We Don't Use Our Lean Six Sigma Skills Everyday

I ran into someone at breakfast today that looked familiar. I had to ask, “You look familiar, and do I know you”.  We introduced ourselves and found that we both worked for the same company. She was still working there so I asked, “How are things going”? As a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt she shared some current events and then shared that she had seen a group of practitioners who were getting some refresher training.  “We’re not using our skills and they’re getting rusty”, was their response. It’s always good to stay current so refresher training does polish off the rust.  It made me think however.  If we used the tools every day would our skills stay sharp and relevant? Why do people stop asking for Lean Six Sigma support? What can you do?

Here are some ideas that have helped me.

1.   Don’t make everything a project. 

a.   This is cardinal rule number one. We were trained to use the entire process from beginning to end. Do we answer every question with a project? That may not add the value you think. In fact it may add complexity and cycle time when all someone wanted was a simple answer.

2.   Don’t practice at the expense of the customer.

a.   Similar tools and techniques are used but give the same answer. Select those that are appropriate, help you communicate with your audience, and use only one. I once had a coach who said that he asked practitioners to use as many tools as they can on every project. I never accepted that. It’s fair to practice tools off line so that you do stay sharp but don’t burden your customer with your experiential learning.

3.   Develop non-structured refresher training.

a.   Work in small teams.  This fosters an atmosphere of adult learning and is the best way to polish skills. Learn from each other in open and relevant dialog.

4.   Keep communications open at all times.

a.   Include your customers, those who are willing, in an analysis session or two. Allowing your customers to participate in the analysis enables their creativity, thought, and insights. It stimulates not only solutions to the process but to your improvement culture.

5.   Listen as much as you talk, maybe more.

a.   Learning and listening styles vary from person to person. The best style is called double loop learning, or two-way conversation. If people aren’t asking for help there’s a reason. The best tool is to ask why. What you hear may not be comfortable but left unspoken will become the reason your program diminishes.


Lean Six Sigma is as complicated or simple as we make it.  If it has the attributes of speed and accuracy, supported with fact, and embracing of the people within the organization it will become a healthy part of the organization.  Your practice will become a daily event and your skills will stay sharp. Keep it simple and flexible and the skills will follow naturally.

For help please contact Lean2 Business Consulting.