Guest Post: Demand for #Lean Professionals Now Exceeds #SixSigma?


Mark's note: This is a guest post by Tim Noble of The Avery Point Group. Does this assessment match your view, from the hiring side or from the perspective of a job seeker? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.

Ongoing Surge in Demand for Continuous Improvement Talent May Also Be Signaling a Decoupling of Lean and Six Sigma

Tim Noble

ATLANTA, Feb. 15, 2012 — As the economy continues to heal, post-recession demand for continuous improvement talent persists strongly, according to the latest study of almost 7,100 recent Internet job postings reviewed by The Avery Point Group ( The executive search firm's eighth annual study found that the combined demand for Lean and Six Sigma talent has more than doubled, rising more than 103 percent over 2010 recessionary levels and 6 percent ahead of last year's strong talent demand levels.

“This year's  study  clearly illustrated there is strong ongoing demand for continuous improvement skills ahead of the broader economic recovery,” states  Tim Noble, managing principal and partner of The Avery Point Group. “However, within that ongoing surge for continuous improvement talent we are beginning to see a very clear and accelerated trend in the demand for Lean skills versus Six Sigma that may also indicate a decoupling of the two initiatives in relation to job requirements.”

Based on this year's study, The Avery Point Group found that demand for Lean talent has accelerated at its fastest year-over-year pace in the eight-year history of the study as the more desired skill set over Six Sigma. This year's study showed that Lean talent demand now exceeds Six Sigma by almost 68 percent, almost doubling its lead over last year's results that only showed a 35 percent edge for Lean over Six Sigma.

 The study also found that job postings looking exclusively for Six Sigma talent, with no mention of Lean in the job specification, dropped to only 20 percent of the postings reviewed, the lowest level for those job postings in the study's history. The 2012 study is an even further departure from The Avery Point Group's 2005 inaugural Lean and Six Sigma talent demand study that showed Six Sigma talent demand exceeding Lean by more than 50 percent.

A deeper review of this year's data shows that Six Sigma is also becoming less and less of an additional job requirement within  Lean job postings. In The Avery Point Group's 2007 talent study, over 50 percent of the Lean jobs posted sought candidates that also had a Six Sigma skill set. Today, that requirement has dropped to less than 34 percent, its lowest level in the study's eight-year history

Does the continued downward trend for Six Sigma talent demand and its diminished emphasis within Lean job postings signal a decoupling of Lean and Six Sigma? “I don't think that is entirely the case, at least not yet,” comments Noble. “I think it has more to do with companies shifting their priorities to where they feel they can get the best leverage with their  continuous improvement  initiatives and seeking the required talent to execute those initiatives.”

 Noble points to several factors that may be driving these trends:

  1. Companies are continuing to balance out their continuous improvement talent stable with the addition of Lean candidates versus slightly more ubiquitous Six Sigma talent that may already be prevalent in their organization.
  1. Companies are becoming increasingly focused on hiring a purer Lean skill set that they feel will be more accretive to their existing continuous improvement initiatives. Candidates with Lean skills that are a lesser appendage to a more Six Sigma-centric skill set aren't cutting it for many companies as they seek a stronger and more Lean-centric skill set.
  1. Companies are opting to consolidate their limited resources around Lean as a hedge against the steep challenges of today's economic climate, which they feel may be better served by Lean's more immediate and practical focus on waste, flow, and flexibility.

Overall, the continued rise in talent demand for Lean bodes well for candidates who possess those skills, as organizations seek them out as either a hedge against current economic uncertainty or as an enabler to leverage the emerging economic recovery. Noble concludes that candidates with legacy Six Sigma skills should be seeking out organizations like SME (Society of Manufacturing Engineers), which recently formed a partnership with AME/Shingo Prize/ASQ, that offer both training and certification in Lean as a way to burnish their skills, or perhaps seek career opportunities that will enable them to gain more on-the-job experience with Lean.

 About The Avery Point Group

The Avery Point Group ( is a leading global  executive recruiting  firm that assists companies in identifying, assessing and recruiting mid-level management to senior executive leadership talent, with key focus in the areas of Six Sigma, Lean, and operational excellence.

For more information about The Avery Point Group and its eighth annual study of Lean and Six Sigma talent demand trends, please contact Tim Noble at +1 678-585-9804 x101.     See the video at: (

Lean's Rise to Prominence | Lean & Six Sigma Talent Demand Study | Lean Recruiters | Six Sigma Recruiters from Avery Point Group on Vimeo.

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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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