Lean & Six Sigma Traps to Avoid


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    Thanks to Ron for sending this article my way. Check out his excellent blog post on the difference between being fast and “playing fast,” tying the football idea to manufacturing (although I'm hoping my Wildcats can finally beat his Buckeyes again soon).

    This article talks about failure modes for Lean and Six Sigma (check out my “Lean Failures” blog while you're at it, maybe).

    Trap #2 is listed as: A Few Hours of Training Is All Employees Need” and it goes on to talk about 3 to 5 day kaizen events, without mentioning that “Relying on Kaizen Events to become Lean” could also be listed as a “trap.”

    Today, I recorded a Podcast interview with a group of leaders from the Group Health Cooperative in Washington state, authors of the excellent Daily Kaizen blog. One point they made was that kaizen events (“rapid process improvement workshops”) only got them so far. They had to move on to a more systemic approach to Lean as a management system. Stay tuned for that Podcast in the next few weeks.

    Trap #4 is listed as “Housekeeping is for Sissies.” Nice phrase, but I wish we could stop referring to 5S as a “housekeeping” initiative. 5S is a waste-elimination process, pure and simple. I do agree with this quoted comment:

    “If you've set up your 5S program properly, you should be able to find a place on the floor where you can stand and just by looking you can tell if things are normal and going as planned,” says Tompkins.

    That's what 5S is about — reducing waste and making abnormal conditions readily visible (thanks to Jamie Flinchbaugh for often making that point).

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    Mark Graban
    Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


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