Guaranteed improvement results with Lean 6 sigma…

June 07, 2021

This article is the result of a reflection carried out after having deployed and coached more than 400 projects in 25 years in industry as well as in services: banks, insurance, clinics...

Why does Lean 6 Sigma carried out in project mode according to DMAIC generate excellent operational and financial results?

Reminder of the DMAIC cycle of Lean 6 sigma

The DMAIC (Define - Measure - Analyse - Improve - Control) methodology, created by Mickel Hary and Bill Smith in the 1990s, is deployed in project mode, with a start date and an end date, and aims to improve a strategic business process through breakthroughs or disruptions.

It combines the principles of Lean and 6 sigma:

  • Lean to eliminate non-value added tasks that the customer is not prepared to pay for, to eliminate all waste and unnecessary actions in our organisations in order to make them agile, flexible and responsive to the variable and often uncontrollable demands of the market. This means improving productivity in the noble sense of the term: working better and more efficiently.
  • 6 sigma to reduce process variability, the main source of non-quality and internal and external customer dissatisfaction. Because every process has variability, the causes of which must be identified, evaluated, controlled and even eliminated if possible.

How can the implementation of Lean 6 sigma according to DMAIC drastically improve a process and guarantee the achievement of sometimes fantastic results?

1. Project selection

Project selection is an important step: it consists of selecting a process to be improved and not a problem to be solved. This process must be strategic and its improvement must generate very significant customer, operational and financial gains (> 100K for a Black Belt project). The selection of a project with a high potential for gains is one of the conditions for obtaining the resources and means to deploy the project and for management to be attentive to its progress.

Significant operational and financial gains validated by the company's financial controller to obtain adequate resources and means

2. DMAIC, a rigorous and structured approach

Indeed, DMAIC is structured in Phases which are themselves broken down into Steps that must be carried out and respected with rigour. This means using the right tools at the right time, and leaving nothing to chance. It means generating the output data for each stage and carrying out systematic end-of-phase reviews of both the use of tools and the output data for each of the DMAIC stages and phases. Rigour also means not implementing improvement actions in phase D or M based on opinions or simple observations, without having analysed the facts.

It also means changing the behaviour of actors: moving from the most varied opinions to facts measured and validated by serious (statistical) analyses.

Strict adherence to the DMAIC phases and steps: use of the right tools and completion of end-of-phase reviews

3. An innovative and dynamic project management and structure

DMAIC is conducted in project mode with a cross-functional team brought together for the deployment of the project. The members of the project team must be selected by taking care to include employees in the field who implement the process and who are willing to improve it, based on the principle that the higher up the hierarchy you go, the more incompetent you are to deal with problems in the field.

The project management method must be innovative and dynamic (not just another meeting...)

  • Agile, weekly planning with definition of weekly deliverables
  • Visual project management with simple and understandable project monitoring indicators
  • Short and systematic meetings: once a week 30' based on actions rather than on sterile criticism for not doing...
  • Frequent, rapid, relevant and effective 360° communication: "in 7 seconds I know where the project stands".
  • Motivational management of the team through team building actions.
  • Making the best use of the synergy between team members and therefore of collective intelligence

Modern, innovative and motivating project management focused on actions and results using collective intelligence

4. Ressources…

This last point is in my opinion the most important: General Management needs to allocate resources to projects to convert non-quality, failures and waste into benefits and improved customer satisfaction.

Often, it is acceptable to pay overtime, to bring in staff on Sundays to rework or redesign non-conforming products from the first cut, while it is difficult to allocate resources to improvement projects! When the financial gains are significant or even enormous, it is incomprehensible.

Companies that have understood Lean 6 Sigma surround themselves with a few full-time Black Belts and 20% Green Belts to transform non-quality and waste into profit.

Resources allocated for financial gains of over 100K


The famous ghost factory, a concept developed in the years 1985/1990, unfortunately still exists in our companies. We have significant potential for gains in our organisations, including financial gains through the reduction of non-quality costs, which are often around 10% of turnover. Let's set up projects that are profitable and sustainable, fast, mobilising, by deploying a methodology (DMAIC) that is, all in all, quite logical and that uses tools known by quality specialists and methodists.

Bernard Murry

  • UL6S
    40 rue des Arts
    94170 Le Perreux-sur-Marne

  • +33 (0)6 07 23 00 12


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