Below are some of the most Frequently Asked Questions regarding what is Lean Six Sigma, how it can be applied, some of the top benefits of process optimization, what is in for me and why orgаnisations use these methods.
There is no official training and certification body on Lean Six Sigma and candidates need to do research and make an informed decision about the programs.
CSSC (The Council for Six Sigma Certification) provides accreditations for training and certification providers on training curriculum, training delivery and certification. The accreditation guarantees that the training content is fully aligned with the CSSC Body of Knowledge and certification rules are clearly observed. CSSC curriculum is focused on a balance between theory and practical application through project work. Mentoring options add on to building practical skills in candidates.
IASSC (International Association of Six Sigma) provides opportunities for training companies to be registered as accredited training organisations and providers; certification is administered centrally. The content and certification are focused on the theoretical content of six sigma with no practical application through project work.
ASQ (American Society for Quality) operates in the US, it does not provide accreditations for training providers or allows third parties to perform certifications on their behalf. ASQ provides their own training and certification administered by them only with a balance between theory and practical application.
The key criteria are the content of the Body of Knowledge and the actual content of the training. High quality programs offer a balance between theory and practice.
Some curricula are focused on theory and the test assessment is theory-based which has little relevance to practical application.
In the area of Lean Six Sigma, there is no single certification body. The way to distinguish good quality programs is to look for program accreditation.
Accreditation of training program and certification means that the company providing these services meets the requirements of the organisation to which it is accredited. This gives a guarantee to clients that they follow a world recognised curriculum and their certification is recognised industry-wide.
InterQuality is Accredited provider for Lean and Six Sigma trainings and certifications of the Council for Six Sigma Certification, guaranteeing global standards in this area.
Quality management guarantees that organisations manage their processes, products and services in a systematic way.
Quality management aims to achieve and maintain the level of quality of products and services necessary from customer’s point of view and in line with organisational objectives.
Quality management has four major components: quality planning, quality assurance, quality control and quality improvement.
The Lean Six Sigma methods are used to drive quality improvement.
Process management is a vital part of the operation of any organisation. Processes are the foundation of any organisation and managing them is related to planning, tracking and documenting for repeatability and accuracy.
Process improvement is about looking for more efficient and effective ways to operate and is a major topic in process management.
One approach is related to reacting to process issues and solving them with process improvement methods.
Another approach is about proactively managing processes, building a structured framework and system for process improvement.
Lean methods are related to efficiency and are one great option for improving processes in the areas of process management and quality management.
Lean methods focus on increasing the speed of the process, eliminating the unnecessary process steps, simplifying the process and separating the value adding from non-value adding activities from the point of view of the customer.
The direct benefits of using Lean methods are the creation of a simplified and fast process based simply on the major requirements of the end customer, creating an uninterrupted process flow with no waiting, bottlenecks, decreased organisational costs and cost efficient products and services.
The Six Sigma methods are applied for driving efficiencies and are a major method for improving processes in the areas of process management and quality management.
Six Sigma level is an objective that the organisation may choose to set for itself in order to drive process optimisations and have loyal customers.
Six Sigma measures the repeatability and accuracy of the process and achieving optimal level of operation with a balance between customer requirements and organisational capacity to deliver.
Six Sigma measures the number of defects of a process, i.e. 3,4 defects per million opportunities.
Five Sigma means that the process has 233 defects per million. With Four Sigma we have 6210 defects per million, etc.
For example, if the electricity distribution system operates at 6 sigma level, we will have 1 hour without electricity every 34 years. If the system operates at 3.8 sigma level, we will have no electricity 7 hours per month.
Six Sigma level is achievable in critical manufacturing areas such as aerospace, nuclear industry, etc. and is more challenging to achieve in services where we have strong human factor. However, best practice shows that during the last decade there has been an enormous progress in applying Six Sigma methods to services in areas such as call centres, outsource operations, IT services, health care, pharmacy, logistics, financial services, supply chain, administrative services, governmental agencies, etc.
Lean Six Sigma in the integrated approach of the Lean and Six Sigma methods. Evidence shows that the integrated approach is more powerful and yields better results than if we use the two methods individually.
Some of the benefits are related to decrease in costs, more happy customers, increased revenue and share of wallet, a clearer focus on customer requirements, stable and predictable processes with clear roles and responsibilities of employees.
The system of Belts demonstrates the level of complexity of optimisations as well as the level of knowledge and skills of the people engaged in applying the process improvement methods.
The Belt levels are: White Belt, Yellow Belt, Green Belt, Black Belt.
The lowest level in the process improvement system of Belts is White Belt. White Belts have basic knowledge of process improvement, are able to lead improvement efforts for a not so complex process that is within their area of expertise or within an area that they know well.
Yellow Belts are able to lead a project, team, perform process changes and help their team with planning, directions, process measurements. The scope of work is within their department or across departments, partnering with various stakeholders. Typical project duration is between 1 and 3 months.
Green Belts lead optimisation projects with relatively high complexity outside their own department, often with external customers and suppliers. The projects are of strategic importance to the department or the whole organisation. Green Belts are responsible for the overall structure of the project, results tracking, communication with management and stakeholders as well as the application of analytical tools and measurements in scope for this level. Typical project duration is between 3 and 6 months.
Black Belts are the highest level in the belt process improvement system. Black Belts are experts in using the methodology, lead complex strategic level projects with high visibility and importance to the organisation. Typical project duration is 6 to 12 months. Black Belt responsibilities include the overall design of the project, systematic use of applying the methods in each project phase, progress tracking, project governance, reviews with top management, team coaching. Such complex projects usually consist of a number of smaller Green and Yellow belt level projects and are managed as an overall optimisation program. After special training and years of experience Black Belts are able to lead Lean Six Sigma belt trainings and in this way share their knowledge the skills.
Eliminating the wasteful steps in the process means that there is a stronger focus on value-adding activities and on customers. As a result, processes take less time. This leads to decreased cycle time, time saving and less capacity required to deliver, therefore employees can direct their efforts to other value-adding activities.
The need to improve processes and solve process issues naturally leads to having this objective included in the organisational strategy. As this becomes a reality, management starts to make conscious efforts to build culture and strategy for cost optimisation.
Operational management is based on the organisational processes. Optimized processes lead to less time and efforts, less costs. Working to improve customer satisfaction leads to loyal customers – loyal customers mean higher revenue.
The focus on process management leads to building a culture that encourages employees to think about optimisations in their daily work.
Employee engagement is a complex topic, however, one of the components is taking full accountability to deliver the activities in scope. Engaged employees are proactive and look for ways to contribute to the organisation and at the same time to make their workflow better. When the culture exists and the employees have the authority to optimise their work, this leads to increased employee engagement and loyalty.
At the heart of process improvement methods is the Customer – this is also in line with the principles of quality management. The needs and requirements of the customer are central to the design, production, supply, etc. of the products and services. If the Customer is not happy, we will not be able to sell. Process improvement with the Customer at the centre is key to Lean Six Sigma methods.
Working with suppliers and controlling supplies is part of the system for managing quality. Lean methods are applied for one piece flow and just-in-time (JIT) deliveries. Six Sigma focus on predictability and accuracy of deliveries. The combination of both methods contribute to successfully managing this part of the enterprise.
The role top management plays in driving the optimization agenda is key. Without management support and clear vision and strategy, very little can be achieved. The responsibility of operational management lies entirely in the mangement team. Setting a clear direction and applying best practices bring great benefits for the organization
Lean Six Sigma is a proven methodology for structured process improvement. These methods have been applied already for a few decades.
The process improvement training provides the framework and steps for applying these methods. The different belt levels refer to the complexity of issues that need to be solved. Contact us for a discussion on choosing the right training.
The different levels are for employees responsible for a process or a set of processes; managers aiming to build the framework for quality management and optimisation agenda for their organisations; enterpreneurs who wish to manage their businesses more successfully and implement best practices; project managers who wish to expand their portfolio and manage successfully optimisation projects; professionals just starting their career.
Any questions, feel free to contact us for a discussion.
With Project Management (PM) we follow the roadmap and steps as determined by the Project Management Institute (PMI) and/or other standards set in project management. We apply Project Management methods when we have a clear objective about the outcome of the project, for example – a new building, a youth centre establishment, a fence that is to be painted, or employee training delivered.
With Optmisation project management (Lean Six Sigma Projects), we have a problem that needs to be solved and this problem is related to a process or a set of processes. At the start of the project we define the problem very clearly, collect process data and spend time analyzing it in order to get to the root causes. Working with data and data analysis is another big difference to Project Management. We do not know the final outcome of the optimization project at the start of the project itself. It is determined by the analysis that we do as part of the project.
For example, we have a problem with high level of youth unemployment in a certain region. While we carry out the analysis one finding may be that a suitable solution to the problem is building a youth centre for training or employing young people as fence painters. Similarly, if we have a problem with a high number of defects in a product, what we do is analyse the process that leads to this number of defects and then focus on solving the specific issues, be it re-adjustment of the production belt or better training employees.