Renovation or Innovation – How Are You Deploying Lean and Six Sigma?

by Brian Furlong, President, Process Excellence Systems Inc.


There is no doubt that in order to transform, you have to inform. I am amazed at the number of organizations and individuals who have still never heard of either Lean or Six Sigma. Among those who have heard of them I am amazed at how little understanding there is of the incredible potential that Lean and Six Sigma provide. I am stunned every time I hear a company declare "we are already Lean." That demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of process innovation. Every day, billions of dollars are being wasted because employees do not have the skills necessary to identify and eliminate waste – nor are they challenged or encouraged to do so.

We lead the world in technology innovation but the gap is closing fast. Do you think we lead the world in process innovation? Really? For the most part Lean and Six Sigma are used to renovate or refurbish the process rather than to innovate a new process. We need to change our mindset from Continuous Process Improvement to Continuous Process Innovation! You will hear examples of this from Bob Oborn, President of Kent Elastomer Products at Wire-Net's next Lunch and Learn.

There are three things that we need to do and we need to begin them now if we are to establish the new normal of Continuous Process Innovation.

  1. Define the new business targets: Clearly identify the performance level you wish to achieve. Determine which vital few value streams will provide the biggest contribution to closing the performance gap between your current and desired states. Then identify what operational innovations need to be made and with which customers and which suppliers. Fully understanding customer value is a prerequisite to this activity.
  2. Make the impossible possible: Set the objective of achieving far-reaching improvements in the next generation of value streams. Develop alternative solutions to deliver that value. Make sure that technology is working for you and not the other way around. Continually redefine Waste and understand that what may be satisfactory today may be unacceptable tomorrow.
  3. Challenge your people: Educate your people and then challenge them as never before – they are capable of so much more than we ever give them credit for. Challenge is the highest form of respect and the ROI from respect is unlimited. Provide leadership that excites, engages and develops people and that provides clear direction. Ineffective leadership halts innovation. Follow up to ensure employees are engaged.

When you think you have accomplished these then start over.

We have a simple choice; accelerate process innovation or "waste" away. There are always excuses, but excuses are a failure of leadership. It is time for swift, decisive, and innovative action!

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