Lean Six Sigma

Q: Can you explain what Lean Six Sigma is to me?  I’ve heard of both lean and Six Sigma as individual concepts, but I’m not quite sure I understand the term Lean Six Sigma.

A: The following concise definition is taken from the book The Certified Six Sigma Black Belt Handbook, 2nd ed. by T.M. Kubiak and Donald W. Benbow (ASQ Quality Press, 2009): “Lean-Six Sigma is a fact-based, data-driven philosophy of improvement that values defect prevention over defect detection. It drives customer satisfaction and bottom-line results by reducing variation, waste, and cycle time, while promoting the use of work standardization and flow, thereby creating a competitive advantage. It applies anywhere variation and waste exist, and every employee should be involved.”

The ASQ Knowledge Center has over 700 resources regarding Lean Six Sigma.  For a more in-depth look at Lean Six Sigma, you may want to consult these resources:


The Certified Six Sigma Master Black Belt Handbook
ASQ Quality Press, 2012

The Certified Six Sigma Black Belt Handbook, 2nd ed.
ASQ Quality Press, 2009

The Executive Guide to Understanding and Implementing Lean Six Sigma
ASQ Quality Press, 2007

Lean Six Sigma Project Execution Guide
Citius Publishing, Inc., 2011

Lean Six Sigma Demystified, 2nd Ed.
McGraw-Hill, 2011

Articles & Case Studies:

“Lean Six Sigma’s Evolution: Integrated method uses different deployment models”
Quality Progress, January 2008

A history of Lean and Six Sigma deployment, from Motorola’s first Six Sigma adoption in 1987 to the development of four major deployment models, with guidance on which might be right for your organization.

“Stock Options”
Six Sigma Forum Magazine, August 2010

Until recently, lean and Six Sigma philosophies were considered distinct and separate improvement methods, but today many organizations are integrating the two and adding other improvement systems as well. A lean Six Sigma (LSS) approach to inventory control and planning can provide a competitive edge by working with customers to develop solutions to problems. The successful application of the LSS approach to inventory management by a Taiwanese supplier of gardening and building materials illustrates the advantages of the method.

“Better Together”
Six Sigma Forum Magazine, May 2009

Continuous improvement professionals often debate the virtues of a lean or a Six Sigma approach, but the benefits of bringing the two together are significant. Six Sigma can improve the effectiveness of a system by optimizing it and reducing process variability, whereas lean can improve the efficiency of that system by stabilizing work in process, reducing inventory, and eliminating waste. A simple group demonstration allows participants to gain an understanding of the advantages offered by lean and Six Sigma when they work together.

“Weapon Against Waste”
Six Sigma Forum Magazine, February 2012

Lean Six Sigma (LSS) is U.S. Army’s weapon of choice for fighting off process inefficiencies that result in wasted time, money and material. Since 2009, the army’s LSS projects have resulted in a combined savings of $96.6 million.

“Improving Productivity Through Lean Six Sigma Warehouse Design”
Case Study, February 2009

As a key customer’s order volume rapidly increased, New Breed Logistics struggled to keep pace. An improvement team worked collaboratively with internal and external stakeholders to find solutions to meet the challenges of both current and future customers. The team applied Lean Six Sigma methodology by employing quality tools such as value stream mapping, PICK charts, and the 5 Whys to increase product flow and meet customers’ packaging requirements.

“Streamlined Enrollment Nets Big Results from Healthcare Leader”
Case Study, January 2009

Demonstrating that big results are possible in just a short time, Kaiser Permanente Colorado’s Medicaid Enrollment Project Team used Lean Six Sigma methodology to evaluate and improve the organization’s Medicaid enrollment processes.


A Webcast Overview of the Seven Lean Six Sigma Tools
August 2010

This webcast provides an overview of the seven common Lean Six Sigma tools: 5S System, Seven Wastes, Value Stream Mapping, Kaizen, Flow, Visual Work Place, and Voice of the Customer.

You can further search ASQ’s resources on Lean Six Sigma by visiting the ASQ Knowledge Center.

Best regards,

ASQ Research Librarian
Milwaukee, WI

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