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deming, improvement, leadership, lean, transformation

What Is Lean Six Sigma & Why Is It Necessary?

Several years ago, the term Lean Six Sigma (LSS) appeared on the scene and since then, countless books, seminars, and conferences have popped up referencing the term.  I’ve read books and articles on the subject but continue to have trouble understanding the distinction between LSS and just plain lean.

I’ve had people tell me that lean is about attacking waste; six sigma is about reducing variation; and LSS combines the two into a complete approach that is more effective than either by itself.  Sorry, but this explanation still does not convince me that LSS adds anything besides confusion.

I have never seen an effective lean deployment – before or after the advent of LSS – that did not include a focus on reducing variation.  Variation causes waste and interferes with flow and, because of this, must be addressed as a critical element to improvement efforts.

W. Edwards Deming wrote extensively about the importance of reducing variation, and Genichi Taguchi based his methods on minimizing variability.  Both Deming and Taguchi heavily influenced Toyota and were integral to the development of TPS and lean.

If we want people to take lean seriously and truly buy into the approach, we have got to be consistent with the message.  Rebranding lean and presenting it as something different risks turning it into just another business fad – which, for the sake of Western business, is something we cannot afford to let happen.


About Gregg Stocker

Gregg Stocker is a lean advisor for Hess Corporation. He possesses over 20 years experience in a variety of disciplines including operations, manufacturing, human resources, quality, and strategic planning, and has worked in manufacturing, service, and oil & gas industries. He has extensive international experience, including successfully leading an $65 million business in The Netherlands. He authored the book, “Avoiding the Corporate Death Spiral: Recognizing & Eliminating the Signs of Decline,” (Quality Press, 2006) and was a contributing author to "The Lean Handbook," (Quality Press, 2012). Gregg is a frequent speaker and recognized expert in business and performance improvement having been interviewed on television, radio, and in a number of newspaper and magazine articles including The New York Times, Washington Post, BusinessWeek, and InformationWeek. Gregg has implemented change in organizations ranging in size from $10 million to more than $100 billion. He is a team-oriented leader who achieves results by improving teamwork, focus, and communication throughout the organization.


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