What is Lean Six Sigma

What is Lean Six Sigma?


Lean Six Sigma is all about quality. Since the beginning of time, man has strived to deliver quality results. From the pyramids of Egypt to the Burj Al Arab in Dubai, man has been on the search for excellence and optimal quality. Quality is the totality of features of a product or service that helps satisfy stated or implied needs. Simply put, quality means ‘fit for purpose’. Quality itself is an outcome. It can only be achieved when the right inputs are well-managed. The management of inputs such as people, processes, tasks, activities, etc., is referred to as quality management.

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Quality management

In today’s competitive world, the need for quality management cannot be over-emphasized. When quality is managed effectively, cost is reduced, while revenue and customer satisfaction are increased. For instance, Motorola generated more than $2.2 billion in revenue within four years and $16 billion within 15 years by setting up a quality framework. Also, General Electric (GE) was able to save more than $12 billion in five years by adopting a quality framework.

The need for process improvement and quality management standard

As with all professions e.g. accounting, medicine, law, etc., generally accepted rules and guidelines are set to provide direction and guidance. These guidelines help to understand what to do and how to do them. They are developed in collaboration with professionals who have used, tested and tried different methods. The standards they come up with are based on openness, consensus, and due process.

Due to the highly sensitive nature of people towards quality, there was a need to come up with a  quality management standard. This standard gives professionals a common set of knowledge, requisite skills, tools, and techniques. In other words, when the art of managing quality was standardized, the right foundation was set for all professionals to use a generally accepted quality framework. Lean and Six Sigma were developed as standards for quality management.

How Lean started

Lean began with Henry Ford who was the first person to integrate an entire production process. He created a ‘Flow’ production in 1913. Several years later, Toyota reinvented and popularized the Lean concept. Lean focuses on removing waste. Waste is anything that does not add value to your product or service. In other words, you need just the right amount of equipment, materials, parts, space, and workers time. Anything that exceeds this is considered a waste.

How Six Sigma started

On the other hand, Six Sigma was conceived by Motorola when they lost market share in 1979. Two engineers at Motorola pioneered the work at improving processes and resolving defects. Six Sigma focuses on identifying and removing the causes of defects in processes.

How Lean Six Sigma came into being

The concept Lean Six Sigma was first used in a book titled ‘Leaning into Six Sigma: The Path to integration of Lean Enterprise and Six Sigma’. The book was written by Barbara Wheat and others and published in the early 2000s. The effective blending of Lean and Six Sigma gives a synergized concept called Lean Six Sigma. Today, most organizations around the world are adopting and implementing Lean Six Sigma.

Lean Six Sigma Certification bodies

Unlike other certifications, the Lean Six Sigma certification is not centrally coordinated. To this end, different bodies offer certifications at different levels e.g. yellow belt, green belt, black belt, etc. To prove your knowledge and experience in quality management, you must sit and pass an exam with any of the certification bodies. Some of the popular bodies are Lean Six Sigma Academy (LSSA), International Association for Six Sigma Certification (IASSC) and American Society for Quality (ASQ).

Benefits of Lean Six Sigma to individuals and organizations

With a rapidly growing need for certified professionals, it is no surprise that certified professionals significantly increase their earning potential and marketability. When an organization adopts and implements the framework, it shows a mark of commitment to global best practices. In addition, the organization can leverage the framework to meet customers’ expectation and satisfy stakeholders’ needs.

Having discussed the basics of Lean Six Sigma, let’s now ask more specific questions as seen below:

Yes, it is globally recognized. Who would not want to be tagged a ‘quality management professional?’ All around the globe, organizations cutting across different sectors are in dire need of quality managers. The Lean Six Sigma methodology has been adopted and implemented in many countries and multinationals. In Nigeria, for instance, most employers hire people who have experience in quality management and process improvement.

According to a global report, there are over 500,000 quality management certified professionals globally. In Nigeria, the number of certified professionals is on the astronomical increase, as people get certified on a daily basis.

Yes, it is relevant to employers. Certified professionals are the most sought-after candidates during hiring. They have all that is required to deliver quality results.

No, the course is not limited to any industry. Quality is a mark of excellence and professionalism. All industries want to deliver quality products or services. Lean Six Sigma framework is used in manufacturing, I.T., pharmaceuticals, oil & gas, automobile, etc. industries.

This course is for members of staff, subject matter experts, process owners, managers, aspiring managers and anyone who wants to deliver quality results. There are no pre-requisites for taking the training. Please, visit our “Lean Six Sigma qualification” page to see how the exam work for the different coordinating bodies.

What you will learn is detailed in the syllabi for the different belts. Please, visit our ‘Lean Six Sigma Resources’ page to learn more

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