The driver in Lean, the core about which the system is built, is Kaizen – a continuous improvement system where everyone in the company is involved in small teams, working on small changes. The systems various people/companies fixate upon, such as Just In Time, 5S, kanban, pull manufacture, poke yoke, jodoka, etc, are all individual techniques which are established systems with Lean, and which are appropriate all depends on your business processes; but the beating heart of the system is Kaizen. If you work away at all areas for improvement within a company, if you support it properly and if you keep going for long enough, you WILL be into the realms of excellence.

  • If you are looking for excellence in the automotive world you are bound to choose full blown Lean because your customers will demand it of you. 
  • If either you supply certain of the giants from the aerospace world, or the other of the main users of Six Sigma across industry, you are likely to adopt the Lean Sigma hybrid. Either because your customers want you to adopt their systems or because you don’t ‘see’ the full potential of Kaizen.
  •  For the rest of us the main determinant of which way you try to strive for excellence is the culture of your organisation; but regardless, most recoil from the investment in time and money required.
  • My main caveat with Lean Sigma is that a company’s management normally forms the DMAIC teams that equate to the Kaizen teams investigating individual issues. If management knew what the issues were in the first place the issues would not have arisen. 

For the majority of organisations operating outside of the manufacturing world from when these systems sprung (which means the vast majority of companies now in the UK) the key determinant of ‘good’ (getting the basics right) and key driver of excellence (getting all your staff harnessed in continuous improvement) remain the same.

Categories: Change