Is Lean Six Sigma Dead?

Lean Six Sigma is dead! I’m sure you’ve heard this said. It’s time has come and gone.  The luster has faded. it was the flavor of the day. We need the newest process improvement tool set.

Simply Lean Six Sigma is the most recent evolution of process improvement methodologies. Following a regiment of toll gates, and associated tools, it is a recipe for applying critical thinking to solve a compelling problem.

But is it dead?  Said more correctly, it is evolving. The creativity and inquisitive nature of the human mind will never die, therefore Lean Six Sigma will never die, it will evolve, and process improvement will remain healthy. 

But how is Lean Six Sigma evolving? Progressive practitioners have realized that just tools and analysis are not the answer for implementing robust solutions to business problems.  The model is shifting to a more involved problem solving community. This means getting people involved.  All people, belt aside.  The new paradigm is that everyone should have and take ownership in the health of their business. The result, a high quality of work life and truly sustainable solutions.

The role of the Lean Six Sigma leader is therefore changing to one of skilled practitioner/coach.  This person facilitates discussions and uses tools, sparingly, to get practical and knowledge based solutions. It requires a change in mindset. The result, a strong balance between analytical and pragmatic. It engages people who have deep subject matter knowledge and their instinct to derive the answer. Your role as a coach is to tease that out, complimented with the analysis that supports making the right decision. The result, ownership. It is “Sticky”. It is not an external answer that is “thrown over the wall” to people who will live with the result. It incorporates process-talent-and change management to their fullest potential. It is satisfying and rewarding.

So is Lean Six Sigma dead? Not by any means. It is indeed changing.  Those who are serious about it’s longevity will shift to a more balanced model. It will be equally focused on people and process, balance change management with analytics, and build a new set of team dynamics.