers and employees. What they need are concrete challenges and definitive goals. The challenges should be measurable, such as the number of errors in a process costing X amount of dollars. The goal should be clear – reduce the errors by a specific percentage.

Executive Buy-In

If the boss doesn’t care about something, neither will the employees. Leaders provide the guidance, set a tone and show what needs to be focused on by their own behavior and directives. Lean Six Sigma can help improve processes only if executives commit to its implementation, including providing employees access to training and certification in the methodology. If not, it will die just like countless “improvement initiatives” that came before.


This goes together with executive buy-in. It’s difficult to get a Lean Six Sigma project off the ground without the proper personnel, leadership, funding and other resources allocated to the job. People show what they really care about by how they spend their money. So do businesses.


A Lean Six Sigma project isn’t going to reach its potential without key personnel having training and certification in Lean and Six Sigma. That’s like putting together a baseball team full of people who have never swung a bat or thrown a baseball. It’s not going to work.


This comes under resources, but it’s worth mentioning on its own. Again, this is getting back to basics. Every Lean Six Sigma project should be driven by data. Project teams need access to the right data and the people onboard who know how to analyze that data.

Basic Tools

Some of the most straightforward Lean and Six Sigma tools are also the most powerful. Think about using some of these ideas, especially as your organization is introduced to process improvement methodologies.

Kanban – Kanban provides a schedule for a production that utilizes a “pull” system – the pace of production is determined by the workstation or machine center which pulls material toward completion of the product or service. It also uses a basic visual system for communication. It’s part of a system that Toyota Production System founder Taiichi Ohno put into place after he visited a Piggly Wiggly Supermarket and realized how he could make the auto manufacturing industry more efficient.

Process mapping – This is something so central to Lean Six Sigma that those at the Yellow Belt level are often tasked with working in this area to learn how the system works. A process map provides a step-by-step guide to a process, all drawn on a whiteboard, paper or on a shared software program where all can see it.

5S – 5S stands for Sort, Set, Shine, Standardize and Sustain. It’s a simple but powerful way to organize a workspace that reduces waste and boosts productivity. This is often a first step for many companies because of the immediate impact on workflow and the elimination of the Eight Wastes focused on by Lean.

Keeping these practical, common sense methods in mind can lead to more efficient and effective results. While there are more complicated and intricate tools, seeing the results from these basic ideas can motivate employees (and leaders) to fully embrace the potential of Lean Six Sigma.

The post Back to [Lean Six Sigma] Basics: How to Turn Common Sense into Common Practice appeared first on Six Sigma Daily.

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Posted: March 26, 2019, 2:27 pm

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