Run Fast if You Ever Hear This Phrase from a “Lean Six Sigma” Instructor
I sometimes torture myself by watching webinars given about “Lean Sigma.” I hear a lot of claptrap about Lean… things that are just demonstrably wrong. These aren't differences of opinion. These are statements that are factually incorrect and can be proven as such.
If you ever hear somebody say some variation of this phrase:
“Lean is all about efficiency”
“Lean is only about increasing speed and reducing cost”
Then please just stop the video or run, don't walk, out of the room via the nearest exit, to avoid being further misinformed by the speaker.
Normally, I would say “safety first” and mean it, but this case might be an exception.
There's a dangerously incorrect notion that is accepted as gospel truth in Lean Sigma books… that incorrect construct says that:
- Lean is for speed and efficiency
- Six Sigma is for quality
Again, that's false.
The truth is Lean and Six Sigma both can (and should) accomplish both goals at the same time. Lean and Six Sigma can work together, but to say “you need Six Sigma for quality” (as I often hear) is incorrect. Toyota's factories don't “do Six Sigma,” as I've been told by Toyota people at the plant here in San Antonio. They teach everybody how to use basic statistical tools, but they don't train “belts.”
Lean is about both quality and flow. Speed and quality. And safety, cost and morale.
I asked my NUMMI-trained plant manager back in 1996 which thing our plant had to fix first – quality or productivity.
He wisely said “Both. They go hand in hand.”
Lean and the Toyota Production System are focused on:
- Flow (just in time)
- Quality at the source (jiodka)
You can read about this directly from Toyota and their corporate website. Please read that.
Whenever you hear somebody say or imply that Lean would somehow promote to inadvertently lead to “making bad stuff faster,” you should point them to that Toyota page. Oh, and run away.
This speaker said:
“Go ahead and use Lean on that quality problem…
…you'll speed up your quality problem and make bad stuff faster.”
When people say outrageous things like that, the record has to be corrected.
Why would Toyota or any organization that practices Lean want to “make bad stuff faster?” That's ridiculous and it would only be said by people who don't understand Lean.
Where does this notion come from? It's right on the cover of the seminal book on “Lean Six Sigma (2002)”:
There you have it, “Six Sigma Quality and Lean Speed.” It's hogwash. If people are just repeating what they've been taught, I guess we can't blame them.
Then again, Mike George directly wrote that Lean isn't about making bad stuff faster: