Lean six sigma isn’t merely an intellectual exercise designed to analyze problems. Instead, its ultimate goal is to deliver value to the customer. Correction involves repairing a non-conforming good or process so that the firm maintains its brand identity by never selling a product that it knows to be defective or allowing a substandard process to continue.

Pros and Cons of Correction

No process is perfect. Every business will eventually identify a problem. Correction is, therefore, a necessary part of providing value to customers. However, correction also means that a firm has wasted time, effort, and resources by creating a defective good or service. As such, correction is also a measure of waste.


1. Ensures the customer receives a conforming good or service from the firm.

2. Helps the firm maintain its brand identity and preserves customer loyalty by producing quality goods and services for customers.


1. Correction means a business must spend more effort than expected to repair a non-conforming item or process.

2. Too much correction necessarily reduces a firm’s profits. The need for frequent revisions is a sign of something fundamentally wrong with a firm’s process at a systemic level.

Why Is Correction Important to Understand?

Correction marks something of a management inflection point. Identifying problems is the first step in providing customers with quality goods or services. However, knowing about a problem doesn’t help a firm if it fails to fix it. Correction marks a shift in the management process from identification to repair.

Industry Example of Correction

If a worker notices that a cell phone coming off the assembly line has a warped touchscreen, a correction would be to replace the defective screen with a new part. However, sometimes a faulty good or process cannot be fixed and must be thrown away. This choice is often necessary for the food industry, where a manufacturer cannot sell spoiled items to consumers.

Three Best Practices When Thinking About Correction

The following tips will help you fit correction into an overall lean six sigma management process:

1. Think of Correction as Containment

Correction isn’t solving a problem. Instead, correction ensures a flawed product or service doesn’t damage the firm’s reputation with customers. Correction is what a firm does in the immediate term to prevent the customer from receiving a defective item or service.

2. If a Process Never Needs Correction, Look Closer

Nothing would ever need correction in an ideal world. Products and processes would work all of the time. However, that isn’t our reality. You might need to scrutinize any system which shows an unusual lack of errors. The most likely reasons for this absence are that workers fail to report known flaws or the firm isn’t seeking enough customer feedback.

If you have a chronic lack of reports about problems from workers or customers, you need to consider the incentives for speaking out about flaws. For example, employees often get “rewarded” for identifying defects by requirements to fill out copious paperwork with little reward or praise. Likewise, customers usually receive minimal benefits from filling out surveys. Consider ways to make customers and workers more willing to speak about defects.

3. If the Same Correction is Needed Multiple Times, Look for Root Causes of the Problem

Remember, correction is s stop-gap designed to prevent a problem from harming the firm and not a solution. If the same error occurs often, managers must look for the root cause and take action to prevent re-occurrences. Correction is, by definition, wasted time and effort.

Frequently Asked Questions About Correction

The following questions will help clarify correction by distinguishing it from similar concepts:

What is the difference between correction and corrective action?

Correction is an action taken to rectify a problem. It’s a stop-gap to prevent a customer from receiving a defective good or service with known flaws. Alternatively, corrective action is a systemic-level solution designed to prevent problems from happening again. This process usually requires root cause analysis.

What distinguishes correction and preventative action?

Correction is an immediate solution to prevent defective products from leaving the factory or providing poor service to customers. Preventative action involves anticipating the cause of a potential problem and preventing it from occurring.

How are preventative action and corrective action different?

The critical difference between these two similar concepts is that preventative action anticipates problems yet to occur, while corrective action prevents recurrent errors from happening again.

In short, preventative action involves problems that haven’t happened, while corrective action takes place after a defect has already occurred.

Why does correction always involve waste?

A firm only needs to correct a defective product or service. Consequently, fixing that faulty item or process requires scrapping material and extra labor. Many of these additional costs aren’t immediately apparent. For example, you might need to order new material, work overtime to fill an order, and incur extra shipping costs from moving material or products. In addition, correction waste is often caused by not creating a standard operating procedure for each worker or workstation. If different operators have individualized routines, some will inevitably be less efficient than best practices.

Remember That Correction Is About Survival

Actively seeking out problems can seem counter-productive to a busy manager. Pointing out inefficiencies may create extra work in the short term. However, a business that regularly fails to deliver customer value is a dying concern. A customer may continue to buy substandard products for a short time due to built-up goodwill, but once that resource becomes exhausted, consumers will stop buying your products. Declining performance encourages your customers to look for alternatives.

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