Lean Six Sigma

Lean Management, Six Sigma, Lean Six Sigma and my approach – what are the differences?

Lean Management, Six Sigma, Lean Six Sigma and my approach – what are the differences?

Recently, during one of my webinars I got this question: What are the differences between LEAN (Lean management, Lean Manufacturing), Six Sigma, Lean Six Sigma and HerkuLess® – the way I apply Lean Six Sigma?

First about the similarities

Before I go into explaining the differences, let’s talk about the relation between these methods.

They have all one major purpose: to change YOU.

Yes, you! To change how you think, how you work, how you work with others, how you detect problems, how you solve problems, how you set goals and how you achieve them, how you try out new approaches and fail and what you do then.

Changing you and your colleagues on a big scale – like company-wide – causes the company culture to change. To achieve this transformation, there are several factors which play an important role; such as leadership commitment and involvement, focus, communication, tool- or culture-focused implementation, short-term vs long-term orientation in decision-making, just to name a few.

Where is the method left from this list? The choice of the method plays a secondary role to the above-mentioned factors. So why bother?

Because company culture does not change if YOU do not change. Change begins with you. And that is my personal mission to inspire and to help you make that change.

LEAN, Six Sigma, Lean Six Sigma, HerkuLess® and many other methods are providing lots of help, structure, tools, insights to help you make the change. So let’s start with these methods.

The Differences

This short analysis is giving you only the most obvious differences and it is not a comprehensive analysis. The definitions I describe are my own words, the way I explain it during my training and webinars are based on my own experiences.

By giving you this short comparison I hope you will be able to decide what to apply in your situation.


Definition: A method to remove waste (non-value-added steps and activities) from all processes, to concentrate on what the customer values. The non-value-added steps are steps that when you remove them, the customer would not even notice it.

Example: Think about overproduction, overprocessing, waiting time, defects, movements, transportation, etc. At the end it comes down to reducing process lead times, saving time and, of course, money.

Pro’s: easy tools to use with lots of visualisation. Achieve quick wins because solution is obvious: “in your face”.

Cons: use of data is not always encouraged, solving complex problems with many factors and their interactions is not easy with LEAN tools.

Conclusion: a great way to improve any business.

Six Sigma

Definition: Much less known compared to LEAN but it is a method to improve the quality of the process output by reducing variation, therefore enabling you to better match customer’s expectations and moving the average to the desired direction.

Example: scrap rate (products outside specification divided by total produced) may vary by day, by shift, by product group, by supplier, etc. This gives unpredictability of the output, eg. “are we going to produce enough good items to fulfil the order?”

Pros: Strong data-driven and structured approach going through the same phases with every project (called DMAIC: Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve and Control). Able to solve complex problems proving mathematical correlations between factors and their interactions.

Cons: Heavily loaded with statistics, therefore creating distance between practitioners (Black Belts and Green Belts) and project team members (Yellow Belts) and the work floor. Projects tend to have longer lead times compared to LEAN. Often combined with hierarchy among practitioners (including Master Black Belt and Deployment Manager) and lengthy training periods (I had 5 weeks of full-time Black Belt training), which requires significant investments only big companies can afford.

Conclusion: great tools and excellent project structure. It is worth the investment.

Lean Six Sigma

Definition: it combines the best of both worlds by being able to reduce both lead times (LEAN) and improving quality (Six Sigma).

Example: scrap rate needs to be controlled and reduced (Six Sigma) and by doing so, we reduce the time we need to produce the required amount (LEAN). We do not have to “re-process” or produce in excess and store, because we are able to do it right first time.

Pros: Powerful combination of both concepts because business challenges almost always deal with both elements: Lead-time is affected by quality and vice versa (see our scrap rate example). It can deliver quick results with a LEAN approach, but can also solve complex issues when more data-driven tools are needed.

Cons: It still requires a lot of knowledge of tools and statistics. After my 5 weeks of full-time training I had no idea where to start with my project. I did not know for sure whether I needed to use SIPOC, a Value-stream-map or just a flow chart. I also had difficulties with explaining statistics and Design-of-experiment results to my team from the shop-floor. The duration of projects due to this “search in the toolbox” did not match the magnitude of the project results either.

Conclusion: I think you know by now that I would rather use Lean Six Sigma to be able to identify and solve both time and quality related challenges.

My approach using Lean Six Sigma

Definition: I use only 20% of the most effective tools and techniques from Lean Six Sigma solving 80% of your problems and challenges.

I have selected no more than 10 tools from the 100+ of the Lean Six Sigma arsenal (so actually it is not 80/20 but 90/10 rule) that are effective and powerful, yet easy to use by anybody in the company.

Example: I choose to draw the current process on a white-board together with the project team, discussing the bottle-neck and the risks at each step instead of using SIPOC or VSM. Let the team together decide where the biggest problem is and explain it why. Using data for the baseline will still visualise the performance and show improvement later in the project.

Other example: I do not spend time on calculating DPMO (defects per million opportunities) and Sigma-level because by calculating % of defects (= number of off-spec items/total produced) I will get the same information and people are more familiar with % then Sigma-levels or Z-scores.

Pros: I use the structure of Six Sigma DMAIC, so you always know where you are in your project and what to do next. The tools at each phase are easy to use, enabling your whole team to fully understand them and support the work. Whether it is a lead-time issue or a quality problem, you solve both with the same tools, following the same steps in the project. You can easily see the progress on the project and compare it with other projects.

I use HerkuLess® to run Lean Six Sigma projects.

Cons: more focus on low-hanging fruits, the quick wins instead of on big, radical changes. In HerkuLess® you have run charts with control limits and spec limits, Pareto-analysis, Scatter plots and regression analysis, but you may need to upload your other Minitab statistics (ANOVA, DOE results, MSA, etc).

Conclusion: If you want faster project execution with standardised documentation of the project, hand-picked tools that are easy to use so that you can spend more time on the HUMAN part of the business challenge instead of the tool/technical side, then why don’t you give HerkuLess® a try?


The mathematical formula and my relation with Lean Six Sigma

102y_x_istock_12458021_medium_400_0It could be something that you see every day. The eye-opener. The image that makes it click. For me it was the formula that I could have already dreamed since high school: y = f(x). It means that y is a function of x. The value of y varies depending on the value of x.

During an introductory-workshop on Lean Six Sigma a consultant from the Six Sigma Academy explained this principle by means of that function I had already seen a hundred thousand times.

In every corporate process you have factors such as people, knowledge, money and means. Combining these eventually brings results. It’s just that simple. But usually we don’t search hard enough for the biggest determining factors that have an effect on the outcome.

Not every factor has a large influence. It changes from project to project and process to process. That’s what’s it about with Lean Six Sigma: what are the factors that influence our work and the results we get? What is the quality? How large is the efficiency?

You can look at it on several different levels, macro level, business level, process level or on personal level. That interested me. I wanted to do more with it.

And it remained like that until this day. Since 2008 I’ve worked with CEO’s, managers, professionals from all kinds of industries to help them end their employees work in a proactive way on continuous performance improvements.

How about you? Start here.

More for less with Lean Six Sigma for Healthcare

More for less with Lean Six Sigma for Healthcare

Written by Cheryse Fortuin63iStock_000023771470Medium_400_0_1024

Meet Denise. Denise is a real ‘people person’ with a passion for her job as caretaker. She adores her clients and even the less glamorous tasks she performs with love. When her clients are happy, she is happy. However, in the last few months she has been forced to realize that, like many of her colleagues, she has lost precious time on administration — and that makes no one happy.

To keep afloat in the current economic climate every business and organization has to be bold enough to take a serious look at their own processes. It is the only way to always stay one step ahead of budget cuts without losing productivity or quality.

Are you working in Healthcare and feel responsible for the quality of your work?

With Lean Six Sigma for Healthcare you can improve it.

Herku mainly services health care institutions and businesses, helping them develop a crisis proof business strategy by changing the corporate culture from the inside. Working with both managers and caretakers, Herku develops processes that will not only increase quality and save costs in the long run, but will also create more time for clients.

To achieve this Herku uses a unique combination of the improvement methods Lean and Six Sigma that has been specifically optimized for the health care industry.

Lean was developed by Toyota and aims to eliminate unnecessary actions from the process. In other words, it concentrates on efficiency and time saving.

Six Sigma on the other hand is designed to increase the quality and predictability of the outcome, irrespective of the people involved.

The wonderful thing about these methods is that the basic principles are not restricted by time of fashion, and therefore they are perfectly applicable in other industries, such as health care.

Herku works according to the five stages defined by Six Sigma, called DMAIC (define, measure, analyze, improve, control). In every stage the input from the team is key; after all, they are the only ones who are truly familiar with the in’s and out’s of the problems at hand.

Herku provide on the job advice; they guide and guard the entire process from beginning to end and help to bring complex issues down to the core.

Often times, as an organization it is difficult to see the forest for the trees and identify the true causes of a problem — let alone deal with them. This is where our professional consultants are of great value. Instead of simply giving you a solution to the problem, we will give you insight into the causes. Whoever wants to effectively remove the weeds ultimately has to pull out the roots along with the plant.

If we are honest we have to admit change does not happen in a day. More often than not it is complicated, messy and unpleasant. At Herku we take the time — time to talk, time to adjust, time to continually improve, even ourselves.

Would you like to know more about Lean Six Sigma for Healthcare, how to get certified, please comment below.

How to improve the results of an ICT Servicedesk with Lean Six Sigma

What if the customers of your ICT Servicedesk are satisfied, but your employees’ ambitions need to increase? Every ICT Servicedesk’s service should be to make sure its customers can be served with more efficient and services of higher quality. To concretize this mission, and to run the project, one could use the method Lean Six Sigma.

This article describes what one could to do improve the efficiency and quality of an ICT Servicedesk, structurally and with a long-term result, with the help of Lean Six Sigma.

The combination of efficiency and quality makes Lean Six Sigma the perfect method for running this project. Lean Six Sigma is actually aimed at optimizing the added value for customers, by reducing waste. By doing so, the quality of the service will increase and costs will go down.

Operator concentrating on client

A Lean Six Sigma Project

A Lean Six Sigma project consists of five phases (DMAIC), which stand for:

  • Define phase: Define the goal
  • Measure phase: Determine the current achievements.
  • Analyze phase: Identify the main causes of the problem
  • Improve phase: Select and Implement the solutions
  • Control phase: Verify and Control the results.


Define & Measure

These phases are aimed at determining the goal of the improvement and the current process achievements. In this case, improving customer satisfaction and efficiency will be the goals for the project. However, what’s maybe the most important in running a Lean Six Sigma project is that the employees themselves need to see the need for improvement.



This phase in the Lean Six Sigma project has the aim of identifying the main causes that could be a bottleneck for increasing customer satisfaction and efficiency. This will all be done on the basis of process- and data information. Process information will be gathered from the chain. In this case, the chain exists of employees of the ICT Servicedesk, chain partners and suppliers. By means of an interactive workshop the main causes will be identified via an Ishikawa diagram.



The aim of this phase would be to select and implement solutions for the problem. Together with the employees of the ICT Servicedesk, a brainstorm to find solutions for the main causes has taken place.

Accordingly, solutions have to be prioritized to select the most effective ones. After selection, the ICT Management should be requested for the ‘GO’ for implementing the solutions.



After identification that the solutions are effectivie, ofcourse an ICT department would want to maintain this improved level of customer satisfaction, if not even more increase. To secure the improved level, a coachproces and documentation proces could be developed to let employees extend their improvements and even enlarge them.


Are you interested in the methodology? Have a look at my programs!

You can also contact me for some more information on the topic or for informal advice.

Phone: +31 6 55 301094

Email: peter@herku.org

Lean versus Six Sigma

Lean Six Sigma

Which of both improvement methods is the better one?

This article focuses on two of the major business improvemen

t methodologies, namely Lean and Six Sigma. It points out the differences and discusses which method would be best for using today.

The Difference between Lean and Six Sigma

A Lean project can be done when the main causes are known, but the solutions are complex. Lean projects can be completed within 45 days and focus mainly on the elimination of waste. Among the tools that can be used to complete the Lean project are, Poka Yoke and Pareto Analysis. Six Sigma projects on the other hand, are done when the main causes are unknown and the solutions are complex. These projects can range from 3-6 months, while the focus lies on variation reduction. The main structured methodology to carry out a Six Sigma project would be the D-M-A-I-C structure, which stands for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control. So to wrap up, in a situation where the cause is Unknown and the Solution is complex Six Sigma is supposed to be used, and in a situation where the causes are known but the solution is complex a lean methodology is used.

How did Lean and Six Sigma come to existence 

During the late 1980s and early 90s Lean and Six Sigma became of great importance. The world had started globalizing. Process automation in all sectors reached its peak and due to globalization, demand was high and supply was comparatively less. As globalization started to evolve, increa

sing economic transactions globally enhanced trade and there was no sign of recession.

So the factors that required the rise of Lean and Six Sigma are:

  • Automations led to an larger output, but also to more waste
  • Therefore, resource optimization was essential and afocus on waste was important
  • So, the focus shifted from ‘output based thinking’ to ‘input based thinking’
  • Also, there was a need for a quick response tot the market
  • But multiple suppliers led to management issues and operational delays
  • So, processes were people dependent and a strong focus on a process oriented approach was required

So what is most important method for today: Lean or Six Sigma?

As mentioned before, Lean normally shouldn’t take more than 45 days, while Six Sigma projects can last for about 3 or 4 months for a successful round up. Therefore, the need for something somewhat faster and more customer-oriented emerged.

This brings us to the new trend nowadays: Lean Six Sigma –

a combination of both Lean and Six Sigma. These projects are completed quickly and the focus lies on innovative thinking. Customer orientation is the only priority of this combination of methods. These kinds of projects can last from about 1 month up to 3 months. A data driven approach is used wherever data is available to the project team and customer value will be identified to the max.

Both Lean and Six Sigma are great methodologies, which make an even greater methodology when combined to serve customer needs.

Are you interested in the methodology? Have a look at my programs!

You can also contact me for some more information on the topic or for some advice.

Phone: +31 6 54 69 40 47

Email: michelle@herku.org