What is Six Sigma?

Six Sigma is a set of practices originally developed by Motorola to systematically improve processes by eliminating defects. (A defect is defined as nonconformity of a product or service to its specifications.)

Six Sigma asserts the following:

The core of the Six Sigma methodology is a data-driven, systematic approach to problem solving, with a focus on customer impact. Statistical tools and analysis are often useful in the process. It is a mistake, however, to view the core of the Six Sigma methodology as statistics; an acceptable Six Sigma project can be started with only rudimentary statistical tools.


Six Sigma has two key methodologies: DMAIC and DMADV. DMAIC is used to improve an existing business process, and DMADV is used to create new product or process designs for predictable, defect-free performance.


The basic methodology consists of the following five steps:


The basic methodology consists of the following five steps:

Some people have used DMAICR (Realise). Others contend that focusing on the financial gains realised through Six Sigma is counter-productive and that said financial gains are simply by-products of a good process improvement.

What is Lean?

Lean manufacturing or lean production, which is often known simply as 'Lean', is the optimal way of producing goods through the removal of waste and implementing flow, as oppose to batch and queue. For many, Lean is the set of 'tools' that assist in the identification and steady elimination of waste. As waste is eliminated quality improves while production time and cost is reduced. The "tools" consist of value stream mapping, 5-S, Kan-ban (pull systems), and poka-yoke (error-proofing).

What is Lean Six Sigma?

Lean Six Sigma is a business improvement methodology which combines (as the name implies) tools from both Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma. Lean manufacturing focuses on speed and traditional Six Sigma focuses on quality. By combining the two, the result is better quality faster.

Typical application of Lean Six Sigma (simplified)

  1. Identify the processes (in a functional department or business) most important to delivering customer value.
  2. Map these processes using Value Stream Mapping (a Lean tool).
  3. Identify the bottlenecks / constraints in the value stream.
  4. Apply variation reduction through DMAIC/DMAD(O)V to standardise the relevant process steps.

Information source Wikipedia 2008