How To Increase Efficiency with Lean Six Sigma?

Increased efficiency is the subject that most managers and business owners are interested in. Especially nowadays, when resources are getting less and you have to do more with less.

If you talk about increasing your company’s efficiency, you want …

  1. To do MORE with the same number of people OR
  2. You want to deliver the same output but with LESS people

but before I go in more detail, let me tell you this:

Last week I was in Austria where I’ve “trained the trainers”. We had one week session with Lean Six Sigma Black Belts from Europe and US from a multinational machine constructing company. My aim was to transfer my view on how to apply Lean Six Sigma effectively and efficiently.

During our brainstorming discussion we could all share the same bad experience where a company wanted to become efficient before becoming effective. We came up with a long list of mistakes that can be made during improvement-program implementation.

It was all linked to one thing: if you want to be a better company using Lean Six Sigma, first you have to decide where you need to focus your improvement efforts. Otherwise you will achieve short term improvements that will maybe forgotten within 6-12 month. Don’t waste your time!

So in case you missed my previous article, please read first about being effective = Do The Right Things.

Now we will discuss how Lean Six Sigma will help you to become an efficient organization = Do Things Right.

After you’ve identified your main challenges – performing behind your main objectives – you have to identified now improvement projects that will help you getting closer to your objectives.

Improvement projects can be of different kind. My main categories are very simple: Lean, Six Sigma and Just-do-it.

Just-do-it projects are to just do it: you know the problem, you’re sure about how to fix it. So just fix it asap.


  • Purchasing projects where you want to reduce your purchasing expenses
  • Outsourcing certain activities
  • Maintenance issues

If your biggest challenge is time or speed, you will identify LEAN projects.


  • Increase output of machine / department
  • Reduce waiting time at machine / process step
  • Eliminate process steps that adds no value e.g. moving, transporting, passing around docs, etc.
  • Reduce complexity in handling certain activities

When you want to improve the quality of your product, service by reducing variation in the output, then we are talking about SIX SIGMA projects.


  • Reducing defects and mistakes
  • Reducing variation in certain quality characteristics / dimensions
  • Increasing the predictability of process output
  • Removing special causes (unusual events) in a process

To summarize: be first effective and then be efficient. First decide where do you want to focus on and then improve those area’s applying by doing Lean, Six Sigma projects or Just-do-it ones.

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