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?


NO EXCUSE: Responsibility is not a characteristic

personal responsibility in delivering excellence

Sense of responsibility: one has it, or one doesn’t. There is not a word of truth in this statement. Of course some people have more compassion with their fellows than others do, but there sure are techniques for sharpening your sense of responsibility. So no more excuses!

But what exactly is this sense of responsibility?

Some jobs and the belonging tasks demand for a lot of responsibility. Most of the times, those come together with a lot of money, or sometimes even human lives are at stake. People that own a sense of responsibility are characterized by their alertness. They constantly question themselves: Why is this going wrong? Can I do this, better, faster, or more efficiently? Also, they own the capacity of making decisions on their own, and being independent. Responsible people see it as their duty to watch over the well being of others in their surroundings, and will recognize alarm signals or stress factors in the blink of an eye.  It’s not about reflecting responsibility, but taking responsibility!

Developing your sense of responsibility

In case you would like to develop your sense of responsibility, you will have to learn to shut down your automatically generated thoughts. Irritation is a familiar emotion for you? Do you ever think: “Why is this happening now, again? I even told them so; just let it figure them out by themselves!” ? Then, I would strongly advise you to let go of this frustration and to take the following steps in developing your sense of responsibility.

  • Let go of your narrow-mindedness! This is rather the opposite of responsibility. You don’t want to do tasks that are not in your job description according to you? Then you will not be able to make a splendid career. It is showing lack of responsibility and it will not improve the quality of the product or service that you are delivering.
  • Try to be flexible. Has it ever occurred to you to work some overtime to finish this important order? Shake of this ‘from nine to five’ mentality and try to create some flexibility for making an extra mile. Doing slightly more than is requested for can tremendously boost the quality of your product or service.
  • Don’t forget about the details. Often, the quality of your product or service can be found in the details. To have an eye for details is of major concern for showing that you are taking responsibility for the quality delivered.
  • Be willing to do something for one another. To reach a helping hand to your colleague that is overloaded by work can be very much appreciated. Take responsibility for the organization as a whole and for the well being of your colleague. He won’t forget about it!
  • Don’t forget to share your responsibilities. In case you are afraid to do so, you will hinder yourself and your surroundings for no reason. People with too big of a sense of responsibility are excessively critical and point out to their colleagues what possibly could go wrong. This will give your colleagues a feeling of discomfort and it creates an awkward cooperation. Shake off this feeling of doing it better than others. Think of what actually could go wrong. This hardly ever is a irreparable mistake

Do you dare to take the step of developing a sense of responsibility?

I can help you in developing sense of responsibility by my online Lean Six Sigma trainings. With the help of improvement projects, internal process will be scrutinized to discover which input is of importance for your results. Then it will be determined what would be the best way to monitor this input and to optimize the process, and to deliver the quality that you stand for.

Lean Six Sigma works following a certain project sequence. Each step within the project will be gone through systematically, and according to the DMAIC principle, standing for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control. For each phase, the project team will have to come together to brainstorm and to work out ideas.

But this only works if everybody in the team takes his or her responsibility, doesn’t it?

In case this is not happening, it is of importance for the project and the organization to stop and talk about this issue. Are YOU ready to take your responsibility?

Have a look at my training programs!

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

The choice is yours.

: +31 6 54 69 40 47

Email: michelle@herku.org


How to Apply Lean Six Sigma at Schools?

“David, you have a very busy week ahead. Have you studied for those tests and exams?”

I was a bit worried. He had so much on his plate.

But even to come to this realization, was a journey on itself. As the week passed by and the situation changed, I found enough reason to write about how a school could benefit when applying the principles of Lean Six Sigma.

Principle #1: Customer Focus

First, asking David this last Saturday was easy. Getting the correct overview of his schedule for this week was not easy, because his school diary is not complete.

My son, David is a different student than I was back then. He is dyslectic. Focusing on what the teacher tells about what to do and when, is not easy for him to make good notes on.

When a school wants to improve their service (education) for their customers (girls and boys and their worried parents), they should understand that children like David may need some additional attention to make sure they have the correct notes in their school diaries about exam dates and times.

Teaching him to be self-supportive is good, but the teachers know their pupils and can decide when special support is needed.

Principle #2: Reduce Mistakes

After checking David’s diary we also logged in at the school website to check the test and exams of that week. The layout was not simple. Therefore we spent some time to figure out how it worked. There were many mistakes at the website when compared to David’s diary. Yes, I am objective here, because we checked the past exams against what was at this website.

Like every company, institute or organization, the school should be able to identify mistakes, faulty data, and defects in the output they deliver to their customers.

By applying Lean Six Sigma, the school could be aware of the accuracy of data: exams, content of the tests, times and classes.

Using the Six Sigma part of the methodology, you master how to identify and reduce mistakes in your own work and in others’: http://www.leansixsigmabelts.com/GreenBelt

Going even further: the layout of such websites should be easy to read – even for a dyslectic. ☺

Principle #3: Improve Delivery Performance

After some searching and hard work, finally we got the complete schedule for the week. David could start his preparation. And he had to do it fast. There were lots to do: English grammar, German words, Economy, Mathematics, Physics, a Dutch book presentation and History. As he was preparing day-by-day, the tests were cancelled one after the other. The teachers had no time for the tests they scheduled? What else were they doing?

The worst was the presentation on a book for David’s Dutch class. He prepared himself on King Arthur months and months ago but each time the presentation was postponed. So he had to prepare again, worry about it, get the book again from the library – and pay the late-return penalty.

You get the point: Schools – just like any other company – should work on reliability. Using the LEAN methodology of Lean Six Sigma, you learn how to make the operation go smoother, to not take unnecessary steps, no wastes, no unfulfilled promises. Schools should monitor the cancellations of test, exams and classes. They should identify the main causes and carry out improvements to see the decrease of those issues over time.

One of my private clients – a small machine refurbishing company – increased their on-time-deliver performance from 44% to above 90%.

How about yours?

Are You Interested in the Other 13 Universal Principles That Makes Lean Six Sigma Easily Applicable in Your Own Situation?

– Join our Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt Program for a Rapid Overview: http://www.LeanSixSigmaBelts.com/YellowBelt

– Want to dive into it and use it right away? Get one-on-one real-life coaching for guaranteed results:


– Want to master Lean Six Sigma to Expand Your Career Chances? Go to:


Make greater work.

Warm regards,


What 4 Garbage Trucks Say About Lean Six Sigma?

It is a bit of a hurry each time. I’m not nearly as good as my wife at preparing the kids in the morning. Finally, we make it and get in the car on time.

But there is something else happening every Friday morning: garbage collection.

While many of the fathers (and mothers) rush through the small streets to get their kids to school, the garbage truck blocks the way. Exactly during RUSH HOUR!! Sometimes I take another route the school to avoid the traffic jam caused by the garbage truck, but even then I hit another one. On one Friday I met the truck 4 times between my home, the school and back to my home. Yes, 4 times in one morning! Very annoying.

This made me think about the frequently asked question: “How To Apply Lean Six Sigma?” Obviously, the local authorities do not know Lean Six Sigma because they would ask themselves the question: “How can we serve our customers, the citizens better?” They would realize – during the Define Phase of their Lean Six Sigma project – what the most critical factors are to satisfy their citizens in terms of Quality, Time and Costs. I developed an effective tool for this called Customer Requirement Matrix.

Concerning the Time aspect of the satisfaction, this matrix would show them that although regular collection of garbage is important, the time of the day is less important as long as it does not cause traffic problems. Measuring satisfaction of citizens with respect to garbage collection as the primary metric of the project would show an increase when delaying the time of collection even by 1 hour.

If you want to apply Lean Six Sigma in your work, ask yourself the same question: “How can I serve my customer/client/patient/college better?”

Just think about every aspect of your interaction with your customers.

This is where you start applying Lean Six Sigma.

This is how we do it in our Yellow BeltGreen Belt and Black Belt programs.

Join our programs and you will only spend time on the 20% of the tools that solves 80% of your problems. Forget the rest!

Make greater work.

Warm regards,


Lean Six Sigma Gives You Freedom To Choose

What is your plan for next year?


Are you still in your current job? Do you like it?


Or would you like to make a big step in your career. Maybe you are tired of the daily hassle and you would like to do something totally different.


You’ve spent maybe 5-10-20 years in your industry but you just cannot imagine yourself retiring from your current job.


It is not that you hate your work but you would like new challenges.  Maybe in a different industry.


Money may be important, but it’s not your primary motivation. Perhaps you’re satisfied with your current salary of $35,000 – $ 70,000 but you see the limitations. Earning $ 100 K is a little out of reach for now.


Getting out of your current job and do something really different with an reasonable $100 K or  more is actually what you want.


But how to get there?


You might be paralyzed by the idea of going for a business education program like MBA (Master of Business Administration).


You just don’t have $20,000 – $30,000 to spend and 3 or more years to study and HOPE you can monetize your efforts once…


Personally I would prefer something quicker, practical and cheaper…


I was in the same situation a few years ago.


While studied Chemical Engineering, working for 12 years in Finance, completing my MBA to broaden my chances…still I was not happy.


After getting my Black Belt Certification in Lean Six Sigma doors went open.


And you can get certified as a Black Belt in Lean Six Sigma in 1/3 of the time for 87% less


Actually even during my Black Belt training I was exposed to ALL kinds of business problems that had absolutely nothing to do with my prior education nor with my working experience.


My very first Lean Six Sigma project was in production: reduce size variation of a semi-finished product made of yarn.

  • I have never learnt about how to produce that semi finished product
  • I have never worked together on a specific project with machine operators
  • I have never been exposed to solving a production problem


Applying Lean Six Sigma method, following the 5 phases (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control) I was able to achieve significant improvements in 6 months:


  • Variation in spiral size reduced for both width and thickness with resp. 26% and 42%
  • Defect rate reduced from 21% to 4% (target was: 7%)
  • Process was simplified
  • Hard savings: $112,500 per year


Do you want to learn Lean Six Sigma and enjoy the freedom to solve almost ANY business problems without any prior knowledge or experience?


Join the Lean Six Sigma Black Belt Certification Program starting on 16th of January 2012


Would you like to know more about the certification program, send me your question to peter.herku@gmail.com


Warm regards,


        +31 55 737 00 02