Lean vs Six Sigma: Do you really need Six Sigma?


There has been much historical debate when it comes to Lean vs Six Sigma. Most people have strong opinions about which method is more effective for achieving results.  While Lean is a systematic approach to eliminating waste and creating flow in your processes, six sigma is a set of tools and strategies that help to limit defects and variations in processes.

“Essentially, Six Sigma and Lean systems have the same goal. They both seek to eliminate waste and create the most efficient system possible, but they take different approaches toward achieving this goal. In simplest terms, the main difference between Lean and Six Sigma is that they identify the root cause of waste differently”- Villanova University.

The ultimate goal of Lean is to improve your processes by analyzing workflow and eliminating bottlenecks through the identification of waste and non-value added activities. It is a system wide approach that aims to improve business processes while changing the thinking in the organization to maximize value to the customer.

Six sigma on the other hand,  defines a defect as anything that doesn’t meet the customer’s expectations. It focuses more on eliminating any variation in the customer experience by identifying variation in the types of data inputs, and uses Root Cause Analysis to determine the source of errors.

LEAN focuses on Customer VALUE.

Six Sigma focuses on defect and variance elimination.

Although we are comparing Lean vs Six Sigma, the truth is they both work toward the same ultimate goal: eliminating waste and creating efficient processes. Ultimately, the issue may not be whether you should choose Lean vs Six Sigma but to learn to identify when Six Sigma is needed and how to apply this set of tools to the actual processes your business may benefit from.  Learning that however requires a system wide approach that can only be obtained through Lean.  Remember that the ultimate goal of Lean is to deliver customer value in all processes while changing the thinking of the organization to allow for a culture of continuous improvement in order to achieve the most results and most importantly to sustain.

“Winning the quarter often requires the elimination of variance, but winning the long game will require embracing it.” – Forbes

For more information on Lean, visit the Intersol Lean Group Site.