Lean Six Sigma: A Total Strategy for Competing

Lean Six Sigma: A Total Strategy for Competing

What would you say if I told you that the recent recession had been, in many ways, good for businesses? You would tell me that I’m crazy, I suspect.

However, I’m absolutely serious. The recession has taught many businesses some very important lessons. And it has sorted out the high performance organizations that can adapt to change, sustain profitability and compete on a truly advanced scale.

What do many of these high performance organizations have in common? They have implemented a Lean Six Sigma approach to their business strategy.

LSS is often defined as creating customer value by eliminating waste to increase flow and reduce variability. This is all well and good, but you may find yourself asking what this really means. Lean Six Sigma is about much more than cost savings; it is a total strategic operational philosophy.

For much of the past three years, many businesses have simply struggled to survive – and too many lost the battle. Organizations that did not have a comprehensive LSS system in place initiated cost reduction policies and saw very little effect on their bottom line.


Because they didn’t have a strategy directing their actions – they simply went forth, looking at numbers, without thought as to how to align their cost-cutting initiatives with their overall business strategy.

You might ask yourself, “What is wrong with cutting costs?” Nothing, of course. But if you don’t align cost savings with your business strategy, you might just be cutting the legs right out from under your business.

In contrast to some companies, high performance enterprises used Lean Six Sigma tools and methodologies to implement smart cost savings initiatives. One of the key features of LSS is that it focuses on a comprehensive, bottom-up strategy that engages every single employee in a continuous improvement mindset. How does LSS give a high performance enterprise an edge over its competition?

  • It allows a company to be proactive instead of reacting to market and competitive pressures as they occur (firefighting).
  • The philosophy of ‘do it right the first time’ eliminates/reduces waste and defects before they ever have a significant impact on profitability.
  • Following an open communication policy where employees are central – and even critical and integral – to the continuous improvement process means that inefficiencies are identified more quickly by those who are involved in the key processes on a daily basis.

For instance, as a CEO, could you walk onto a line or production floor and identify which processes are inefficient? Probably not. But what about your line foreman or the worker who runs the line day in and day out?

By engaging those closest to and most involved in your business process in an open communication that focuses on a strategy of continuous improvement rather than firefighting, your organization will perform at the highest level every single day. You will be less affected by market volatility and crises than your competition.

Are you a High Performance Enterprise? Find out more by reading “Peeling the Onion for Higher Performance” in Driving Operational Excellence: Simple Lean Six Sigma Secrets to Improve the Bottom Line.

Charles Shillingburg CLSSBB, Lean Sensei is an expert in Continuous Improvement in the service area. He developed the Interim Outcomes, Total Brand Approach and offers education on What Customers Value and Everyday Lean that helps organizations focus their efforts on increasing customer value and engage everyone in Lean delivery, everyday.


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