What the heck is SigmaLeanZenOut? It is what a lot of people are doing in the world of continuous improvement. No matter where you got started, most companies gradually evolve to SigmaLeanZenOut. Six Sigma deployments add Lean, Kaizen, and then Workout (not necessarily in that order). Lean deployments add Kaizen, Workout then Six Sigma. You get the picture. So why is this happening? It is because people are discovering that the combination of all these methodologies opens the door to applying continuous improvement methods to almost any situation. Your starting point (which methodology) will depend on your initial bias but most likely, you will eventually end up incorporating or integrating many methodologies.

So what are companies calling their ‘thing.’ Most likely, it is whatever they started with. Most companies don’t seem to go through the effort of renaming their continuous improvement approach as they add methodologies for fear that it might make the organization feel like whatever they started with was the “flavor of the day” and the organization must now move on to the next thing. Nothing would be more fun for a naysayer than to jump up and shout “See, Six Sigma didn’t work so we now have to do Lean Six Sigma or Six Sigma Plus.” Some companies initially “brand” their approach by calling it “Customer First” or “Process Excellence” and incorporate Six Sigma, Lean, Kaizen and Workout as they deploy.

Handpicked Content:   'Whatta They Got That I Ain't Got?"

If you are just starting a deployment (whether it is Lean, Six Sigma, Workout, Kaizen, whatever), think about calling it something that is robust enough to handle the integration of other methodologies. If you feel like you need to use the right ‘name’ to get the industry credibility then incorporate an adder like ‘plus’ to the name. I sort of like naming your continuous improvement approach something that has the word ‘excellence’ in it. Who can argue with wanting to be excellent?

No matter what you name it or how you get started, the important part is that your foundation include the proper integration of your approach(es) with your company strategy, goals and leadership development and that you keep adding to your continuous improvement toolkit. Eventually you too will be doing SigmaLeanZenOut (and it is almost as much fun to say as “Farfegnugen!”)

How has your company integrated the methodologies and what do you call it? Please feel free to post & share.

Comments 2

  1. Sue Kozlowski

    We took exactly the path you described, and called ourselves Six Sigma as we initially trained and added Black Belts. Then, we "discovered" Lean, and had the dilemma of whether to change our name. We finally ended up with Operational Excellence, in part because it sounded great, in part because we could play off the "Fed Ex" logo, and in part because we already had Clinical Excellence and Service Excellence initiatives.

    We learned Six Sigma, CAP, and WorkOut from one consultant; Lean from another; Do-Its from another (it used to stand for Daily Ongoing Implementation Tactics, but we’ve adapted it to Define-Organize-Improve-Track for small-scope projects).

    Just as you suggest, we’ve happy that our revised name has allowed us to expand in all directions, without being accused of being "flavor of the month" as we added each new approach!

  2. David Graham

    Interesting point, that over time I have come to agree with 100%. Back when I cut teeth on TPS I felt that other firms using "new names" for lean spoke of Not Invented Here more than anything else. While that may have been true, now from a change management view I like monikers that speak of Process Excellence, Operational Excellence, or Business Process Excellence. The point being, lets do what is good and right for the customer and attempt to avoid the non value added but many times fun, debate over is it lean, sigma, just do it, etc.

Leave a Reply