What is Lean Six Sigma? - Your Essential Guide to Lean Six Sigma

Your Essential Guide to the Process Improvement Methodologies of Lean and Six Sigma

Lean and Six Sigma are two process improvement methodologies which, when used together become an extremely powerful business transformational strategy.

Businesses all over Ireland are adopting Lean Six Sigma to maximise their organisation’s potential, increase team morale and effectiveness, and minimise waste and downtime.

This article will give you an overview of what Lean and Six Sigma are all about, outline how you can get started with process improvement in your working environment, and point you in the direction of more helpful articles.

You can also download our Essential Guide to Lean Six Sigma PDF to keep as a handy reference as you begin your Lean Six Sigma journey.

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Understanding Lean Six Sigma

Lean Six Sigma Characteristics

What is the difference between Lean and Six Sigma?

Lean and Six Sigma are separate methodologies. They originated in different places and at different times, and they can be used independently.

To understand why they are so dynamic together, let’s look at them individually, and then combined.

What is Lean?

What is Lean?

Origins of Lean

The concept of “lean manufacturing” and eliminating waste from processes has been around since before the 20th century. However, lean as we know it today was established in the early 1990s, growing from the TPS (Toyota Production System).

Lean started out in the manufacturing sector, as an approach for streamlining production by eliminating any unnecessary or wasteful elements of the production process.

However, lean has travelled far from its origins and is now widely implemented in all industries.

How Does Lean Work?

Lean targets waste, eliminating anything that is “non-value add” to your processes. Using the 8 wastes as a guiding point, a lean approach will consider all elements and stages within a process, and carefully determine which parts of the process are value-add and essential to quality and productivity, and which elements are considered ‘waste’.

The 8 Wastes

What are the 8 Wastes?

  • Defects
  • Over-production
  • Waiting
  • Non-utilised talent
  • Transportation
  • Inventory
  • Motion
  • Extra-processing

What is Six Sigma?

What is Six Sigma?

Origins of Six Sigma

Six sigma was first introduced within Motorola in 1986. Its name refers to a statistical concept on the number of defects per million repetitions of a process, or outputs of a product. Six sigma is a goal to work towards, the ideal low level of variations and defects per million opportunities (DPMO).

How Does Six Sigma Work?

Many refer to Six Sigma as “problem solving”. Six Sigma is used to identify flaws, variations, or defects in a process, and to correct them.

Using the DMAIC Cycle (Define, Measure, Analyse, Implement, Control), a process can be mapped and analysed to identify and resolve issues or flaws.

The DMAIC Cycle
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How do Lean and Six Sigma work together?

You can see how both lean and six sigma would be very effective used alone. The characteristics listed above show that these methodologies could compliment each other very well.

Let’s look at what they can achieve when they are combined...

What are the Benefits of Lean Six Sigma?

Less, More, Better, Faster

You'll gain so many benefits from correctly implementing lean six sigma. We’ve grouped the highlights below to give you an overview.

  • Less Waste, Defects & Variation
  • Lower Costs
  • More Savings
  • Increased Profits
  • Improved Efficiency
  • Higher Team Engagement
  • Better Processes
  • Consistent Quality
  • Shorter Cycle Times
  • Problem Solving Skills
  • Faster Lead Times
  • Increased Capacity

Lean Six Sigma Roles

Lean six sigma roles help to establish a structure for your process improvement projects and strategy.

There are several different roles, and without a little explanation, it’s impossible to know where you want to channel your energy.

Let’s summarise the roles:

White Belt

A White Belt has an understanding of how Lean Six Sigma works, and can use the terminology to communicate potential issues or relevant points to those working on process improvement projects.

Yellow Belt

Yellow Belts have a strong foundation in Lean Six Sigma. They understand how it works, and can contribute to process improvement projects, reporting to and supporting Green Belts.

Green Belt

Green Belts can manage process improvement projects. They have a confident understanding of Lean Six Sigma and the capability to implement it successfully.

Black Belt

Those trained and certified at Black Belt level drive cross-functional process improvement projects. They take savings and improvements to the next level and function as a mentor to white, yellow, and green belts.

Master Black Belt

Master Black Belts are very advanced at Lean Six Sigma implementation. They work cross-level with Green Belts and leadership teams to strategise and lead process improvement across the organisation.


Successful lean depends on leadership commitment. A champion is someone who is part of the organisation’s leadership team, who has fully invested in nurturing and supporting a lean six sigma culture.

Getting Started with Lean Six Sigma

To get started on your Lean Six Sigma journey, you can take either of the paths below.

You can choose a path focusing on lean six sigma training and certifying in Lean Six Sigma as an individual, or one designed to introduce or progress a lean six sigma culture in your organisation.

Path 1: Training & Certifying as an Individual

Public Training Courses

We offer 2 public lean six sigma courses, with dates available throughout the year. Each focuses on meeting you wherever you are on your lean six sigma path.

Certified Lean Six Sigma Green Belt for Business

This course runs almost every month in Dublin, and no experience is required to attend. Over 5 days, you’ll gain a strong understanding of Lean Six Sigma, and learn how to actively contribute to process improvement projects in any environment.

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International Lean Six Sigma Black Belt

If you have experience in process improvement, and want to gain a more advanced understanding and capability, our black belt programme may be the perfect choice. Over 4 short, intensive instalments we cover the skills and knowledge needed to drive continuous improvement at Black Belt level.

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Path 2: Lean Six Sigma and Your Organisation

Lean six sigma in-company training usually requires a more tailored approach. Our training consultants are skilled in creating customised lean six sigma training solutions that align with the unique requirements of each client.

In-Company Training Solution

We provide a full range of lean six sigma in-company workshops and certified courses. Click below to find out more about the kind of courses we offer, or to request your in-company training quotation.

Other Helpful Articles

If you'd like to learn more about lean, six sigma, and process improvement, the articles below will give you a variety of perspectives.

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