Lean and Six Sigma are complementary philosophies. The difference in Lean and Six Sigma lie primarily in the focus. The elimination of waste with Lean is fairly similar to the reduction of variation in Six Sigma. However, Lean’s focus on improving workflows is perhaps the main differentiator. By focusing on the workflows, lean efforts ensure that non-value-adding aspects are removed from the value stream.
Lean efforts help make sure that we are doing the right things. Six Sigma initiatives help make sure we are doing the right things right.
So??? Which should *we* do?
There are lots of good arguments for Lean and lots of good arguments for Six Sigma. Some companies have even combined the concepts of both calling what they “do” Lean Six Sigma. In our opinion, which approach is best for a company depends on the company culture, support from senior management for one or the other, and in-house expertise. The important thing is that you “do” something that encourages and facilitates continuous improvement, customer satisfaction, and improved profitability.