Does Lean + Six Sigma = Lean Six Sigma?

Every now and then you hear something that impacts you so profoundly, that you have share it. Such is the case with the recent LeanBlog Podcast by Mark Graban, podcaster and interviewer extraordinaire. In episode 264 of LeanBlog Podcast, (See link below) Mark interviews Tyrone Butler, Managing Parter of Butler Active Business Solutions.

Podcast #264 – Tyrone Butler on Lean, Six Sigma, ITIL & More

Besides being an Executive Master Black Belt (Tyrone explains what that is), Tyrone isAi??possiblyAi??the most passionate person, I’ve ever heard on ANY podcast. As a long-time listener of the LeanBlog Podcast and follower of Mark Graban’s LeanBlog posts, I know that Mr. Graban has certain vices, especially when it comes to people declaring that “Lean is for speed and Six Sigma is for quality”. So I was especially fascinated when he decided to publish an hour-long interview with a Six Sigma Master Black Belt.

Throughout this excellent podcast Mr. Butler is very open about several of the companies he has worked for and with, what his background is and he freely discusses many of his successes and failures. He has so much passion that at times it seems at times like he is yellingAi??Billy Mays Style. It’s not the passion or the stories that impacted me the most, although they definitely kept me tuned in for the full hour, it was the ending, the final minutes of the podcast…that is where it hit home for me.

lssAs a student with only 11 years of Lean experience butAi??only a little over a year of experience with the Six Sigma methodology, I am constantly learning. My Mentor & Master Black Belt taught me that 6 Sigma can have huge impacts, but you must already have in place a culture of standard work. This teaching was not what I expected in a 6 sigma course, but was completely in line with my 11 years of Lean learning. My Master Black Belt claims most daily problems are not going to require hypothesis testing or some sort of regression analysis. Most daily problems we need to: 1) understand the root cause, 2) identify the gap that exists today, 3) develop the countermeasures to address the problem and 4) create the standard work to prevent the problem from happening again.

As someone who is passionate about improvement in all forms (TOC, Lean & Six Sigma), I listened extra carefully at the end of the conversation between Butler and Graban as the conversation steered toward the roles that each of the methodologies play.Ai??My Master Black Belt’s words were in the back of my mind as I pressed forward in the podcast. I was shocked when Tyrone said almost verbatim the exact same thing that my MBB told me! To him, Lean Six Sigma is “not a 50/50” split of Lean & Six Sigma, in his opinion it is more like an “80/20 split” lean to six sigma. You need to create and train to the standard work, before you can start statistically analyzing the process.

I know in many camps Lean & Six Sigma are an “us against them” proposition and I am still learning daily how the two “work together”. It is becoming more and more clear to me that having 6 sigma level of control over a process that cannot meet takt time (for example) is not doing anyone any good. Hearing the advice of Mr. Butler and how closely the mirrored the experiences of my own personal mentor, validated my learning. It also reminded me of a quote often attributed to Taiichi Ohno, “Where there is no standard you cannot have kaizen”.

Keep learning and keep improving,



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