Misinterpretations of Lean vs. Six Sigma
I had a conversation recently with a very smart and talented consultant. He is a Lean Six Sigma consultant. He knows the tools of lean and Six Sigma backwards and forwards. The consultant also talked ab out the importance of having leadership buy-in from the top all the way to the bottom to be the most successful at both lean and Six Sigma. Overall, he was a very astute about both lean and Six Sigma.
During his presentation, there were two misinterpretations that stuck out to me. I found them to be quite a difference in thinking.
1. Six Sigma is focused on the customer while lean is focused on elimination of waste. I find this to be a significant difference in thinking. Lean’s #1 tenant is to focus on the Customer first and foremost. By focusing on the customer, an organization can learn what the customer finds of value. What is not of value can be considered non-value added (waste) or non-value added but necessary (government regulations). These should be eliminated or at least reduced.
Most people focus on the elimination of waste and miss why eliminating the waste is important. It is because it is of no value to the customer which is the main focus. Once the waste is eliminated it frees up resources allowing an organization to grow the business without having to invest in more resources.
2. Six Sigma focuses on making the product right while lean just focuses on making the product. The consultant mentioned the 7 types of wastes. One of the 7 types of wastes is directly solely at making the product right. That is the waste of defects. Not to mention the concept of building in quality (jidoka).
As mentioned above, when a company focuses on the customer first it will recognize quality is very important. This is why building in quality is one of the two pillars of the Toyota Production System.
After the presentation, the consultant and I had a very good discussion on these points. I admitted to being raised in the Lean House. I wasn’t arguing that Six Sigma was wrong or companies can’t benefit from it. Just that I have a different perspective of lean on the points mentioned above.