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Lean Six Sigma Projects That Last the Test of Time

Posted by kyle toppazzini on Thu, Nov 01, 2012
Lean six sigma, sigma,Sigma, lean, bsc, assessment, process

Many people argue that lean six sigma projects and assessments—particularly six sigma—are not sustained within the organization. Because they are not sustained, over time people may go back to their old ways of doing things.  This should not happen if the lean six sigma initiative is properly embedded into the organization.

Let’s take a look at the very basic flow of how organizational planning is implemented.


Normal Organizational Planning Cycle

Normal planning process

During the normal course of an organization’s annual business cycle, an organization will derive its operational plan and human resource requirements based on its mission, vision, strategies, and values. These plans are executed and implemented and the performance of the plans are measured and an assessment is conducted against pre-determined objectives. Upon completion, the cycle starts all over again.  Throughout the year, the organization will continuously measure and monitor its performance and implement initiatives to get on target and improve its ability to predict the outcomes of its efforts. Let’s take a look at the same diagram with a lean six sigma initiative properly implemented.


Organizational Planning Cycle with Lean Six Sigma

Lean six sigma, sigma, planning

Some may disagree with me, but if a lean six sigma initiative is properly implemented, it will likely change the vision of what your organization will look like in the future.  If it does not, it will still certainly change some of the organization’s values.  As the organization’s values change, its hiring requirements will also change.  In addition, when a lean six sigma initiative is undertaken, it is also likely that some of its strategies will change as well.  In essence, lean six sigma does not become a simple process improvement framework; it becomes a management ideology engrained into all aspects of how the organization plans, executes, and completes projects and work.  When this happens, the organization makes it clear what path it wishes to follow and that reverting back to old methods is not on this path.


How to Implement Lean Six Sigma into the DNA of the Organization?

So how do you go about implementing lean six sigma into the DNA of the organization?  Below are twelve steps that you can take to accomplish this. 

  1. Validate mission, vision and values. As a first step, validate the mission, vision, and value statements to ensure that they accurately reflect the direction in which the lean six sigma initiative will take the organization. 
  2. Strategy mapping. Develop the strategic objectives across four organizational lenses: finance, customer, process, and learning and growth.  The strategy map is a critical component of a the balanced scorecard (BSC) used within these 12 steps. 
  3. Identify and map processes that support the strategies.  This may require doing some value stream mapping of those end-to-end processes to make sure that they support the strategic objectives.  It is at this stage that key performance indicators are developed for each of the strategic objectives across the value streams.  You may also choose at this point to create a baseline measure of the value streams and benchmark that measurement to other organizations.  This will enable you to create targets for the key performance indicators.
  4. Validate which processes are stable and which are not.  In this activity you will collect some basic data about the value streams and develop control charts to determine which of the processes support the strategic objectives and which are stable and which are not.
  5. Determine if you need to stabilize processes. Determine before implementing the lean six sigma initiatives if you need to stabilize the existing processes first, or if you are able to start with some of the stable processes and stabilize others as part of the lean six sigma project. 
  6. Identify the problems as they relate to the end-to-end processes or value streams.  Articulate precisely what problems in the processes support the strategic objectives.
  7. Identify projects to undertake. Identify the projects that you plan to undertake that will rectify the problems identified in Step 6.
  8. Identify the expected benefits, business case and project charter.  When identifying the business case, you should also identify your human resource requirements and strategies.
  9. Secure funding and develop a detailed project plan.  Secure the funding for your lean six sigma initiative and work with a project manager and key project team members to develop a detailed project plan.
  10. Execute the remainder of the DMAIC process. At this point, you should have completed the define part of the DMAIC process and you will now execute the measurement, analysis, improvement and control phases. In the improvement phase, you should develop scorecards at all business unit levels. These scorecards should be scoped into the projects that are linked to the strategy map and key performance indicators developed in Steps 2 and 3.
  11. Develop a continuous improvement process. The process should be linked to the organizational scorecards. By doing so, you will have created strategic alignment from the highest strategic levels in the organization to the operational levels.
  12. Evaluate the performance. Conduct an asessment of the projects relative to the goals, start at Step 2, and repeat the same exercise.


Concluding thoughts

If you believe that eventually people will fall back into old habits and abandon any lean six sigma initiative that has taken place, you may want to consider the steps laid out in this article.  This article outlines, in very general terms, steps that can be taken to ensure that your lean six sigma initiative sticks and becomes part of your organization’s DNA. Do you think lean six sigma implemented in an organization can last the test of time?


By Kyle Toppazzini


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Helpful Resources

The following URLs provide great additional information on Lean 6 Sigma

Toppazzini and Lee Consulting Lean 6 Sigma Consulting at -Lean Six Sigma Consulting

Linkedin Six Sigma Group at

 ISixSigma web site at

 ASQ web site at



Topics: sigma, lean, Lean Six Sigma, Continuous Improvement, Assessment, BSC, key performance indicators, process