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DCE Magazine

Lean Six Sigma in the Time of COVID

Winter 2021

Businesses looking to do more with less are turning to this proven system of process excellence more than ever.

Doing more with less has become a theme of our transformed, COVID-impacted world, whether it’s finding ways to maximize backyard staycations or grocery hauls that can stretch for weeks. When it comes to meeting the myriad challenges facing the business world, amplifying limited resources can be especially impactful — and an essential lifeline.

That’s where Lean Six Sigma comes in, a highly effective system of process and product excellence that was a gold standard even in the Before Times. Now it’s more critical than ever, and isn’t it fitting in today’s world that managing “downtime” is a key feature of how it all comes together?

“Yes, arguably, Lean Six Sigma is needed more than ever as an option for organizations struggling during this pandemic,” said Scott Thor, instructor for DCE’s Lean Six Sigma programs. “In many cases the organizations that are struggling can do little to increase revenue, but they have greater control over costs, and that is where Lean Six Sigma really shines.”

In a nutshell, the first step is identifying key processes that are most critical to achieving the core goals of the business. “Generally, there are fewer than 10 to 15 of these key processes in a typical organization,” Thor said. “Once they’ve been determined, the next step is mapping them out from start to finish from a high level to provide a visual perspective on what happens and who does what in the process.”

That lays the foundation for concrete action, working as a team to streamline the key processes and eliminate waste that’s bogging them down and keeping them from functioning at maximum efficiency. That’s when a Lean tool called DOWNTIME comes into play — an acronym to help identify typical areas of waste.

  • Defects
  • Overproduction
  • Waiting
  • Not using people well
  • Transportation
  • Inventory
  • Motion
  • Excess Processing

None of these waste types has any value, and by reducing or eliminating them a business can significantly reduce the time and cost it takes to run everyday operations. “A streamlined process is simply one with minimal DOWNTIME,” Thor said.

Scott Thor

“The program is intended for anyone who wants to help create positive change in their organization and advance their career, including current professionals, recent grads and career changers.” Scott Thor

There’s much more to Lean Six Sigma, of course, and the benefits can reach far and wide throughout an organization. While most might think of it as simply a cold, scientific method of amplifying efficiency, turns out it also helps create a more contented and even joyful workplace culture, Thor added.

“Another key benefit is that Lean Six Sigma provides a mechanism to create greater joy in the work employees do each day. Gallup reports that only around 30% of American workers are engaged in their work. In other words, only three out of 10 workers look forward to going to work most days. This obviously has negative effects on an organization’s performance.”

Waste and inefficiency can create problems in the workplace, which is a key reason for worker disengagement. And disengagement is simply bad for business.

“Who wants to work in an organization that’s wasteful and littered with problems? Lean Six Sigma helps to reduce problems and increase more smiling employees, which leads to more smiling customers and a more engaging workplace.”

Earn your belt

Lean Six Sigma is actually a combination of two science-based methods: Lean, which originated at Motorola, maximizes productivity by identifying and eliminating sources of waste that don’t add value to a company; Six Sigma, a product of Toyota, is a proven system to improve measurable results in an organization.

Having complementary objectives, they eventually coupled to become the gold standard in product and process excellence — as well as career advancement. Students of Lean Six Sigma can earn Green and Black Belts, to designate their level of training and expertise. Each belt empowers professionals to take organizations to the next level by maximizing performance and accomplishing targeted goals such as improving customer service or increasing shareholder value.

“The key difference between the belts is in the career aspirations of the student,” Thor said. “For most, a green belt certification is more than enough to apply processimprovement techniques to any career. Generally, a green belt student is focused on moving into management, getting promoted to a leadership position.”

The gold standard

The Lean Six Sigma programs provide Green and Black Belt training that launches candidates on the fast track to master this dynamic skillset, much in demand by today’s organizations who turn to Lean Six Sigma training to ensure their competitive edge, improve services, and build the skill base needed to sustain continued performance improvement.

The program is intended for anyone who wants to help create positive change in their organization and advance their career, Thor said, including current professionals, recent grads and career changers. Demand for well-trained candidates spans virtually all industries, with more than 2.3 million job openings in 2019. And median annual salary ranges from $100K up to $234K for highly experienced pros.

“A couple of key industries with high demand now are IT and healthcare,” Thor said. “Technology is an increasing element to organizational success, and while it makes work easier, it often comes with a lot of complexity, which leads to problems. The same can be said for healthcare where more people than ever have access to services, but the number of healthcare professionals hasn’t kept pace.”

Especially in the healthcare industry, when you’re trying to help more people without the ability to add more doctors, nurses and other service providers, Lean Six Sigma can be an essential tool for doing more with less. “Not to mention produce fewer medical mistakes that can cost lives.”

Learn more about the Lean Six Sigma programs.