Lean Six Sigma (LSS) Relationship to ISO 9001

Larry Parah, BlueSkye Track, Sr. Consultant

1. Lean – taking waste out of a process; waste can include waiting too long, producing too much product that sits in inventory or having too many service people; too much movement of people; rework, etc.

2. Six Sigma – reduction of variation (inconsistency) in the process to help improve quality.  For example, variation in the sales quoting process that leads to mistakes; variation in the way a service is delivered which leads to cost overruns and / or unhappy customers; variation in the process of making a product that leads to defects.

Simply Stated: Lean Six Sigma is the methodology to remove waste and reduce variation.

How Does ISO 9001 relate to Lean Six Sigma?

ISO 9001 refers to and / or requires the following:

  • Factual approach to decision making
  • Process approach to achieving quality
  • Continually improve of processes

Lean Six Sigma (LSS) methods are powerful tools for each of the above.

Modification of Existing Processes:
For modification of existing processes that were developed under ISO 9001, a method is not specified.  However, use of LSS can be applied as a continual improvement method that contains facts to analyze processes

The tools alone in LSS are of great value for getting people to work together.  For example, problem statement development is a LSS tool.  How often do teams think they all understand the problem to only find out later that they were talking about several different problems?

Collection and Storage of Knowledge:
Integrating LSS methods with the ISO system is the vehicle for collecting and storing core knowledge on each process and project.  The knowledge on customer satisfaction, design and development, manufacturing, reliability, etc., can be used by subsequent teams.  Businesses need this knowledge for sustainability. 

The need for LSS Training:
Without training LSS can be very confusing.  People should not try to learn this body of knowledge (BOK) on their own.   The BOK is just too complex to learn proper improvement methods quickly.  That’s also the reason the knowledge is offered in manageable bites:  yellow belt for employees, greenbelt for those that work on projects, blackbelt for those that are into statistical analysis, and master blackbelt for those that want to be high level sponsors of projects.


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