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Lean, Lean Six Sigma (LSS) Relationship to Agile

Larry Parah, BlueSkye Track, Sr. Consultant

Definitions:
1. Lean – taking waste out of a process; waste can include waiting too long, producing too much product that sits in inventory or having too many service people; too much movement of people; rework, etc.

2. Six Sigma – reduction of variation (inconsistency) in the process to help improve quality.  For example, variation in the sales quoting process that leads to mistakes; variation in the way a service is delivered which leads to cost overruns and / or unhappy customers; variation in the process of making a product that leads to defects.

3. Agile - Originally conceived for project management (PM) of software development, Agile has become useful for PM in general. Agile is defined as a methodology in which requirements and solutions evolve through collaboration between self-organizing, cross-functional teams.

Simply Stated: Lean Six Sigma is the methodology to remove waste and reduce variation. Agiile is a methodology for managing projects with self-directed teams.

How Does Lean Six Sigma relate to Agile, they are very different?

LSS refers to and / or requires the following:

  • Factual approach to decision making
  • Process approach to achieving quality
  • Continually improve of processes

Lean Six Sigma (LSS) methods are powerful tools for each of the above.

Agile is used to manage projects. Therefore, LSS and Agile are very different functions.

Modification of Existing Processes:

The tools alone in LSS are of great value for getting people to work together.  For example, problem statement development is a LSS tool.  How often do teams think they all understand the problem to only find out later that they were talking about several different problems?

The need for LSS Training:
Without training LSS can be very confusing.  People should not try to learn this body of knowledge (BOK) on their own.   The BOK is just too complex to learn proper improvement methods quickly.  That’s also the reason the knowledge is offered in manageable bites:  yellow belt for employees, greenbelt for those that work on projects, blackbelt for those that are into statistical analysis, and master blackbelt for those that want to be high level sponsors of projects.