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7 Core Lean Six Sigma Principles

19th Jan, 2024
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    7 Core Lean Six Sigma Principles

    The Six Sigma methodology is a business improvement strategy aiming to produce near-perfect results by minimizing defects and maximizing efficiency. The name "Six Sigma" comes from the statistical term for standard deviation, which is a measure of how far a set of data points deviates from the mean.

    The Six Sigma approach seeks to reduce variation in process outputs by identifying and eliminating the root causes of defects. Six Sigma works on the principle of including tools and techniques for process improvement, such as statistical analysis and process mapping. Six Sigma is typically implemented by organizations in a top-down fashion, with executive leadership championing the initiative and setting ambitious goals for the organization to achieve. 

    Lean Six Sigma combines the Lean and Six Sigma rules and methodologies. It uses the best aspects to create a more efficient and effective business process. Lean Six Sigma is a data-driven approach that relies on statistical methods to improve operations. With the help of Six Sigma and lean manufacturing principles, lean Six Sigma aims to reduce defects in a circle to less than 3.4 per million opportunities. Several Best Lean Six Sigma courses help students understand more about the Six Sigma lean concepts. 

    What are the Six Sigma Principles? 

    what are six sigma principles

    The Six Sigma principles are guidelines that help organizations improve their business processes. Six Sigma is a data-driven approach that seeks to find and eliminate errors to improve quality and efficiency. The concept uses key principles of Six Sigma to reduce defects and increase the profitability of a business. Moreover, lean Six Sigma concepts and principles become clearer and more precise during the Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Certification training.

    There are two Six Sigma methodologies: DMAIC and DMADV. DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) is an improvement methodology used when a process needs to meet desired performance levels. DMADV (Define, Measure, Analyze, Design, Verify) is a design methodology used when creating or improving a process.

    To achieve Six Sigma, businesses must establish a clear goal or target. They then must collect and analyze data to identify any errors or problems. Once the issues have been identified, they can be fixed or improved. Finally, the process must be monitored and controlled to maintain the improvements. These functions are carried out successively and are known as Six Sigma principles.

    There are seven Lean Six Sigma principles: 

    • Focus on Your Customer 
    • Make the Process Flow Smoother 
    • Waste Reduction 
    • Eliminate Variations 
    • Undertake Improvements in a Systematic Process 
    • Equip People in Process 
    • Understand the Real WorkFlow

    These principles are designed to help organizations achieve their desired outcomes by eliminating waste and reducing variation. They can be applied to any process in any industry to achieve continuous improvement. For a better understanding of the 7 principles of Lean Six Sigma, consider the explanation of each of the following points below.

    1. Focus on your Customer 

    The first of seven Lean Six Sigma guiding principles is to focus on your customer's needs. It means you should always consider your customer's needs when designing or improving a process. This principle is also known as customer-centricity. By keeping your customer's needs at the forefront of your mind, you can ensure that your strategy is designed to meet their needs and that any improvements you make will also improve their experience. 

    It's important to remember that customer needs can change over time. Therefore, you should regularly review your customer research and ensure that your processes and systems align with your customers' wants. The Deming Cycle of quality can be a helpful tool for this, as it provides a framework for continuous improvement. This is where the Deming Cycle of quality is a constant loop that allows you to improve your process constantly. 

    The Deming Cycle of quality has four main steps: Plan, Do, Check, and Act. To focus on your customer's needs, you must first understand what they are. It means taking the time to listen to their feedback and complaints. Once you know their needs, you can develop a plan to address them. It may involve changes to your product or process. And once the changes are made, you must check to see if they have the desired effect. If not, you must adjust your plan and try again. This continuous improvement cycle will help you always focus on your customer's needs. 

    2. Make the Process Flow Smoother 

     A smooth process flow is essential for any business or organization but can be challenging. Many potential obstacles can get in the way, such as bottlenecks. 

    Bottlenecks can severely impede the flow of a process and are often caused by a specific component or step that cannot keep up with the rest of the process. In addition, it can often be due to a lack of resources, such as workforce or materials. 

    The 5 Whys is a powerful tool that can help identify the root cause of a problem during applying Six Sigma principles in quality management. By asking "why" five times, you can drill down to the underlying cause of an issue rather than just treating the symptoms. 

    For example, a company is having trouble meeting its deadlines. The first "why" might be because orders take too long to process. The second "why" might be because there are not enough staff to handle the volume of orders. The third "why" might be because the company has not hired enough staff to keep up with growth. And so on. 

    By using the 5 Whys, companies can avoid wasting time and resources on temporary fixes and instead focus on solving the real problem. 

    3. Waste Reduction 

    Waste Reduction is one of the Six Sigma lean concepts focusing on reducing or eliminating waste in a process. Waste can add no value to the product or service being delivered. In the Toyota Production System, there are seven core wastes, also known as muda: 

    • Overproduction: Producing more than what is needed, resulting in excess inventory 
    • Transportation: Moving products or materials that are not needed 
    • Waiting: Delays in the process that cause the product or material to sit idle 
    • Inventory: Excess stock that is not needed 
    • Motion: Unnecessary movement of people or materials 
    • Defects: Product or material that does not meet the quality standards 
    • Over-Processing: Performing unnecessary steps in the process 

    These seven core muda can be reduced or eliminated by implementing Six Sigma. Six Sigma is a data-driven approach to improving the quality of products and services. It uses a variety of tools and techniques to identify and remove defects. As a result, organizations can improve the quality of their products and services by reducing or eliminating defects. 

    Moreover, to reduce or eliminate waste in a process, Lean Six Sigma practitioners use various tools and techniques, such as value stream mapping, 5S, and kaizen events. 

    4. Eliminate Variations 

    Variation is the root of all evil when trying to optimize a process. Even a tiny amount of variation can significantly impact the outcome of a process. That's why eliminating variation is such an essential principle of lean Six Sigma, especially in the implementation of principles of Six Sigma in TQM (Total Quality Management). 

    One of the best ways to eliminate variation is to use checklists. Checklists help to ensure that everyone involved in a process is doing things the same way every time. This standardization helps to eliminate variation and makes it much easier to identify problems and potential improvements. 

    Other features that can help with optimization include things like data collection and analysis, process mapping, and root cause analysis. These tools can help you to identify areas of variation and potential improvements. 

    5. Undertake Improvements in a Systematic Process 

    The principles of 6 sigma of undertaking improvements in a systematic process refer to process management techniques. Process management is a term that refers to the various activities that are carried out to manage industrial processes. These activities include planning, designing, controlling, monitoring, and optimization. The term also describes the various methods and tools used to manage operations. 

    The history of process management can be traced back to the work of Frederick Winslow Taylor and W. Edwards Deming. Taylor is considered the father of scientific management, and his work laid the foundation for the modern process management approach. On the other hand, Deming is considered the father of quality management, and his work helped further improve the process management approach. 

    As such, the DMAIC process is a popular process improvement methodology used in Six Sigma. DMAIC stands for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control. The lean Six Sigma principles for the DMAIC process are used to improve processes systematically. It is a data-driven approach that begins with identifying a problem and then uses data and statistical analysis to identify the root cause of the problem. Once the root cause is identified, improvement strategies are implemented, and the process is monitored to ensure the improvements are sustainable. 

    6. Equip People in Process 

    Another core Lean Six Sigma concept and principle includes equipping people in the process. It is based on the idea that everyone involved in a process improvement project should be adequately trained and equipped to do their job. This includes everyone from the project manager to the team members to the people using the improved process. Proper training and equipment will ensure that everyone can do their job correctly and efficiently. 

    One of the key concepts in Lean Six Sigma is the Toyota Production System, which empowers workers to stop the line if they see a problem. This concept is based on the idea that the people doing the work are the best ones to identify the issues and come up with solutions. The Toyota concept of "jidoka" is also crucial in this principle. Jidoka means that if something goes wrong in a process, the machine or process should stop automatically. This prevents problems from worsening and ensures that the problem can be fixed quickly. 

    Employee contribution in Six Sigma is all about empowering the team members involved in the process improvement project. This means giving them the knowledge, skills, and tools they need to be successful. It also means creating a culture of continuous improvement where everyone is always looking for ways to improve the process. 

    Equipping people in the process requires involving them in the project from the beginning and providing them with the training and tools they need to be successful. This includes ensuring that they understand the objectives of the project and their role in achieving them. It also involves providing them with the necessary skills and knowledge, such as problem-solving and statistical analysis. 

    Empowering employees to contribute to the process improvement project is essential to its success. By involving them in the project and equipping them with the necessary skills and knowledge, they will be able to identify problems and potential improvements and contribute to the project's success. It is how an organization uses 6 sigma project management principles to achieve goals. 

    7. Understand the Real Work Flow 

    The best way to understand any process is to observe how it actually happens. This is especially true when trying to improve a process. You can read all the books and articles you want about a process, but you need to see it in action to understand how it works. 

    This is why one of the core principles of lean Six Sigma is understanding the real workflow. This means observing the process as it happens and then documenting what you see. Only then can you start to identify areas that need improvement. 

    This principle is also known as "go and see for yourself." It's a simple concept, but it can make a huge difference in your ability to improve a process. 

    The core Lean Six Sigma principle of understanding the workflow is about understanding how value flows through a process. This means understanding what the customer values and how that value is created. One way to understand the natural workflow is through a technique called process mining. Process mining is a data mining technique that allows for the analysis of business processes. 

    Process mining can automatically discover and model the hidden processes behind the events logged in an organization's information systems. Process mining techniques were initially developed to analyze business processes in manufacturing and logistics but have since been extended to a wide variety of other domains, including healthcare, banking, and software development.

    The main idea behind process mining is to extract knowledge from already available data in an organization's information systems. It is done by building process models based on the event logs. As a result, process mining can be used to answer various questions about an organization's business processes.

    For example, process mining can be used to discover how the processes are being carried out, discover bottlenecks and areas of inefficiency, or predict how a process will evolve in the future.

    The BPMN process is a widely used standard for modeling business processes. It is a graphical notation describing various approaches, from simple to complex. BPMN process models can be used to document, analyze, and improve existing business processes.

    Once the real workflow is understood, it can be improved using a design for the Six Sigma (DFSS) technique. DFSS (design for Six Sigma) is a methodology to develop new products or services. The main idea behind DFSS is to use quality tools and techniques to design products or services that are "fit for purpose" and meet the customer's needs.

    DFSS is a data-driven approach that starts with a thorough understanding of the customer's needs. This understanding is then used to design a product or service that meets those needs.

    The main steps in the DFSS process are:

    1. Define the problem or opportunity.
    2. Measure the current performance.
    3. Analyze the data to understand the root causes of the problem or opportunity.
    4. Improve the process or design a new process.
    5. Control the process to ensure that the improvements are sustained.

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    Why Six Sigma Principles are Important?  

    Many essential principles of Six Sigma contribute to its success as a business improvement strategy, including: 

    1. Increased Efficiency and Productivity
    2. Improved Quality
    3. Reduced Costs
    4. Increased Customer Satisfaction
    5. Increased Employee Satisfaction

    1. Increased Efficiency and Productivity 

    Implementing Six Sigma principles can increase efficiency and productivity in an organization. It is because Six Sigma helps to identify and eliminate errors and waste in processes, which can lead to increased efficiency and productivity. 

    2. Improved Quality 

    One of the main goals of Six Sigma is to improve quality. Since Six Sigma uses different methodologies to help identify and eliminate product and process errors and defects, it can improve quality. 

    3. Reduced Costs 

    Another benefit of Six Sigma is that it can help to reduce costs. So it is because Six Sigma can help recognize and eradicate errors and waste in various strategies, leading to reduced costs. 

    4. Increased Customer Satisfaction 

    Improved quality and reduced costs can lead to increased customer satisfaction. It is because customers are more likely to be satisfied with products and services that are of high quality and low cost. 

    5. Increased Employee Satisfaction 

    Finally, Six Sigma can also lead to increased employee satisfaction. This is because Six Sigma can help to improve working conditions and processes. Additionally, employees may feel a sense of pride and satisfaction when they are part of an organization successfully implementing Six Sigma principles. 

    Six Sigma Main Methodology  

    The principal methodology of Six Sigma is to identify and remove the causes of errors and defects in manufacturing and business processes. The aim is to reduce the number of mistakes and weaknesses to a level where they are statistically insignificant. Six Sigma uses a variety of quality control and statistical methods, including process mapping, statistical analysis, and control charts. The Six Sigma approach is designed to be flexible to be tailored to each organization's needs. 

    Six Sigma aims to achieve a defect rate of fewer than 3.4 defects per million opportunities. This is done using various quality improvement tools and techniques, such as process mapping, statistical analysis, and root cause analysis. Six Sigma projects are typically led by a team of trained professionals known as Black Belts. 

    Moreover, the main target of Six Sigma is to reduce variation in a process to be more efficient and effective. By reducing variation, Six Sigma also reduces the chances of defects occurring. 

    The Six Sigma methodology has been used in various industries, including manufacturing, healthcare, and service. For example, the use of Six Sigma principles in healthcare has created a significant impact. Six Sigma has helped improve quality and decrease costs in each sector. 


    To conclude, the Six Sigma methodology is helpful for businesses. It can help them to improve their quality and efficiency and to reduce costs. It is a powerful tool that can make a big difference to a business. You can check out the KnowledgeHut Best Lean Six Sigma courses for a more in-depth understanding of the concept.

    The Six Sigma methodology has helped companies to achieve their goals and objectives by streamlining their processes and eliminating waste. The benefits of using Six Sigma are many, and companies that adopt this methodology will find that they can improve their bottom line and become more efficient and effective.

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    1What is Six Sigma and its five key principles?

    Six Sigma is a quality management strategy that seeks to optimize quality by reducing defects and variation. The five fundamental principles of Six Sigma are:

    • Define what needs to be done
    • Measure performance
    • Analyze and understand the performance
    • Improve performance
    • Control performance
    2What are the 6 steps of Six Sigma?

    The six steps of Six Sigma are:

    • Define the problem
    • Measure the current performance
    • Analyze the root cause of the problem
    • Develop and implement a plan to improve performance
    • Measure the new performance
    • Analyze the results and take action as needed
    3What are 6 Sigma tools?

    Various tools can be used in Six Sigma initiatives. Still, some of the most common are process mapping, process capability analysis, control charts, fishbone diagrams, and Pareto charts.

    4Why is it called 6 Sigma?

    The term "6 Sigma" is derived from a statistical concept called the standard deviation. The standard deviation measures how to spread out a data set. A data set with a low standard deviation is said to be more "consistent" than a data set with a high standard deviation. "6 Sigma" refers to a process with a very low standard deviation. A process that is said to be "6 Sigma" produces consistent results.

    5Which belt is used in Six Sigma?

    There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the type of belt used in Six Sigma can vary depending on the specific goals and objectives of the organization. However, some standard belts in Six Sigma include the Black Belt, Green Belt, and Yellow Belt.

    6Why is Six Sigma important?

    Six Sigma is essential because it is a data-driven approach to quality improvement that can be used in any industry or organization. Six Sigma can be used to improve any process, whether it is manufacturing, service, or administrative.

    7What are the benefits of Six Sigma?

    Six Sigma has many benefits, including improved quality, reduced costs, and increased customer satisfaction. Six Sigma can also help to improve employee morale and teamwork, as well as communication and process efficiency.


    Shivender Sharma

    Blog Author

    Shivendra Sharma, an accomplished author of the international bestseller 'Being Yogi,' is a multifaceted professional. With an MBA in HR and a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt, he boasts 15 years of experience in business and digital transformation, strategy consulting, and process improvement. As a member of the Technical Committee of the International Association of Six Sigma Certification (IASSC), he has led multi-million dollar savings through organization-wide transformation projects. Shivendra's expertise lies in deploying Lean and Six Sigma tools across global stakeholders in EMEA, North America, and APAC, achieving remarkable business results. 

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