Lean Thinking: Deploying and Sustaining Continuous Improvement

Lean Thinking: Deploying and Sustaining Continuous Improvement
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Brian J. Galli

Last updated August 22, 2017


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Lean Six Sigma is an effective, hybrid approach for organizations to pursue continuous improvement. Continuous Improvement, or CI, is loosely defined as incorporating sustained improvement, mostly through waste elimination, in system processes. In this article, we’ll discuss the impact risk has on deployment and sustainability of CI, and some of the options for mitigating those risks. 

Common Risks

Often, organizations fail to sustain CI initiatives. Many organizations don’t equally focus on Lean thinking and tools. Employees must understand existing waste and its impact on quality, costs, and cycle times. 

Another reason CI initiatives fail is because there are inadequate training resources. Employees must learn to apply Lean Six Sigma tools and methods to reap the most benefits. When an organization does not properly educate employees or provide necessary training, implementation results are short-lived. 

Another waste is when an organization does not capitalize on employee brain power. Taking advantage of human capital is the best thing an organization can do for implementation. Communication is another key feature to ensure successful implementation. Employees must have all the necessary information to succeed and understand all initiative goals. 

Excessive scheduling of Lean practices can also be the cause of fallback. Scheduling many kaizens is resource-demanding, which directly limits improvement rates. Improvement of employees is gradual, not radical, so the organization must take time going through the initiative and making change with Lean practices. 

Finally, lacking a strategic deployment plan, top management participation and commitment, and standard work practices will be detrimental in achieving long-term Lean implementation and benefits. 

How Lean Six Sigma Can Help

As mentioned, Lean reduces waste in the supply chain. In comparison, Six Sigma is employed to increase customer satisfaction and return on investments via continuous improvement of business processes and quality management. Six Sigma employs the five phases of DMAIC:

  1. Define
  2. Measure
  3. Analyze
  4. Improve
  5. Control

This strategy offers users the tools and strategies to guide a team towards sustainable business performance. For organizations to reap optimal benefits in continuous improvement with minimal limitations, they turn towards a hybrid known as Lean Six Sigma. When combined, they create a corporate culture of continuous improvement with emphasis on customer satisfaction, comprehensive involvement of employees, and searching for the causes of identified problems. 

In the hybrid model, Lean maximizes value-added content for all processes. Six Sigma will help guarantee consistent project-based improvement. 
    
In Lean Six Sigma, Lean’s kaizen approach is mixed with Black Belt DMAIC. It incorporates rapid improvement approach that lasts the duration of 5 to 30-day projects with robust improvement approach for projects that will last longer than 30 days. The streams of activities involved in execution include initiation, resource and project selection, and implementation, sustainability, and evolution. 

Initiation includes creating a team to design the policies and overall plan and it is also termed the deployment plan. It incorporates process, organization, measures, rewards, and tools. In resource and project selection, training, personnel selection, and initial project selection are undergone. During the final phase of implementation, sustainability, and evolution, the initiative is institutionalized through the CEO. 

Unfortunately, risks are associated with deployment and implementation, including organizational technical, cultural, political, and operational risks. Some common barriers to adoption include top management lacking strategic understanding of Lean, lack of specific Lean skills and knowledge, culture and ego, management reluctance in empowering employees, fear of change, and internal systems in conflict with the new system. 

How to Determine Success

Several indicators demonstrate the implication of Lean Six Sigma implementation, including customer satisfaction index, penetration rate, winning rate, supply chain flexibility, and reduced lead time. Various implications ought to be addressed for implementation to be successful and long-term. It is suggested that organizations extend Lean Six Sigma principles across all business processes and departments to achieve desirable and maximum outcomes.  

Looking to train your entire team on Lean Six Sigma? Simplilearn offers corporate training, customized for your business’s needs. Find out more. 

Lean Six Sigma is a hybrid methodology geared to bring successful continuous improvement initiatives to any organization. Because the hybrid methodology identifies and eliminates waste from the source, results are more long-term, offering systematic business process improvements. It is an optimal solution for fast-paced organizations seeking improvement of processes and customer satisfaction levels. 

About the Author

Brian J. Galli holds a doctoral degree in Engineering Management from Old Dominion University. He also holds a Bachelors of Science in Industrial Engineering from Binghamton University and Masters of Science in Engineering Management from Missouri University of Science & Technology. He works as an Assistant Professor of Management Engineering at Long Island University – Post. He also owns Apex Strategies, Ltd, a company that that specializes in continuous improvement consulting and training. He has over 9 years of experience in applying continuous improvement tools in many arenas.


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