A New "TLA" — TLS


Supply Chain News: Is “Lean Six Sigma” the Winning Approach to Manufacturing and Supply Chain Improvement?

It's easy to get tired of new acronyms and buzzwords. Here's a new “TLA” (Three Letter Acronym) I hadn't heard before. This article talks about combining Lean and Six Sigma — to me, these are too separate (and complementary) approaches. There is no such thing as “Lean Six Sigma,” in my view.

Some companies are taking the concept even further, adding in Eli Goldratt's Theory of Constraints (TOC) methodology as another tool, usually front-ending TOC before both Lean and Six Sigma. This three-way combination is sometimes referred to as TLS (TOC, Lean, Six Sigma).

I loved the book The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement and TOC is a great concept to understand. It's not a management system, like Lean, but it's something everyone in operations should know (and use appropriately). But do we need another new acronym? That might be lame (and I don't mean, for once, “L.A.M.E.” — oh wait, that's an acronym I coined).

Pot calling kettle black, I'll admit. We haven't had a “L.A.M.E.” sighting here in a while – does anybody have one to report? Click the “LAME” link below to see more examples of “Lean As Misguidedly Executed.” Kevin Meyer, over at Evolving Excellence, did make reference to my term last week.

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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.


  1. The TLS acronym is new to me also and seems a bit awkward, but OK…

    As to your larger point, it makes sense to me to use multiple approaches and combine elements of those approaches to address opportunities. If someone wants to use the value focus of Lean and combine it with a DMAIC method usually associated with Six Sigma, and he/she gets great results, then why not?

    The whole “catoodle” argument makes me weary. I believe Lean purism has it’s place, but Lean Six Sigma is a commonly accepted term to describe the combination, and I’ve chosen to embrace it rather than fight it.

  2. Actually, Theory of Constraints (TOC to add another TLA…) IS in fact a management system. If all you have read on TOC is The Goal, then you are a good 25 years behind its evolution. A simple google search might illustrate for you the breadth of its expansion and applicatin. You might also check out http://www.toc.tv – like regular tv, there are free sections and subscriber sections. All of which can help you get up to date.


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