At the outset, it might seem that the Six Sigma, Lean, and Agile methodologies are all quite different from each other. True, they are all powerful techniques to increase process efficiency in industries. However, they are actually connected in ways you might not have realized.
While the core idea of the Lean philosophy is to minimize waste and adding customer-defined value to your products and services, Six Sigma focuses on reducing the variability in business processes to improve them. It does so by eliminating the defects and thus improving process capability and quality.
On the other hand, Agile, which was initially formulated for software development, targets continuous evolution, and through short-term improvements, enable organizations to thrive in an increasingly complex world.
The Connections Between Methodologies
The three methodologies share vital links. Consider Agile, for instance, which permits teams to move rapidly and deliver high-quality work while responding to changes. This allows businesses to stay aligned with the interests of the stakeholders around the needs of the customers. However, Agile teams often lack a bird's eye view of the situation.
This is where the Six Sigma strategy comes in. It can help solve critical problems by suggesting tools, roadmaps, and phases which are inherently based on a bird's eye view of the situation.
Furthermore, the Agile method is in itself a Lean approach to software design. In fact, both Agile and Lean share the idea of reducing the unnecessary entities to provide value. While Lean has some very specific principles, they are both very similar on numerous grounds. They both help businesses to deliver products and services faster and in a more sustainable manner. The Agile process exploits several Lean principles too. These include an iterative development approach, short feedback loops, and disciplined processes for project management. They all trace their origins to Lean principles.
Six Sigma, on the other hand, focuses on process improvement through measurement and metrics. The technique mainly focuses on eliminating defects and increasing customer satisfaction. Lean systems and Six Sigma actually have the same end goal. They both aim to minimize wastes but define them in a different way.
The Need for a Holistic Approach to Process Improvement
A common mistake companies face is trying to forcibly solve all their problems with a single methodology. They relentlessly pursue the tools and make no effort to look at the larger picture.
The best strategy overall is for businesses to combine the methodologies and explore the links between them. By coming together, the tools reinforce each other, eliminate their individual shortcomings, and work in cohesion towards the realization of the end goals.
Take for example, the Lean Six Sigma approach. It is a combined methodology that emphasizes collaboration and team effort. It reduces the wastes and defects along with the variations in processes. The combined strategy helps cut production costs, enhances competitiveness, and improves quality.
Businesses following the Lean approach can often become obsessed with reducing the waste at the expense of the other goals. Combining an Agile approach with the Lean methodology can work wonders if it is done intelligently. We recommend seeking the services of a professional facilitator who is adept at both these methodologies. A balanced approach can be adopted— the balance will be achieved by focusing on waste minimization through Lean approaches while continuously responding to changes through Agile methodologies.
It is imperative for businesses to examine the advantages and limitations of each methodology considering the problem at hand. It is best to avoid force fitting problems into frameworks; rather, try to adapt a methodology to the problem at hand for the best results.
It is important to strive towards achieving the right balance between various strategies. All these methodologies focus on quality improvement, customer experience enhancement, waste reduction, and process variability minimization.
Businesses shouldn't adopt one methodology and force fit all their problems through the framework chosen without proper forethought. They should instead consider their unique problems and then choose and adapt the right methodology or a combination of them to best address the issues.
While the three methodologies: Six Sigma, Lean, and Agile techniques each have their individual shortcomings, the right approach can involve using a combination of these in consultation with a professional facilitator.