Lean Six Sigma is a business improvement methodology designed to increase productivity and profitability in a verifiable and sustainable manner. Lean Six Sigma is especially suitable for companies that are struggling with profitability problems due to poor sales and customer returns and/or complaints.
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With Lean Six Sigma tools the root causes to the problems are identified, analyzed and solved using methods that allow decisions to be made with support from reliable data rather than opinion and gut feeling. Validity and sustainability of the solution is verified by reliable metrics to ensure the improvement is real. A framework is set up to ensure the organization does not fall back to old habits after the improvement.
The management reviewed DMAIC method
The working phases of a Lean Six Sigma project are Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control, also known as the DMAIC method. A management review by the company management team is arranged at the end of each project phase.
Lean Six Sigma is executed as a teamwork project with a team of 2-5 blue and white collar participants from the organization suffering from the problem to be solved. The team is allocated a regular time frame, e.g. 2 hours every tuesday to work on the project. The teams’ work and the entire Six Sigma Program is reviewed and controlled by the management review. The role of the Black Belt is to co-ordinate and facilitate the Lean Six Sigma program and prepare the management reviews.
Define: Each project starts with a management brief where the problem and its cost to the company is assessed by the management team of the company. The aim is to find the vital few of the useful many improvement objects and to give the project a clear scope for its work.
Measure: To ensure project results, once the project is ready, are quantifiable and measurable, measurement methods and targets are agreed upon and defined. The validity of the measurement system is verified and the current state of the problem at hand is measured and documented. The measurement results from this phase of the project will later be compared to the results after the project to verify success or failure. In the Management Review targets for the improvement are set based upon results of the current state analysis in the Define phase and measurement data from the Measure phase.
Analyze: The information documented in the measurement phase is analyzed with suitable Lean Six Sigma tools. Conclusions and a recommendation for an improvement path for the current situation are made and presented to the management team in a management review.
Improve: The Lean Six Sigma team uses results from the previous phases to develop solutions to the identified root causes and problems. The black belt facilitates the work and trains the team to use selected improvement tools. As the project unfolds the team members learn to run similar improvement projects by them selves. This is another benefit of the Lean Six Sigma methodology. Once the identified root causes are solved the project uses the measurement tools developed in the Measure phase to verify and quantify success of the improvement. Results are presented in a management review to the company management.
Control: To maintain the new, improved level of operations, a control and response plan is developed by the Lean Six Sigma team. The plan includes a number of key measurements that will be monitored in the new state and actions that will be taken if the measurements show that the improvements are being lost. Deviations from set targets will be handled according to the control and response plan. The plans are presented to the company management team in a final management review. Possible team incentives are paid. This concludes the Management Reviewed DMAIC Lean Six Sigma project.
DMAIC is a generic improvement model
The management reviewed DMAIC model as explained above is applicable to almost any business improvement challenge. The keys to success are the active participation of the management team in the Management Reviews and the professional skills of the Black Belt facilitating the whole process.