Our organizationhasjust comethrough a phase that I’ve heard called “The Wave III Bump” by other institutions – the projects are all successful, but they just take so darn long, isn’t there any way we can speed things up? Our organization responded by moving to Lean in a big way; we’ve done Rapid Improvement Events (kaizen events by any other name) for many months now, and never got to a “Wave IV” for DMAIC projects.

But the pendulum is swinging back – we are finding that “just lean” is not the complete answer for our healthcare system either. The part where you take only 5 measurements of a process never sat easily for our DMAIC-trained Black Belts who were looking at 24/7 departments where the process changes every shift. And the lack of a control phase bothered us too, so weadded it on after our RIE Report-Out on the last day of the event. Our control phaselasts at least one month, with weekly report-outs by the Process Owner.

Now we find ourselves working out an amalgam of the DMAIC structure and Lean improvement tools. OK, there are a lot of books out there called “Lean Six Sigma” but they spend most of their time telling you how wonderful it is without telling you how to structure your project to incorporate both philosophies. A common presentation is to give all the DMAIC info then add a chapter on Lean tools. That’s not what we’re aiming for; it feels like building a torte – a layer of this, then a layer of that.

I’ve been recently appointed lead BB for our educational process – for Black Belts, Green Belts, and system leaders – assisted in a big way by a subgroup of our Black Belts who are interested in spreading the word. It’s been challenging and fun to actually try to piece these concepts together seamlessly. We want cheesecake, not a many-layered torte! So far, what we’ve come up with is DMALC – Define (Plan), Measure (VSM), Analyze (Waste Walk), Lean (Improve), Control (Follow-up). We’re trying to keep the structure and the speed – eating your cake and having it too, so to speak!

Has anyone else worked on a seamless version of Lean Six Sigma? I’d love to hear about it.

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