Six Sigma and Lean Production

I picked up the book Six Sigma:  The Breakthrough Management Strategy Revolutionizing the World’s Top Corporations by Mikel Harry, Ph.D., and Richard Schroeder, in order to gain a broader overview of the Six Sigma movement in the United States from its origins in Motorola, after having spent a recent series of posts tracking how Toyota Corporation has refined lean production.   Last year at the Professional Development Day 2013 event held by the Chicagoland Chapter of the Project Management Institute, there was a discussion on the difference between lean production, which is a systematic methodology, and Six Sigma, which is more of a tool for inquiry into how to improve a process.

However, the arguments you sometimes hear people engaging in about “which is better” are ultimately pointless.   Both lean production and Six Sigma ultimately derive from the same source, Edward Deming and his pioneering insight with regard to quality that money spent in improving quality will yield more money saved in the overall life-cycle of the production process.   Lean production tries to get rid of waste in the system, and Six Sigma further improves what value-added processes remain.

Six Sigma is a rigorous methodology for asking questions about how to improve processes, and it has become so widespread that the Project Management Institute has revised its definition of a project.   It now includes not just a project as the creation of a unique product, service or result, for also includes Six Sigma projects, which are an improvement upon an existing product, service or result.

It is therefore an integral part of the project management toolkit, and so that is why it is important that, as a project manager, I need to study it more closely in the next month before I take the next step of getting certified as a Green Belt in Six Sigma.   I hope you enjoy the journey with me!


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