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Unlocking Kaizen and Lean Six Sigma: A Comprehensive Guide to Quality Improvement

kaizen lean six sigma

As the old saying goes, “Nobody’s perfect.” However, people and organizations should still try to keep improving and strive for perfection. Many methodologies are available to help people, groups, or businesses keep improving. We will check out one such method: Kaizen Lean Six Sigma.

This article explores the Kaizen philosophy in how it fits into Lean Six Sigma. We will review some basic terminology, explain Kaizen, give the steps for successful Kaizen implementation, the benefits of Kaizen, and how you can earn a Six Sigma certification.

Let’s get the ball rolling with a handful of terms and what they mean.

A Glossary of Terms

“Continuous improvement,” “Kaizen,” “Lean,” and “Six Sigma”; what do these terms even mean? Here’s a quick summary of these terms.

  • Continuous improvement. Continuous improvement, alternately called continual improvement, is the ongoing effort to improve every element of an organization, such as processes, products, tools, services, etc. These improvements vary in size and scope, but the critical condition is that they are frequent. Bottom line: the organization takes consistent actions to be better.
  • Six Sigma. Six Sigma is a group of strategies and tools created to reduce defects and variability. Six Sigma typically uses one of these project methodologies:
    • DMAIC. (It stands for Define-Measure-Analyze-Improve-Control)
    • DMADV. (It stands for Define-Measure-Analyze-Design-Verify)
  • Lean. Lean focuses on removing waste, which is defined as anything that doesn’t add value to the customer. Lean focuses on cutting business waste, and this focus is what powers its philosophy of continuous improvement. Lean focuses on the seven wastes that can kill business efficiency:
    • Defects
    • Inventory
    • Motion
    • Over Processing
    • Overproduction
    • Transport
    • Waiting
  • Kaizen. Kaizen is Japanese for ‘change for the better’ and is known as ‘continuous improvement.’ Kaizen is a mindset or philosophy, a belief that everything can be changed and made more efficient. Kaizen focuses on using personal ingenuity to identify and solve the organization’s problems. In addition, the strategy strives to gather knowledge from the organization’s employees, accomplishing regular incremental improvements. The following section defines the Kaizen process improvement in greater detail.

Also Read: What Is Process Capability and Why It’s More Interesting Than It Sounds

All About the Kaizen Lean Six Sigma Process

Kai means “change,” and zen means “for good,” and it suggests everything can be improved. Kaizen isn’t a specific tool but rather a philosophy based on many different process improvement methods such as just-in-time (JIT), total quality management (TQM), or even something as uncomplicated as deploying employee suggestion boxes. Kaizen isn’t implemented by specialists or management. Instead, it’s the role of every employee in the organization to look for gaps and inefficiencies in the organization’s existing procedures and processes, suggest improvements, and help implement those changes for continuous and sustained improvement.

Muda is one of the most essential Japanese words associated with Kaizen; it means “waste.” The Kaizen philosophy focuses on cutting business waste by increasing efficiency, improving quality, and reducing overproduction and unnecessary activities. Ultimately, these efforts will save both time and money.

Kaizen Lean Six Sigma follows a set of principles:

  • Take away all assumptions. Approach business processes with a fresh mindset, and don’t get stuck on how “this is how we’ve always done this.” Thus, you can free yourself to create new approaches to improve the old processes.
  • Focus on problem-solving. Don’t get overwhelmed by the problem’s scope. Rather, look at the situation as an opportunity to improve things. Additionally, treat the situation as a chance to display your talents and problem-solving abilities.
  • Accept accountability. Don’t get distracted by what went wrong. Instead, focus on more productive activities. Be an example, showing your team members a better way of moving forward and how to put those practices to work.
  • Look for modest improvements. You don’t have to make a big splash every time. Look for ways to improve small task efficiency of smaller tasks. If you do enough of them, this can lead to more significant results. So, focus on making small changes that will ultimately snowball into something big. If you focus on incremental, continuous changes, it will bring steady results over time.
  • Fix mistakes when you find them. When you see an issue, focus on finding the solution as well as how to avoid having the problem happen again.
  • Empower team members. Everyone on the team must have a say in how things work. This participation engages them more and helps them bring fresh concepts and ideas into the organization.
  • Dive deeper into problems. Rather than settling for quick fixes to satisfy a deadline, spend time getting to the root of the issue. This understanding helps prevent the mistakes from repeating.
  • Get input from different people. It helps to seek insight from others inside the organization as opposed to regularly turning to just one person. This strategy expands the pool of possible solution-bringers to address an issue.
  • Rely on data. Dedicate time to collect, interpret, and report data that will help with decision-making.
  • Keep going forward. Rather than settling for a specific end goal, keep looking for ways to improve things.

Summing Up the Kaizen Six Sigma Processes

So, to review:

  • Six Sigma focuses on quality output, specifically the final product. This product quality is facilitated by finding and eliminating the causes of defects.
  • Lean eliminates waste to boost process speed and quality by reducing process waste.
  • Kaizen improves the entire business by standardizing work methods, increasing efficiency, and reducing business waste.

These methodologies are separate entities with the same goal: process improvement. However, each methodology is sufficiently different and can be combined into a single methodology (e.g., Lean Six Sigma, Kaizen Six Sigma). So, you can use Lean methodology to help achieve Kaizen’s aims.

Also Read: Value Stream Mapping in Six Sigma

The Steps for Implementing Kaizen Lean Six Sigma

The implementation generally differs from organization to organization. Accordingly, there is no standardized process for implementing kaizen events. However, we have identified ten major steps needed in general to implement and benefit from the practice:

  • Define the problem or issue
  • Document the current situation
  • Visualize an optimum situation
  • Define measurement targets
  • Brainstorm the issue’s possible solutions
  • Develop a plan
  • Implement the plan
  • Measure and compare the actual results with the set goals and targets, thus discovering and learning about any variances
  • Prepare documents to summarize the process
  • Create action plans and plans to sustain the process

How to Run a Kaizen Event

Kaizen events can run from one day to several weeks, depending on the event and issue. Frame a tentative schedule before implementation. Here are some steps to consider:

  • Hire or train a facilitator
  • Get management’s commitment and understanding
  • Establish event boundaries
  • Define the event’s purpose
  • Communicate the event to everyone in the organization
  • Select the implementation team
  • Identify performance improvement measures
  • Implement the measures

Why Implement Kaizen?

Here’s a list of benefits that Kaizen Six Sigma brings to the table:

  • It reduces waste
  • It enhances satisfaction at all levels of the organization
  • It increases employee commitment
  • It increases employee and customer retention rates
  • It bestows and maintains a company’s competitive edge

Also Read: Demystifying the Theory of Constraints

Using Kaizen Lean Six Sigma

If you look closely at each methodology’s definition, you will see that each focuses on a slightly different aspect of continuous improvement. Six Sigma uses data and statistics to analyze business processes, assess defects in the final product, and search for ways to eliminate those defects. Kaizen focuses on the human factor, the emotional element, to make small continuous changes that blossom into profound improvements over time. Lean focuses on eliminating waste, so that product quality improves and the process speed increases.

So, much like how in some anime, smaller robots join together to create an unbeatable super-robot, teams can combine Kaizen, Lean, and Six Sigma into a super-methodology that helps the organization dominate the marketplace.

Your organization can create Kaizen events and use Lean and Six Sigma to enhance the effort. For example, Kaizen taps the team members for input on a personal level, and the data collectors assemble the information needed to implement Six Sigma and use Lean methods to ensure that waste is minimized and the process goes smoothly and quickly.

Do You Want to Master Six Sigma?

Now that you have a foundational understanding of Kaizen Lean Six Sigma, it’s time to immerse yourself deeper into Lean Six Sigma itself. This Six Sigma certification online will give you that vital training, helping you to gain an in-depth understanding of Six Sigma.

Collaborating with the University of Massachusetts, Simplilearn helps you master Lean Six Sigma and Lean Six Sigma methodology in six months. The IASSC-accredited bootcamp fast-tracks your potential quality management career. In addition, you will learn valuable industry skills and gain an understanding of practical Lean Six Sigma principles such as:

  • Agile Management
  • Digital Transformation
  • Lean Management
  • Lean Six Sigma Black Belt
  • Lean Six Sigma Green Belt
  • Minitab
  • Quality Management

This course provides live classes delivered by qualified instructors and a capstone Six Sigma project that provides essential real-world experience. Once you finish the course and clear the certification exam, you earn your certificate and join the coveted UMass Amherst Alumni Association.

Glassdoor.com reports that a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt working in the United States makes a yearly average of $104,356. So, sign up today and earn that valuable Six Sigma training certification that today’s organizations are looking for in their candidates. Companies today want Lean Six Sigma-certified professionals who also know Kaizen. Could you be one of them? Sign up today and find out!

You might also like to read:

Six Sigma Methodologies for Process Improvement

DMADV: Everything You Need to Know

Describing a SIPOC Diagram: Everything You Should Know About It

What is Root Cause Analysis and What Does it Do?

Central Limit Theorem Explained

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