Are We Bastardizing Six Sigma with Lean?

Are We Bastardizing Six Sigma with Lean?

Got an email from one of my friends in the Six Sigma community about combining Lean with Six Sigma into a “bastardized” version of both. Here’s the email:

Jay- thank you for publically stating how Lean and Six Sigma are different yet, how they are gravitating toward each other because of their complimentary areas of focus. I can’t tell you how many times I have had this “discussion” with practitioners in the field who view them as competing or mutually exclusive disciplines. That is unbelievably counter productive and perpetuates the flavor of the week urban legend.

When I interviewed for my current job the interviewer said that (I am paraphrasing) he was waiting to see which one wins out in reference to all of these quality programs that are “out there.” That included ToC, SS, lean, TQM not to mention the many standards that are sometimes required like ISO, Baldridge, Shingo etc. My response to him was if you are waiting on that then you will be waiting a long time. In another interview I gave a presentation of several projects that I had successfully lead. The high level VP of this large company say “so you used a bastardized version of Six Sigma” (his words not mine).

To which I replied “it is critical that the tools used are tailored to fit the organizations needs.”

I am on a soapbox and I’m sure you have heard it before but I want to say thanks because we need visible leaders in this field like you to be vocal and dispel these destructive myths.


Mike Alumbaugh, Director of Operations


Are you using a one-size-fits-all approach to improvement? Are you ignoring Lean and evangelizing Six Sigma? Are you using Lean and ignoring Six Sigma? Wouldn’t it be smarter to tailor the tools to fit the problem?

So stop using tools you don’t need (waste) and start using only the tools that serve the problem. Stop trying to fit manufacturing examples to healthcare and vice versa. Stop trying to teach every tool to everyone when most of them only need the “Magnificent Seven Tools” of Lean Six Sigma to get breakthrough improvement.