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What is Lean Six Sigma?

By March 1, 2022No Comments

Lean Six Sigma is a process improvement methodology for eliminating problems, eliminating waste and inefficiency, and improving working conditions in order to better respond to client requests.

It blends Lean and Six Sigma tools, processes, and ideas into a popular and powerful methodology for improving your company’s operations.

The team-oriented strategy of Lean Six Sigma has demonstrated success in maximizing efficiency and drastically increasing profitability for enterprises all across the world.

“What precisely is Lean Six Sigma?” you might think. Continue reading to learn more about what it is, why it matters, and how to do it correctly.

Lean Six Sigma has three main components

  1. Tools and techniques: A collection of tools and analytical procedures for identifying and resolving issues.
  2. Process and methodology: A set of steps that arrange the use of problem-solving instruments to ensure that the genuine underlying causes are identified and a solution is applied completely.
  3. Mindset and culture: A method of thinking that is based on data and processes in order to reach operational performance goals and develop over time.

These three elements are mutually reinforcing. Analytical procedures are ineffective unless they are applied in a systematic way and a mindset of continual improvement is in place to justify their use. Without the tools and procedures that define the activity of the process steps, and a culture that insists on a systemic data-based approach to issue solving, an improvement process will not generate the desired results.

Finally, if there are no tools and techniques for analysis, and no process or methodology to organize and focus improvement activities, a culture that tries to improve continuously will be frustrated. Fortunately, all three layers are covered by the Lean Six Sigma method to business improvement.


Let’s take a look at how Lean Six Sigma came to be, and how the many components of the methodology came to be the process improvement approach we know today.

What is the definition of continuous improvement?

Continuous improvement arose from Frederick Winslow Taylor’s Principles of Scientific Management as a company strategy and discipline. Business, according to Taylor, is a collection of interconnected workflows or processes that should be controlled with data.

Walter Shewhart created a set of process control and continuous improvement management practices in the 1930s. These disciplines were founded on Taylor’s business workflow concepts and a data-driven approach. Shewhart’s work serves as the foundation for today’s engineering and management disciplines of Quality Assurance and Quality Control.

Edward Deming, a student and apprentice of Shewhart’s, used these concepts to transform Japan’s automotive sector into a global quality and engineering powerhouse after WWII.

What exactly is Lean?

Toyota developed Lean as part of the Toyota Production System, which was based on Shewhart and Deming’s work. Toyota was a client of Deming’s, and the company based its operational management procedures on his teachings. The elimination of waste is the basic tenet of Lean. In reality, “a set of instruments that assist in the identification and continuous elimination of waste” is a reasonable description of the Lean method.

If a corporation, such as Toyota, engages in large-scale, high-quantity production, a waste-involved process indicates that the company generates large-scale, high-quantity trash. This is something that no corporation wants to undertake. The Lean method analyzes the business process with tools.

Five principles of lean manufacturing


Value is decided by what the consumer finds important in a product or service, not by what the people who create or supply the product or service think is important.

Value Stream

The set of business activities and steps involved in generating and delivering products and services to customers; rather than evaluating each phase separately, it is the connectivity of the steps.


The degree to which operations that provide value to the consumer run smoothly and uninterruptedly, rather than waste and inefficiency, obstructing the flow through the value stream.


The extent to which the value stream exclusively processes things and services for which there is a client demand, rather than generating something and hoping it would be purchased.


Rather than fighting changes that improve the process of creating and delivering customer value, constant evaluation of value stream performance is used to find and improve the value created and supplied to customers.

Three types of waste

The Lean technique, as defined by the Toyota Production System, identifies and attempts to remove three types of waste:


Non-value-added work is a waste of time.


Unpredictable change in flow necessitates adjustment elsewhere in the system.


Overburdening resources above their regular rated capability — causes resources to be stressed and damaged to the point where they are unable to handle a typical workload.

The principles of Lean may be applied to any company process or operation, not only manufacturing, as you can see from both of these lists. It is now employed in almost every activity and industry.

What is Six Sigma, and how does it work?

Motorola was the first to develop Six Sigma in the late 1980s. Bill Smith, a quality engineer, developed the concept with the purpose of eliminating errors by improving the way quality and measurement systems performed. The Motorola systems were tolerant of mistake rates that resulted in excessive scrap, rework, redundant testing, and, in many cases, customer displeasure.

The Six Sigma strategy centered on finding and removing everything that produced process variation. When variance is eliminated, the process outcomes may be accurately predicted — every time. Process errors are eliminated by designing the system so that these precisely predicted results fit within the acceptable performance zone from the customer’s perspective.

Motorola engineers, on the other hand, went a step farther. They understood from previous experience that many process adjustments fail because they do not address the fundamental cause of the problem. Furthermore, the adjustments they made would not last, since the operators would revert to doing things the old way over time. To overcome these challenges, Six Sigma was organized into five phases.

What are Six Sigma’s five phases?


In this phase, the limits for the studied process are established, as well as the customer’s expectations or expected performance for that process. This is to ensure that a change does not damage, but rather improves, the customer experience.


The current performance of the process, product, or service is measured in this phase to determine what is actually happening, particularly from the perspective of the customer. This ensures that the research and solution are based on real-world performance rather than hypothetical or anecdotal data.


Using the measured data, this phase analyzes the process, product, or service to find the source or sources of the variation that are creating the problem. This is to ensure that the genuine root cause(s) and not merely a symptom are recognized.


This phase evaluates potential modifications to the process, product, or service, and then designs and tests a solution set of improvements. This ensures that the solution has the desired effect and that variance is minimized or avoided.


The changes are made, the supporting systems are updated, and the process, product, or service is put under control – usually statistical process control – to verify the solution is completely implemented and to detect if performance begins to deteriorate.

Because Six Sigma is mainly based on data, it may be applied to any process, product, or service that has a defined performance target and measurable attributes.

Similarities between lean and six sigma

Lean and Six Sigma have been merged because they are compatible, despite their differences. Because of their similarities, they work well together. Because of the variations, analytical tools and solution alternatives that will improve the process, product, or service are available. Because of their commonalities, both types of analysis can be performed on the same process, product, or service at the same time.

Lean and Six Sigma have a lot in common.

  • Both are founded on a customer-experience-driven concept of value. The customer reigns supreme (or queen).
  • To comprehend the process, both adopt a process flow mapping approach. Even if the analysis is based on a product or service, the process of generating and providing that product or service is included.
  • Data is used to determine present performance and the implications of future performance in both cases. The information gathered during a Lean Six Sigma project is frequently used to assist both Lean and Six Sigma analysis. The dependence on data aids in the identification of the underlying root cause.
  • Both are used in improvement initiatives, which are usually carried out by a small cross-functional team. The scope and scale of the process, product, or service being assessed for improvement will determine the length of the project and the size of the team.
  • Both have spread beyond the manufacturing floor and are now used for all operations and procedures, both internally and outside. They’re also employed in a variety of industries, including manufacturing, consumer goods, government, education, and non-profit organizations.
  • Improvements based on either technique will, in most cases, minimize waste as well as variation. Getting rid of wasteful processes and activities (muda) eliminates sources of variation, and getting rid of variation eliminates wasted process capacity and procedures associated with accommodating it (mura and muri).

However, there are some distinctions between the two methods. These distinctions do not result in a conflict; rather, they allow multiple paths to a similar end. The nature of the defect, as defined by customer value, and the existing condition of the process, product, or service should govern which sets of tools are most suited in a Lean Six Sigma project. The ultimate solution is frequently a blend of Lean and Six Sigma improvements.

What’s the difference between Six Sigma and Lean?

  • When it comes to identifying problems, Lean focuses on waste (muda, mura, muri), while Six Sigma focuses on variation, or any divergence from the goal performance.
  • Techniques of various kinds – For both analysis and solution creation, Lean typically employs visual tools that are backed up by data analysis. For analysis and solution generation, Six Sigma largely use statistical approaches, which are supplemented by data visualization. This gives rise to the notion that Lean is easier than Six Sigma since the visual analysis of Lean is simple to grasp, whereas the numerical analysis of Six Sigma intimidates many individuals. In truth, with today’s statistical support tools, both forms of analysis are simple to execute.
  • Various types of documentation for the solution – the Lean solution is documented with a redesigned value stream map, which leads to changes in workflows and, in many cases, changes in work instructions at various stages of the process. Changes in setup procedures and a control plan for monitoring the process and responding to variation are documented as part of the Six Sigma solution. It will also have an impact on work instructions, and it will frequently result in adjustments to measurement methods or systems.

The two systems are so similar in so many respects that it was simple to combine them into one paradigm and reap the benefits of their synergy. As it is currently applied, Lean Six Sigma avoids the majority of the drawbacks of previous failed techniques.

Principles of Lean Six Sigma

Let’s go over the principles that have made Lean Six Sigma so successful. I’ve worked directly on the successful deployment of Lean Six Sigma in a number of organizations, as well as providing consulting services to a number of firms that had tried and failed to execute an effective Lean Six Sigma program. The following principles were used in the successful programs. At least one or more principles were not observed in the failed implementations.

Addressing a real-world problem

Lean Six Sigma is a bottom-up and top-down technique. Problem selection is linked to the top-down element. The Lean Six Sigma project teams are concentrating on real-world issues that are now affecting customers and operations. When it comes to rework and repair activities, as well as dealing with client complaints, team members are frequently affected by the problem. This gives the endeavor a sense of urgency and importance. It isn’t just “busy work,” but genuine labor.

One of the reasons for the 1980s Quality Circle programs’ failure was that each team was allowed to choose its own project. While this may sound like a terrific way to empower people, many of the projects chosen were not real-world issues. One of the first tasks chosen by a team at one of the organizations where I worked was to repaint the lunch room and hang new drapes. The idea was quickly dismissed as a “fun” party time activity that had nothing to do with serious company progress.

It’s not always easy to persuade the organization of the value of this practice for commercial success. When both management and the team realize the importance of recognizing and fixing the problem, gaining buy-in is considerably easier. Management, on the other hand, does not impose a problem or a solution. Rather, the team’s investigation uncovers the underlying fundamental problem.

Analysis is accomplished by a team

Typically, a Lean Six Sigma project is staffed by a cross-functional team that is active in several elements of the process under investigation. Many business processes are cross-functional, necessitating a cross-functional study to avoid process sub-optimization. Improving one step at the expense of another does not eliminate waste or variance; rather, it shifts it to a different stage of the process.

The Green Belt and Black Belt project leaders worked on their own to uncover and fix the problem without the support of a cross-functional team, something I’ve observed in other Lean Six Sigma implementations. This would be beneficial if the process and problem were modest and the project leader understood the process. Large cross-functional processes and projects, on the other hand, or in some circumstances when the project leader had no prior experience with the type of process or problem being investigated, would become blocked and delayed.

All viewpoints of the organizations involved and impacted by the project are included in the problem analysis, and even more crucially, in the development of the solution, by using a cross-functional team. The varied team members’ in-depth knowledge is beneficial in understanding the problem and the consequences of the data. These diverse viewpoints are critical in assisting the team in developing a solution that tackles the immediate issue while also reducing waste and variation in other elements of the process.

Analysis is focused on a process

Process analysis is where Lean Six Sigma shines. Even though the problem is clearly a product issue, Lean Six Sigma will be far more effective if it is applied to the process that creates or makes the product rather than just the product itself. That’s because the goal of the analysis is to look into and enhance actions, and actions are the steps in a process. Actions rarely occur in a vacuum, with no influence from previous or subsequent actions. Rather, they must be viewed in the context of the process in which they are taking place. A representation of the process is provided by a Lean value stream map or a Six Sigma process map.

On several occasions, I’ve discovered that drawing a process map quickly led to a better comprehension of what was going on, as well as recognition of some of the underlying issues that go unnoticed when a person is simply aware of their own part of the process. I’ve come across a project team that was exclusively focused on a product defect, ignoring the process that developed or used the product on a few times. They could identify the fault, but they couldn’t figure out what was causing it or come up with a remedy until they produced a process map.

Analysis is based upon data

The cornerstone of building is lean six sigma data analysis.

Lean Six Sigma is based on evidence rather than guesswork. A walk-through of the process verifies the Lean value stream map, and data is collected at each stage. In the Measure phase, the current state of the process, product, or service is assessed. This includes measuring the problem or defect as well as any work that has been completed correctly. The data collected is analyzed to determine the current state of affairs, rather than an assumed condition. This investigation verifies the underlying reasons, allowing the correct problem to be resolved. The reliance on data, however, does not end there. After a solution has been developed, data is gathered to see if it has genuinely solved the problem. The data is then utilized to guarantee that the solution is maintained and that the problem does not resurface.

One of the difficulties that continuous improvement and problem-solving projects have faced throughout the years is accepting the current state of affairs. Businesses frequently deny the existence of problems and issues. I recently worked with a company that was putting Lean Six Sigma into practice. One of the first project teams was entrusted with resolving a product issue that caused a significant amount of rework in their operation and resulted in several customer complaints. On other times, the problem has been “fixed” by tightening controls on the process step that “created” the problem. Except that when we actually assessed what was going on in each stage, we discovered that the problem was caused by a number of other things. The management first dismissed the analysis due to “politics” and mindsets. However, after being given with the data, they were able to pinpoint the source of the issues and develop a viable solution. The data was what finally broke through the problem’s paradigms.

Recognize the significance of the process sigma

The Six Sigma analysis is the topic of the next principle. Sigma has the practical impact of representing the amount of normal variation that happens. It is usually linked to the measurement of a specific metric or trait. There will be almost no variance in the same features of a product or process. That characteristic remains constant regardless of how frequently the product or method is used. There is also variety in other features. There is an average value, but each individual instance is unclear. The statistical measure of the uncertainty is sigma.

For a little more than two-thirds of the occurrences, one sigma denotes the limits.

  • 95 percent of the occurrences are represented by two sigma.
  • Over 99 percent of occurrences are represented by three sigma.
  • By the time you get to six sigma, normal variation has only around 3 chances in a million of causing the characteristic being measured to be that different from the average value.

Sigma is a measure of variation; it has no bearing on acceptability. I haven’t yet specified whether the attribute being measured is appropriate from the standpoint of customers or standards. A variable could have an extremely small sigma, implying that it has almost no variation. However, if the average value of that attribute is outside the acceptable range for the consumer, it simply implies that it is always defective. On the other hand, a large sigma indicates a significant amount of uncertainty in an attribute. However, regardless of the variation, if the buyer has no expectations for that attribute, it will always be acceptable.

The Lean Six Sigma technique is concerned with sigma for a reason other than client acceptability. Instead, when there is a lot of variance and uncertainty in critical features or parameters, it costs more time and money, and it almost always leads to defects. Keep in mind that we’re in the middle of a process, and the outputs of one stage become the inputs for the next. When there is a lot of uncertainty in the inputs, as indicated by a large sigma, the subsequent processes should be able to accommodate the whole range of possible values for that property. This will almost always increase the cost and complexity. Simplifying and streamlining the entire process can be accomplished through lowering sigma.

The solution focuses on the true source of the problem (s)

Because it identifies the characteristics of the true problem, Lean Six Sigma is one of the most potent problem-solving and continuous improvement approaches. Some approaches assume that every problem has a unique or particular cause, and that if that cause can be found, eliminated, or controlled, the problem will go away. Other approaches begin by assuming that the problem is a common occurrence in the process. The process is fundamentally defective or insufficient, and the problem would be solved if the process were adjusted to avoid or cure the flaw or inadequacy.

Both objectives are excellent and, in reality, are pretty comparable. However, the first problem can be solved by implementing a “spot correction” to control the specific cause, whereas the second approach can be solved by re-engineering the process. Unfortunately, choosing the incorrect solution technique does not improve the situation and, in many cases, makes it worse. The tools used in Lean Six Sigma are used to determine if the problem is caused by a special cause or a common cause. The project team will be able to uncover the true root cause or causes after making this distinction. In addition, the team can devise a problem-solving method that is suited for the situation. If the reason is unique, they can devise a unique solution. They can redesign the procedure if it is a common cause.

A control system is included in the solution to help it “stick.”

The process of Lean Six Sigma does not end with the identification of a problem or the implementation of a solution. The Control phase is the last step in the Lean Six Sigma process. Most companies have an inherent aversion to change. Change is difficult for many people and systems. Habits must be broken, new methods must be learnt, and new data must be acquired. The solution is implemented and the organization begins to use it in the Lean Six Sigma Control phase. During this time, the project team ensures that all supporting systems are updated to reflect any changes, and that process operators and managers receive training and coaching on how to use the solution. This includes ensuring that the process’s control systems are in place to detect when the process begins to revert to its old behavior. Because they have successfully shown their solution once, the project team does not declare victory and disband. Instead, they stick with it for a statistically significant number of times. This shows that the solution actually fixed the problem, as well as that the operators and supervisors are prepared and capable of managing the enhanced process.

At one point, I worked with a corporation in Chicago to resolve a persistent issue in their purchasing department. To eliminate a common cause problem, the solution was a simple process modification. Looking through the historical documentation related to this subject, I discovered that earlier solutions were comparable to the one we came up with. They had been installed and used for a year or two before being gradually tweaked till the problem reappeared. The changes were made as a result of how senior management evaluated the purchasing department’s effectiveness. The metrics were related to one step in the purchasing process rather than the full procedure. The problem was caused by optimizing that step, which resulted in sub-optimization in several other processes. When a solution was installed this time, I made certain that the corporate measuring system was updated to include the full purchasing process, not just one stage. These are the kinds of problems that the Lean Six Sigma Control phase frequently deals with.

Lean Six Sigma’s Advantages

Lean Six Sigma is a methodology for continuous improvement. However, the question of what it improves is a valid one. Does it result in an increase in sales or profits? Is it able to increase customer happiness and decrease complaints? Does it reduce prices, improve incoming quality, exiting quality, or quality cost? Is it good for employee morale? Is it going to boost your wages and perks, or will it help you advance in your career? Is it able to provide world peace and alleviate world hunger? All of them are true, with the exception of the last two. Let’s look at the advantages for the company and then the advantages for the employees who get a level of Lean Six Sigma certification.

Benefits to the organization

Lean Six Sigma is an organization’s continuous improvement process. As a result, we should anticipate organizational gains. In fact, GE claims that Lean Six Sigma has saved the corporation over $2 billion in costs. Let’s have a look at the nature of the perks and what they imply.

Processes that are simple

The business processes will be simplified thanks to Lean Six Sigma. The cross-functional value stream maps will reveal inefficiencies and waste. Rework and workarounds for persistent problems are built into many of the processes. The remaining procedures are straightforward and frequently much easier to manage and control once the wasted effort is removed and rework and workarounds are no longer required. As a result, the procedure is speedier, which contributes to improved customer service and satisfaction. Both of these will almost always result in increased sales. Furthermore, the simpler, faster procedure will reduce overhead costs, resulting in higher earnings. Finally, there are fewer potential for errors with simplified operations. As a result, they are usually of superior quality and have fewer faults.

There are fewer errors and blunders.

Let’s take a closer look at the advantage of fewer errors and blunders. The foundation of Lean Six Sigma is a definition of acceptable quality based on what consumers value. This external focus on quality places a higher priority on continuous improvement initiatives to address the issues that have the greatest influence on business success. Furthermore, relying on statistics to characterize problems rather than gut instinct or anecdotes helps to focus the improvement effort on the organization’s true issues. As a result, the enhancements address real issues and reduce them to a level that is acceptable to real customers. As a result, Lean Six Sigma not only handles faults and mistakes in the workplace, but it also addresses the errors and mistakes that matter the most.

Performance that can be predicted

Simple processes, especially those with fewer faults and blunders, are easier to control and manage than complex ones. However, in addition to these advantages, Lean Six Sigma focuses on reducing variation within a process. Processes become more predictable when there is less variance. This translates to regular cycle times, high-quality output, and low prices. These factors can result in improved customer service, fewer complaints, and increased revenues. When a firm operates in a fast-changing environment, predictability becomes a significant benefit. An unstable corporate climate is already being created by changing technologies and client expectations. It is nearly impossible to plan and implement an adequate response to this instability without predictable mechanisms.

Controlling the situation actively

Which gets me to the last organizational benefit I’d want to discuss: a better ability to actively control processes. The Lean Six Sigma methodology reduces cycle times and implements data-driven control plans and systems in real time. Operators and process managers can make decisions that have an immediate influence on process performance because to low cycle times and data-based control systems. This boosts productivity, boosts staff morale, and boosts agility. The operators are aware of how their actions affect the process’s performance, and they receive immediate feedback. Because the operators are now directly involved in managing and developing the process, they are less likely to feel like victims of it. The firm can quickly adapt to opportunities in the changing marketplace thanks to short cycles and active control. Short, efficient processes with value stream maps and control charts are also easier to maintain than complicated, undocumented processes.

Personal benefits

Individuals that become Lean Six Sigma leaders within the organization benefit from the program. In a subsequent part, we’ll go over the various leadership responsibilities in greater depth. First, let’s go over some of the personal advantages of engaging in Lean Six Sigma.

Effectiveness of the individual

Lean Six Sigma is a structured problem-solving methodology that can be used to virtually any situation. Finding and resolving difficulties will help you perform better in any position or business. The Lean Six Sigma technique guides you through a systematic process of investigation, analysis, problem identification, and solution development. Many of the tools and strategies can be used to solve difficulties and challenges that arise on a daily basis. Even if you don’t use all of the tools, the systematic approach to problem-solving will put you in charge of identifying and resolving your issues. I’ve used this method to solve difficulties at home, with local charities I support, and, of course, in a variety of business situations.

Possibilities for leadership

Projects are used to implement Lean Six Sigma, and each project has a leader. Leading a Lean Six Sigma project will frequently expose you to other departments and top management. This exposure occurs in the setting of someone who is capable of identifying and resolving an issue. Interacting with coworkers and managers will almost certainly boost your communication and decision-making abilities. Lean Six Sigma’s structure can assist you in honing your project management skills. And, of course, being able to say on your CV that you managed a project team that achieved cost savings, quality improvement, and a shorter cycle time can only help you get that next promotion or new job.

Pay and advancement opportunities

Which leads us to Lean Six Sigma practitioners’ compensation and promotion prospects. Belt certification is an important certificate to have on your resume. Many job postings demand that candidates have a Lean Six Sigma certification. As a result, certain opportunities for advancement will arise. Furthermore, promotions within an organization are frequently based on how you have proved your leadership abilities. Leading a Lean Six Sigma project successfully demonstrates to top management and HR that you are ready for further responsibility. In the United States, the average yearly compensation for a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt is little under $100,000. Your industry’s and country’s averages will differ. However, it’s safe to assume that obtaining a Lean Six Sigma certification will boost your earning potential.

Industries and functions using Lean Six Sigma

Lean began in an automotive manufacturer’s process engineering department, and Six Sigma began in a high-tech system manufacturer’s quality department. The approaches, on the other hand, have progressed far beyond their origins in quality and process engineering. In practically every business function, I’ve either participated in or coached Lean Six Sigma projects, including:

  • C-Suite
  • Center for Customer Service
  • Service to Customers
  • Engineering Design
  • Sales in the Field
  • Finance
  • Human Resource Management
  • IT
  • Legal
  • Logistics
  • Maintenance
  • Engineering for Manufacturing
  • Manufacturing Processes
  • Marketing
  • Engineering Processes
  • Purchasing/Sourcing
  • Quality
  • R&D
  • Sales
  • Test

Lean has spread far beyond the industrial industry. Many industries have embraced Lean Six Sigma, and the number of businesses that have adopted the technique is just too long to discuss here. In some circumstances, the focus will be primarily on Lean, in others on Six Sigma, and in many cases, it will be a blend of both.

  • Agri-business
  • Aviation
  • Banking
  • Electronics
  • Services in the Financial Sector
  • Government
  • Education at the University Level
  • Hospitals
  • Manufacturing
  • Medical Equipment
  • Mining
  • Gas and Oil
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Retail
  • Telecom
  • Transportation

Lean Six Sigma belts

So far, we’ve covered the history of Lean Six Sigma, the ideas that underpin it, and some of the benefits. You’re probably wondering when we’ll explain how it works. Now is the moment to act. Let’s go through the essential roles and responsibilities, the five-phase structure, and some of the more widely utilized tools and procedures.

Levels of lean six sigma belt

The Motorola Six Sigma methodology has taken the roles from Lean Six Sigma, which use the name convention of the martial arts development of mastery. Some companies have their own mastery levels and definitions. I will, however, describe the most commonly encountered levels in use today. The Yellow Belt, Green Belt, Black Belt, and Master Black Belt are the four Lean Six Sigma belts you may have heard of. Each of these positions is expected to have the necessary training and, in many cases, certification.

Every organization set its own standards for methodology, tools, and procedures in the early years of Lean and Six Sigma. However, for training and certification, most businesses today rely on an independent certifying agency. The American Society for Quality (ASQ) and the International Association of Six Sigma Certification are the two most well-known certification organizations (IASSC). The IASSC Body of Knowledge is associated with the GoSkills Lean Six Sigma courses. Let’s take a closer look at each of these jobs.

What is a Yellow Belt in Lean Six Sigma?

A company can have a large number of Yellow Belts. These people are part of a Lean Six Sigma project that is being led by a Green Belt or Black Belt. They should understand the organized methodology as well as the utilization of cross-functional tools and techniques.

  • They will be present at all project team meetings in the capacity of subject matter expert for their function or specialty. This is a part-time work that they do in addition to their regular full-time job.
  • Based on the scale of the process being researched and the nature of the problem, a project will include as many or as few Yellow Belt members as are required.
  • Yellow Belt training typically emphasizes on the methodology’s framework as well as the usage of cross-functional problem-solving tools and procedures.
  • The project’s Green Belt or Black Belt is usually in charge of the extensive Lean and Six Sigma analysis. Yellow Belt team members, on the other hand, are frequently the ones who collect the data utilized in analysis and assist in the interpretation of the results.
  • Members of the Yellow Belt team will also oversee the solution’s implementation inside their respective functions or disciplines.
  • A person holding a Yellow Belt certification is likely to be a part of several Lean Six Sigma project teams.

What is a Green Belt in Lean Six Sigma?

There will be several Green Belts in a company. Typically, a Green Belt’s position is that of a project manager. Typically, the Green Belt works on Lean Six Sigma initiatives that are within their area of competence and responsibilities. These professionals are familiar with the Lean Six Sigma technique and structure. They can also employ Lean analytical tools and statistical approaches that are typically used in Six Sigma.

  • These people are in charge of minor initiatives or projects that are solely focused on a single function. This position is usually held in conjunction with another full-time job.
  • The majority of Green Belts are in charge of a project aimed at improving one or more aspects of their company’s procedures. A Green Belt may be assigned to a large cross-functional project led by a Black Belt in some instances.
  • Multiple studies are frequently conducted concurrently on large cross-functional projects, and a Green Belt will lead each of these efforts.
  • The Green Belt is in charge of ensuring that proper Lean Six Sigma tools and procedures are implemented at each phase of the project as project leader.
  • At phase gate reviews, this person will usually lead the presentation and discussion of the project. They will do these analyses since they are sometimes the only person on the project who has been trained in Lean analysis and statistical Six Sigma techniques.
  • The Green Belt isn’t a subject matter expert on every part of the process or product, but they are usually an authority on a piece of it. As a result, they must apply their subject matter expertise in the same way as a Yellow Belt does. The Green Belt, on the other hand, is not expected to know everything there is to know about advanced Lean Six Sigma tools and methodologies. When they run into difficulties, they seek advise and instruction from their Black Belt.

What is a Black Belt in Lean Six Sigma?

Multiple Black Belts are common in organizations. The Black Belt role is that of a Lean Six Sigma subject matter expert for a certain function or location within the company. These people are in charge of significant cross-functional initiatives and coach the Green Belts in that department or location. This is typically a full-time job.

Black Belts are not only experts in the methods and tools, but they are also the organization’s trainers and coaches for Green Belts and Yellow Belts. A typical day will involve the following activities:

  • Organizing a team gathering for one of the projects that they are in charge of;
  • Reviewing the progress of numerous Green Belts and providing guidance for their next levels;
  • Using data from one of the projects they’re leading to perform value stream or statistical analysis;
  • Provide Yellow Belt and Green Belt applicants with instruction on how to apply Lean Six Sigma inside their organization.
  • Meet with organizational stakeholders to discuss project status and identify potential issues or problems for future projects.

As you can see, the person is frequently required to manage multiple projects at the same time while also functioning as a coach for a few Green Belts who are heading their own projects. Black Belt-led projects are typically huge, cross-functional projects. They must plan and arrange the work as project leads. Working with stakeholders from diverse functions is often the most hard aspect of those projects. The Black Belt function is transferred every year or two in many organizations so that numerous people can become proficient in all parts of the Lean Six Sigma technique.

What is a Master Black Belt in Lean Six Sigma?

Six sigma is a lean methodology. a master black belt in department organization

Master Black Belt is the highest degree. In most firms, there will be only one Master Black Belt, who will be a senior executive in charge of the Lean Six Sigma effort. This is a full-time job opportunity. This Master Black Belt frequently reports to the Lean Six Sigma initiative’s C-level champion.

  • This person possesses the same training and certification as a Black Belt in terms of training and certification. The roles and responsibilities, however, are distinct.
  • The Master Black Belt is in charge of the initiative rather than the project.
  • The Master Black Belt usually collaborates closely with senior management to identify how many Black Belts and Green Belts are required, as well as which functional departments or locations should receive them first.
  • The Master Black Belt is responsible for keeping track of the portfolio of Lean Six Sigma projects, including active, completed, and planned initiatives. As a result, they may assess the whole program’s influence on the organization and prioritize improvement efforts depending on the firm’s strategy.
  • These employees also collaborate with HR to keep track of all Yellow Belts, Green Belts, and Black Belts in the organization’s training records.
  • If a company is tiny, or if the Lean Six Sigma project is small inside the company, one of the company’s Black Belts will take on the role of Master Black Belt.

5 Phases of Lean Six Sigma – DMAIC

Projects using the Lean Six Sigma approach have a five-phase structure. The term DMAIC stands for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control, and it represents the five steps.

What is the DMAIC process in Lean Six Sigma?

Each step is organized around a central premise or topic that must be addressed. The project can move on to the next step once the question has been successfully answered. The length of the phase is determined by the information and data available. A phase gate review with stakeholders and one or more Black Belts is usually held at the end of each phase. Let’s look at each phase in further depth.

Define phase

Define phase problem using lean six sigma

The project’s Define phase is the initial step. “Have we defined the problem from a business perspective?” is the most important question to address. Typically, a Green Belt or Black Belt project leader is chosen and a high-level description of the problem is supplied. At that time, several Yellow Belt project team members may also be recognized. To understand the problem from the standpoint of stakeholders and customers, the project team needs to get input from them. They are measuring what the clients consider to be important quality demands throughout this time.

The boundaries for the process – and any product or service offered – can be set once the challenge has been understood from both a business and customer standpoint. While a preliminary project team may be in place at this point, determining the process’s limits will frequently indicate which functions require subject matter experts to support the project. Yellow Belt training is generally given to subject matter experts who are new to Lean Six Sigma during this phase. The development of a project charter that outlines the problem from the customer’s perspective, the processes to be investigated, and a performance improvement goal is common at the end of this phase.

Measure phase

Phase baseline performance is measured using the lean six sigma methodology.

The Measure phase of a Lean Six Sigma project is the second phase. The baseline condition is established in this step by assessing the existing performance of the process, product, or service against the important quality criteria outlined in the Define phase. “Do we understand the work and flow of each of the processes in the existing process, and have we measured the process performance at each step?” is the question that is asked in this phase. This will most likely be the longest phase and demand the most labor if the process is not thoroughly documented or managed.

To identify the flow of each stage, the process must be defined. Each stage is then timed, inspected for quality, and any other factor that the customer valued. Because the relevant measuring systems to acquire this data are often unavailable, a measurement system must be designed and evaluated to provide accurate and comprehensive data. During this phase, the team’s subject matter experts from diverse departments and functions work together to identify process stages and develop and deploy a performance measurement strategy. By the end of this phase, the customer’s problem should have been quantified using process data, and a precise assessment of the existing or “As-is” state of the entire process should have been made.

Analyze phase

Lean six sigma root cause analysis

The third phase of a Lean Six Sigma project is the Analyze phase. The process and product data are analyzed in this step to determine the true root cause or reasons of the customer’s concern. “Have we clearly diagnosed the problem and found the genuine root cause(s)?” is the crucial question to be answered. The project leader uses Lean analytical tools and Six Sigma statistical hypothesis testing procedures to discover the root cause at this level. The project manager must be able to mathematically demonstrate that the root cause has been found. While the analytical and statistical procedures are hard, the math is usually simple, especially if a statistical analysis product such as Excel’s Analysis Tool Pak or Minitab is utilized.

The data gathered during the Measure step is frequently enough for the analysis. However, in certain circumstances, the analysis will indicate to a problem that has to be investigated further, necessitating the collection of further data. The type of data available for analysis and the nature of the problem or defect from the customer’s perspective will determine whether analytical instrument or approach is employed. The results of the analysis are frequently used to create a detailed problem description during this step. Before this stage, the team must avoid writing a thorough problem definition. Otherwise, there’s a significant risk they’ll assume the wrong problem, causing confusion and misdirection within the team when it comes time to develop a solution in the next phase. By the end of this phase, all team members should agree that the problem’s sources have been identified and understood.

Improve phase

Improve phase solution with lean six sigma

The fourth phase of a Lean Six Sigma project is the Improve phase. Teams frequently desire to go right into this phase without completely completing the first three. When this happens, the team usually comes up with a solution that tackles a symptom rather than the core reason. The purpose of this phase is to come up with a problem-solving solution that will either solve or contain the problem. “Have we created a feasible solution for the problem that is ready to be implemented?” is the question being answered. Different team members will play a larger or smaller role in the solution creation depending on the nature of the identified problem.

The solution is designed and tested during this phase. This is often the most expensive step, depending on the nature of the solution. The “To-Be” process is created and recorded. Many times, the new process necessitates equipment, software, or procedure adjustments. Data is used once again to ensure that the solution has effectively addressed the problem, which usually entails performing a statistically significant number of actions to obtain that data. Prematurely celebrating a “random success” is a trap the team can easily fall into. The solution must be thoroughly tested, as well as the training and implementation materials that go with it, before they can be implemented. The solution will be ready by the conclusion of this phase.

Control phase

Continuous improvement during the lean six sigma control phase

The Control phase of a Lean Six Sigma project is the final stage. The solution is fully deployed at this point. The phase does not finish until the solution is stable and all business components affected by the change are operational. “Have we established a “new normal” that has eliminated or regulated the problem the consumer experienced?” is the question being answered. To ensure that any changes in their department are fully executed, all members of the project team are involved in the implementation. The phase will last until the process has proven to be stable in terms of performance. This could happen in a matter of days or take several months.

A control plan is usually implemented to keep track of the process, product, or service. The control plan specifies acceptable performance thresholds as well as corrective action procedures to take if the performance deteriorates. One of the keys to ensuring that the improvement is lasting and that the process does not revert to its previous state is to implement a control plan. In most circumstances, statistical process control will be included in the control plan. Updates to documentation in connected processes such as training processes, corporate information systems, and management review are frequently a substantial part of the work in this phase. When the process operators and managers no longer require assistance from the project team, this phase is accomplished.

Phase Gate Reviews

We’ve concentrated on the project manager’s and project team’s roles. Senior management and process stakeholders, on the other hand, play a role in the Lean Six Sigma technique. The Phase Gate reviews will be conducted by these individuals, along with one or more Black Belts. The evaluations can take the form of a face-to-face presentation, a virtual presentation, or the submission of a report that the stakeholders and Black Belts review and approve. The strategy chosen is mostly determined by business culture and team logistics. These evaluations take place at the end of each phase. There are three goals to a review:

1. Check that the work from the previous phase was completed with the required Lean Six Sigma rigor. If this is deemed to be insufficient, the team will need to redo some of the work and reapply for Phase Gate approval. During the review, the Black Belt will coach the team on how to improve their performance in the areas where they are poor.

2. Double-check the answer to the phase question, as well as any accompanying data or documentation, to make sure it meets the customer’s needs. If the data contradicts the solution, the reviewers should instruct the team to stay in this phase until the question is answered.

3. Based on the results of the previous phase, establish any ground rules or restrictions for the next phase. Setting a time window for collecting data in the Measure phase or a capital budget constraint for developing a solution in the Improve phase are two examples.

The Lean Six Sigma methodology and the organized approach to problem solutions must be recognizable to reviewers. By asking the wrong question for the phase, they might quickly derail a project team. During the Measure Phase Gate review, for example, asking a team to identify the fundamental cause of a problem will force them to jump to conclusions. This is a question that should be saved until after the Analyze Phase Gate review. The review team’s Black Belt should make sure the reviewers understand what questions the team should be prepared to answer and which questions are inappropriate for that Phase Gate review.

Senior leaders from the organizations or departments responsible for the analyzed process are frequently among the reviewers. If the team is having trouble with their activities or needs special access or support to complete the next phase of the project, they should ask the reviewers for it. For example, having access to specific data records or having operators assist with a measurement systems examination of the testing process are two examples. The reviewers’ responses to these requests send a message to the rest of the company about the significance of the Lean Six Sigma initiative.

Tools and practices used in Lean Six Sigma

Let’s look at the tools and techniques now that we’ve covered the structure and process of the Lean Six Sigma methodology. Many of these tools and techniques were in use before the Lean Six Sigma methodology was developed, and they have since been included into it. Multiple tools are available for usage in each step of Lean Six Sigma, which is one of its most potent features. The team can then select the instrument or technique that best suits their specific needs. Because of their company culture or historical preferences, organizations may have a particular set of approaches.

These tools and techniques are categorized according to the types of analyses they are used for. Depending on the problem and analysis being undertaken, several of these could be used in multiple phases of a Lean Six Sigma project.

Process analysis tools and techniques

The Lean element of the study is frequently related with process analysis tools and techniques. They aid in the description and comprehension of the process.

  • A process map is a graphical representation of how all process steps and decision points interact inside a process. On the process map, each step is represented by a separate item.
  • A value stream map is a type of process map that depicts the primary flow of a process when everything goes according to plan (no rework or branch points). It’s the sequence of stages that results in the process’s customer value.
  • As-Is Process — This is the process map (also known as a value stream map) that depicts all of the steps in the process as they occur in the present business environment. This isn’t always the same as what’s written down in the procedures.
  • After the problem solution has been implemented, this is the desired process map or value stream map. This is frequently reflected in newly issued process documentation as part of the implementation.
  • Data Boxes — in a process map or value stream map, they are boxes that are associated with each step. The data box is used to capture parameters such as cycle time, value-added time, yield, inventory, and resources that are related with that step in the process.
  • TAKT Time — this is a process-related time measurement. It indicates the time allotted for each process phase, ensuring that the process can satisfy client demand.
  • Value Added Time – This is the portion of processing time spent on a single item passing through the process when an element of customer value is created. The value-added time within a step is typically a small percentage of overall time, and for many processes, it is zero.
  • Roll Throughput Yield is a computation of the likelihood that an item will pass through each phase of the process correctly processed on the first run. It’s calculated by multiplying all of the value stream map’s step yield values.
  • Work-cells are a type of process structure that is frequently used to speed up the flow of information through a process. All process steps are grouped together in a work cell, reducing the amount of time spent switching between them.
  • Kanban – in process management, this is a visual scheduling system in which a step signals the preceding step that it is ready for the next item. This method reduces inventory and guarantees that each step is focused on the item that is most important for that step to process right now.
  • Visual Control – This is a set of signaling systems that allows operators to observe where process bottlenecks are happening and to assist in resolving those bottlenecks. This enables process management in real time.

Visual analysis tools and techniques

Almost every problem-solving methodology employs visual analysis tools and techniques. These methods can be employed in a variety of stages. They are valuable since they are rapid and simple to comprehend. They’re also great ways to communicate with senior management and the operations or organizations that the solution will effect.

  • A histogram is a vertical bar chart that depicts the relative sizes of several types of instances or occurrences. It is used to determine which characteristics are the most significant contributors to a problem.
  • The Pareto Chart is a special type of histogram. It is arranged so that the largest category is first, followed by the second largest, and so on until the smallest category is reached. It serves as a focal point for improvement.
  • The Fishbone (Cause and Effect or Ishikawa) Diagram is a graphical representation of all possible causes of an issue, arranged into logical divisions. This serves as a guide for determining which of the reasons contributes to the problem.
  • Scatter Diagram – A scatter diagram is a plot of two properties for each data point. On the vertical axis, one property is displayed, while on the horizontal axis, another is displayed. If there is a correlation between the two traits, the plot will disclose it.
  • Box plots depict the distribution of data for a parameter as well as the nature of any central tendency. A box is drawn around the middle half of the data points, with a line drawn across the value of the box’s midpoint. The extremes and overall data distribution are shown in the outside half of the data, which is split into upper and lower halves.
  • A run chart is a visual representation of the consecutive values for a parameter as a process runs. The values are either each subsequent product or outcome, or values collected at predetermined intervals during the process.
  • A pie chart is a diagram that depicts the relative sizes of a parameter’s categories. They are shown as slices of a “pie,” with each slice indicating a different percentage. It’s frequently employed in “before” and “after” comparisons.
  • Check Sheets are diagrams that show what should be measured on a product, process, or service. It will almost always include the method of measurement.
  • QFD (Quality Function Deployment) is a diagram that shows how prioritized customer needs are distributed across product and process characteristics. It’s frequently used to define performance targets and identify both missed opportunities and squandered resources.
  • Solution Selection Matrix – This tool is a matrix that compares solution possibilities based on a number of different criteria. It becomes a Pugh Concept Generation Matrix when plus and minus symbols are used. The third option is to give each choice a score and the criteria weights. After that, the matrix can be used to rank the possibilities and choose the one with the highest score.
  • Bottlenecks are regions in a process map where inventory accumulates due to tangled flow or steps. Bottlenecks are garbage collectors. There is waste associated with slow-moving inventory as well as the additional management required to handle the bottleneck.
  • Poka Yoke is a collection of disciplines that encapsulate the error-proofing philosophy. Checks are included into the design of the product or process to prevent mistakes or to make them instantly visible so they may be corrected.
  • The Five “S” Disciplines are a series of visual workplace organization disciplines that indicate whether the workplace is running smoothly. The Five “S” Disciplines are used to improve quality, staff safety, and morale.

Tools and approaches for statistical analysis

The Six Sigma element of the study is frequently related with statistical analysis tools and procedures. The statistical tools assist us in making sense of the data and determining what is and is not significant. The usage of statistical tools such as Excel Analysis Tool Pak or Minitab has reduced the amount of mathematical computation required of team members. They must, however, know which statistical approaches to employ in specific situations and how to evaluate the results.

  • Process Capability — a statistical ratio that compares typical process variability to customer or specification restrictions. Process capability indices of Cp, Pp, Cpk, Ppk, or process sigma are used to express it. The process capability ratio is a good indicator of whether or not a process will be able to produce defect-free results.
  • Statistics that explain the normal behavior of a measured parameter inside a process or product are known as descriptive statistics. The mean, median, mode, and standard deviation are all included.
  • Inferential Statistics are statistics that are used to compare the statistical performance of a sample to that of the wider data population that the sample represents. These statistics, which include the confidence interval and confidence level, are based on the sampling method utilized.
  • An inspection or test system’s capacity to correctly determine a measured value within a process or product is the subject of a measurement system study. Accuracy, precision, stability, linearity, and discrimination are all evaluated.
  • Gage R&R is a component of a standard measurement systems study that focuses on the measurement system’s precision. It’s a series of tests that involve testing products or processes with predetermined known values to see if the measurement system will consistently assign the same results.
  • Hypothesis Tests – These are statistical tests performed on a data set to see if a hypothesis about the data can be verified or not. It’s usually used in Lean Six Sigma to see if data samples are similar or if there’s a statistical difference between them. When two data sets are demonstrated to be different, it means that the element that divides them has a significant impact on process or product performance. Depending on whether the data is normal or non-normal, continuous or discrete, and the amount of data sets or parameters being analyzed, a variety of statistical procedures are used.
  • Correlation is a hypothesis test that determines whether or not two continuous data parameters are connected and, if so, how they are related.
  • Regression Tests – A regression test examines the mathematical relationship between two or more continuous data parameters.
  • T Tests – this type of hypothesis test compares the descriptive statistics of two data samples to see if they are comparable.
  • ANOVA is a statistical approach for comparing descriptive statistics of two or more data samples to see if they are similar.
  • Tests of Proportions – this type of hypothesis test is used to see if two discrete data samples are similar.
  • The Chi-Square Test is a technique for determining if two or more discrete data samples are similar.
  • Design of Experiments (DOE) is a statistical technique for constructing a set of tests with test specimens that are designed to contain or exclude specific features and have attributes set to the lowest or maximum level. A best case design with the relevant design characteristics and design aims can be constructed based on the set of experiments. During the Improve phase, this strategy is frequently employed when developing a new product or process.
  • Control charts are graphs that track the performance of chosen process or product parameters and assess whether the variation shown is due to common or unique reasons. Depending on the features of the data and the attribute being measured, there are a variety of control chart designs. Normally, these charts are utilized in the Control phase to ensure that the enhanced process performance is maintained.

Techniques and tools for project and team management

Stakeholders and customers must be able to interact with Lean Six Sigma projects. In this regard, a number of strategies have been demonstrated to be beneficial. Some of these are important for organizing and interacting with internal stakeholders, such as team members, and others are based on understanding the perspective of external stakeholders.

  • Critical to Quality (CTQ) — they are the parameters of a process, a product, or a service that are qualities of customer value. The stakeholders, not the project team, decide on them.
  • Project Charter – This is a project management document that authorizes the project and establishes the activity’s scope. The format differs from one organization to the next.
  • In-frame/out-of-frame — this technique is used to define project team boundaries. The project’s scope is outlined in the frame. Out-of-frame areas are those that will not be included in the analysis.
  • Supplier, Input, Process, Output, and Customer (SIPOC) are acronyms for Supplier, Input, Process, Output, and Customer. It’s a technique for defining the process’s boundaries and identifying the stakeholders involved in the process.
  • The composition of the Lean Six Sigma team is referred to as a cross-functional team. Typically, at least one representative from each function is responsible for carrying out operations inside the process under investigation.
  • Team decision-making is a set of procedures used by groups to reach a decision-making consensus. Although the outcomes of the data analysis influence many of the team’s conclusions, there are still decisions to be taken in terms of team operation, solution creation, and implementation planning.
  • Stakeholder management is a collection of procedures for identifying the most important stakeholders in a Lean Six Sigma project. Each stakeholder’s main performance targets and communication strategy are also specified.
  • Culture change management is a collection of communication and implementation techniques aimed at gaining buy-in and support for new processes and work practices. During the Improve and Control phases, this is frequently required to guarantee that the solution is practical and long-term.
  • Implementation planning – putting the solution in place is frequently a project as large as or larger than the Lean Six Sigma analysis project. This is a collection of project management techniques for planning and executing a project.

What is Lean Six Sigma and how does it work?

I’ll utilize the Lean Six Sigma approach to tackle a hypothetical problem to demonstrate how it works. Allow me to set the scene:

You can’t find your keys some mornings when you get ready to go for work. You will miss your train or bus as a result of your search. Worse, you may take your spouse’s keys and then be unable to access the office when you arrive. You’ll have to wait for someone else to come in and open the office now. Not to mention that your husband has the same issue at work. The issue has come up several times, and your manager has mentioned it. Something needs to be done to prevent this from happening again.

Let’s see where the Lean Six Sigma technique takes us.

Define Phase

Let’s begin by looking at it from the customer’s point of view. This procedure’s major customers are you and your spouse. Your objectives are twofold: a) arrive on time for work, and b) have the correct keys with you when you leave. This leads to one primary CTQ: the keys are in a known position and can be grabbed and taken with you as you leave the house in the morning. You opt to limit the process to what is done with keys the night before and in the morning based on the In-Frame/Out-of-Frame. Except to the extent that they affect the keys, you will not mention everything else you do to get ready for work in the morning, such as breakfast, showering, and dressing. The project Charter’s purpose is to design and implement a procedure that ensures that the correct keys are obtained quickly when departing for work in the morning.

Measure phase

Create a process map that depicts all of the possible outcomes for what happens to the keys at night during this phase. The procedure begins when you arrive at home and finishes when you arrive at work the next morning. Depending on whether it was a weekday, weekend, or holiday, whether you went out that evening or stayed in, and whether there was adverse weather that required additional preparation to depart, such as locating an umbrella or a cold-weather coat, the procedure has several branches. You discovered when making the map that the procedure on weekends and holidays fluctuated so much that you couldn’t even map it, whereas the process during the week was rather consistent. This is your process map as-is.

Each step had a time measure as well as a success or yield metric. Of course, many of the actions had no value-added time connected with them, particularly those spent searching in the morning. In reality, the only steps that added value were placing the keys on your desk when you got home and picking them up in the morning.

Determining a pass or fail criterion for each step was a hurdle you faced during the process mapping and measurement. In some situations, the desired outcome was evident; in others, you had to think about the step’s purpose to figure it out. After that, you gathered data for four weeks. To accomplish this, you developed and used a check sheet every night before going to bed to determine what you had done that evening after getting home from work, and then wrote how much time each step took. In the morning, you made a check sheet for your activities, but you usually didn’t finish it until you got to work. Finally, you recorded what you did with the keys on each weekend day and on the one holiday that occurred during that four-week period.

The Hawthorne Effect posed a considerable challenge in data collection. This is the term used to describe a situation in which the measurement of a parameter causes people to change their behavior. When people are aware that they are being measured, they alter their conduct in order to improve the outcome. You were modifying your behavior by filling out the check sheet every night. So you made sure that if you realized late at night that the keys were not in the right spot on your desk, you didn’t go looking for them right away, but instead waited until the morning, as is customary.

Analyze phase

The analysis can begin now that the data has been collected. The lack of a defined protocol for weekends and holidays is an evident issue. However, you see that your process is insecure even on weekdays. The most of the time, there is modest common cause fluctuation, but there was a severe trouble identifying the keys on six of the weekdays. During the four weeks, you never took your spouse’s keys by accident; however, it has only happened twice in the last six months, so you can’t make any conclusions about that type of defect.

You make a Fishbone diagram to figure out what’s at the base of the problem, and you come up with seventeen reasons why you can’t find your keys in the morning. (Even though your spouse mentioned it, you chose not to add the intervention of space aliens as one of the causes, despite the fact that you were brainstorming and typically would not reject any suggestions.)

You discover that five of the possible root causes could have led to the six occurrences of the problem in your data set, based on your investigation.

  • There is no specific location where keys should be kept.
  • The keys are frequently dropped where the packages are unloaded and jumbled with the things from the store when getting home with hands full of shopping bags.
  • The keys are dropped at the spot where attention is needed when returning home with an immediate appeal for attention, such as the phone ringing.
  • The keys may wind up in the closet or the pockets of a coat while arriving home with additional clothing due to adverse weather.
  • When someone notices keys in an unexpected spot, they may transfer them to a location they believe is a better one without informing their partner.

Using the ANOVA, you can delve deeper into the examination of what happens when you get home. When you do this, you’ll notice a significant difference in what happens to your keys during severe weather.

Weather is unlikely to cause keys to shift location on their own, so you’ll need to do something else when the weather is poor. This emphasizes the importance of knowing how to remove and store your inclement weather gear. This indicates an issue with the process. You figure out that there are two possible root causes.

  • What to Do With Keys on the Weekend: There is no set procedure for what to do with keys on the weekend.
  • When coming home, there is no specified procedure step for storing keys.
  • The keys may wind up in the closet or pockets of a coat while getting home with extra items of clothing owing to poor weather.
  • When someone notices keys in an unexpected spot, they may transfer them to a location they believe is a better one without informing their partner.

Improve phase

Now is the time to come up with a solution. To begin, you and your spouse decided on the process modifications that must be implemented and built a selection matrix to evaluate the various possibilities. One suggestion was to hang a huge hook on the door so that when someone arrived home, the keys could be hung there. That choice, though, was not particularly attractive. A second alternative was to attach the keys to your belt or pocketbook with a chain, however this was ruled out because chains were unsuitable for your fashion sense. A third alternative was to attach an RFID tag to the key chain and then use a computer to run a program that would inform you where the keys were. While the cost was higher than you were willing to spend, it did not raise any decorative or fashion difficulties. You ultimately decide to utilize the selection matrix to place a small magnetic bowl on your desk to hold both your keys and your spouse’s keys.

This bowl matched the desk’s decor and provided a place for the keys to rest. After then, a process step for returning home was implemented. The keys were to be promptly placed in the bowl after removing any inclement weather attire (if any). On weekends, the same procedure was to be followed. The first thing anyone did when they got home was put their keys in the bowl. This was the “To-Be” stage of the process.

The bowl also acted as a Poka Yoke reminder of crucial status because it was clearly displayed on the desk. The bowl should not be empty if either of you is at home. Both sets of keys should be present if both of you are at home. This solution addressed each of the four issues identified during the Analyze phase. For both weekdays and weekends, a procedure was established. This procedure adjusted for bad weather attire and specified a location for forgotten keys. You made the decision to add anything more to Poka Yoke the solution. Your keychains have various colored fobs on them, as do yours and your spouse’s. The two sets of keys can now be differentiated readily.

You and your husband test out the new procedure for a week and discover that it is simple to follow during the week, but you still forget to put the keys away on weekends. As a result, a new step was added to the procedure. This stage entailed checking that the keys were in the bowl every evening as you went through the house to ensure that the doors and windows were locked. That check was simply incorporated to the “go to bed” process because you regularly checked the computer on the office desk during that step.

Control phase

Our phase will be simple to perform in this scenario. You don’t have to modify a massive cross-functional organization. However, because it entails a shift in your and your spouse’s habit patterns, the process must be closely watched to ensure that it is carried out. You devise a strategy for maintaining control.

Every night, the keys are double-checked to ensure they are in the bowl. If the keys aren’t in the bowl, you and your spouse will instantly get out of bed to look for them and place them in the bowl before retiring to bed. You and your spouse returned late one weekend night after attending a gala party around three weeks after fully implementing the adjustment. You were tired and all you wanted to do was sleep. When you’re ready to go to bed, however, you notice that one of the keys is missing from the bowl. You and your spouse do a quick check and find the keys with the outer garments you wore to the party, despite being tempted to ignore the problem for the night. You can now go to bed with a clear conscience and peace of mind after placing them in the bowl.

The plan was carried out, and the problem of the misplaced key was solved. Despite the addition of two steps, the new procedure effectively reduced the morning frantic search for keys. Overall, time was saved, efficiency was improved, the mistake rate was decreased to zero, and customer satisfaction was improved.


Here are a few key takeaways from our Lean Six Sigma discussion.

To begin with, Lean Six Sigma is a structured problem-solving process based on data that replaces the “lucky guess” problem-solving approach that is commonly used in today’s organizations. The systematic process walks the team through the actions they should take, and the reviews make sure they aren’t skipping any steps.

Second, while Lean Six Sigma includes numerous tools, the team is not ruled by the tools. The project leaders, both Black Belt and Green Belt, choose the best tool for the job. The tools are meant to aid the team’s analysis rather than to stifle it.

Finally, the goal is to create a better process, product, or service that meets the needs of the consumer. It’s not about the process or the tools in Lean Six Sigma; it’s about the client. When waste and variance are removed or minimized, and customer value is increased, the project is considered a success.

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