What is Lean Six Sigma?

by | Lean Six Sigma

Lean Six Sigma is an organizational strategy with specific tools and principles focused on increasing the speed of delivery, improving quality, reducing costs, and eliminating waste.  It creates a culture of solving problems at the lowest level and identifies ways to improve the overall customer experience.

Effective implementation of Lean Six Sigma has created a competitive advantage for companies in diverse industries.


Many individuals have made significant contributions to what is now known as Lean Six Sigma, but in this post, I will only highlight a few.

Taiichi Ohno, former Toyota Motor Company CEO is considered the father of the Toyota Production System, or Lean.  Ohno’s contributions include the seven forms of waste, Kanban, developing a pull system, building quality into the process, single-minute exchange of die (SMED), autonomation or automation with a human touch, and the implementation of Just-in-Time manufacturing.  Ohno created a culture of continuous improvement with the ultimate goal of designing a system with zero waste.

Bill Smith and Dr. Mikel Harry were both Motorola Executives who are credited with developing the Six Sigma methodology, which uses statistical analysis to achieve 3.4 or fewer defects per million opportunities (DPMO).  This means that a company’s processes are capable of delivering quality results 99.9997% of the time.

Six Sigma received recognition when Motorola won the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in 1988.  Jack Walsh adopted this methodology for General Electric in the early 90’s and helped make it famous.

The integration of both Lean and Six Sigma has only recently become an optimal solution.  Lean provides the culture and mindset that focuses on maximizing value to the customer while eliminating waste and Six Sigma provides the analytical tools to evaluate and reduce variation in a process.

Lean Coach also adopts principles and best practices from the Theory of Constraints by Eliyahu Goldratt, and Scrum by Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber into our problem-solving system.

Lean Six Sigma Results

Over the past two decades, Fortune 500 companies that have implemented Lean Six Sigma have produced an estimated savings of over $427 billion.  These methods are so compelling that 82% of all Fortune 100 companies openly claim that they have adopted some or all of these principles.

Success stories are found in nearly every industry:

  • Manufacturing: Toyota, Ford, GE, Boeing
  • Financial: Bank of America, USAA, The Vanguard Group
  • Healthcare: Virginia Mason Medical Center, Intermountain Healthcare, Swedish Medical Center
  • Software Development: Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft
  • Government: U.S. Military, National Nuclear Security Administration, City of Fort Wayne

Developing a Lean Culture

A Lean Culture fosters a Customer-First environment, ensuring the overall quality of the client’s experience.

It also understands that people are the organization’s greatest asset and encourages the development of employees who are capable of resolving problems and identifying waste at the lowest level.

Companies with a Lean Culture can see where the value is created within the organization through the implementation of specific tools, such as Value Stream Mapping and Gemba Walks.

Organizations leverage the use of continuous improvement activities, such as Kaizen events and A3 projects, to build a culture of eliminating waste.

To create a Lean Six Sigma culture, it is essential for all leaders, from the most senior down to direct supervisors to become fluent in the Lean Six Sigma methodology.

Lean Coach does not profess the need to create new leadership positions dedicated to Lean Six Sigma. Instead, Lean Coach encourages all leaders to become certified and lead continuous improvement activities in addition to their regular responsibilities.

Certification and training designed by Lean Coach can be described in four levels:

  • Yellow Belt: Attends a one-day course and passes an exam. This certification shows that a leader has the basic understanding of the Lean Six Sigma methodology and tools.
  • Green Belt: Attends a one-week course and participates in an actual continuous improvement project.  This certification shows that a leader has a practical understanding of the Lean Six Sigma methodology and tools.
  • Black Belt: Attends a five-week course that meets once a week and leads a continuous improvement project through validation.  This certification shows that a leader can teach and mentor the Lean Six Sigma methodology and tools.
  • Master Black Belt: Multiple years of experience as a Black Belt leading and implementing continuous improvement initiatives. This certification involves designing a Lean Six Sigma program at the organizational level.

Lean Coach

With Lean Coach, your company will benefit from the subject matter expertise of a founder who has designed and implemented Amazon’s first Lean Six Sigma certification program for fulfillment centers, as well as teams of coaches with extensive experience.

Whether your company is in the IT development, manufacturing, distribution, retail, or healthcare industry, Lean Coach can help increase your speed of delivery, improve quality, lower costs, and minimize waste.

Contact Lean Coach Today

Share This