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8 Lessons learned when starting Lean Sigma

By Barry Jeffrey, Mar 11 2015 11:38AM

1. Lean Sigma is not easy. If it was everyone would be implementing it.

Process improvement takes a great deal of effort. Be sure you are clear about this. However for the organisations that have the strength and vision, the rewards far outstrip the initial pain.

2. Lean Sigma is more about cultural rather than physical change.

The real power of Lean Sigma lies in developing a culture of long term improvement and constantly challenging the norm. This will only happen when the culture of a business looks to everyone to help. Physical change should be looked at as the outcome of this process.

3. Get everyone involved.

Do not rely on a few ‘trained’ Lean experts to make changes. This will only serve to annoy people in the long run. Employ teachers to educate people to look for waste and opportunity as part of their day to day thinking.

4. Lean Sigma is about learning by doing.

Give permission for people to experiment and learn. To make mistakes from time to time is good, so long are you learning from it.

5. Make sure of your direction.

Before you start, make sure you align your efforts to your business goals. Make sure you know what you want success to look like,

6. Use the expertise of a consultant to accelerate the process, not as a crutch.

Use experts to help you in the initial stages. The right consultant will provide you with a depth of experience in starting the deployment process off in a controlled manner and also coach your organisation along the way. But do not rely on them longer term. Plan to put a framework in place.

7. Continuous Improvement is a journey, not a race or a competition.

Do not look at becoming a lean organisation as something you can achieve overnight. Companies like Toyota have been doing this for many years and still find huge opportunities for improvement. The more you look the more you see.

8. Leadership is exactly that, Leadership. Do not delegate it.

Lean Sigma will require people to think and perform differently. Change needs to be driven from the top. All of the senior team needs to be seen to be fully "Engaged". That means process improvement activities are in the schedules and that turn up and show genuine interest and remove roadblocks not create them.

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