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Lean vs Six Sigma vs Kaizen: What is the Difference


The concept of lean, six sigma and kaizen are necessary for the improvement of every company. Most successful companies from around the world use these core concepts to challenge their workers, keep them happy and get more customers from around the world. These concepts are not just beneficial but also life changing if you know how to apply them. In this article, we are not only going to discuss these points in a brief but also teach you how to excel at work by applying such principles. Keep reading to find out more about Lean vs Six Sigma vs Kaizen!

Lean vs Six Sigma vs Kaizen

Kaizen Definition:

One of the best methods of finding constant improvement has to be Kaizen. This was originated in the West in Masaaki Imai in a book called Kaizen. Kaizen method has been recognized all over the world for its significant improvement and for being an important pillar of organization for better strategy and competitiveness. In short, Kaizen meaning is about improving yourself constantly which is based on getting a few principles which are guided. Its principles have been discussed below for further understanding.

Kaizen Principles:

Here are some of the basic principles that are followed by the Kaizen system! Read to find out.

1. Challenges:

Kaizen teaches you how to deal with challenges and face them. If you have a long term vision of the challenges you would want to face, understand your ambition and what you must learn instead of what you would like to do and also develop the spirit which is needed to face that one challenge. By doing so, both your team and you will learn to challenge yourself on a regular basis and see if you have been able to achieve your goals.

2. The law of Kaizen:

Kaizen is all about having the right mindset. It is about improving yourself in the long run. Good enough is never good enough. You have to operate and work on yourself regularly and keep striving for evolution. Kaizen model is also about innovating yourself.

3. ‘Go and see’ as a method:

Go and see happens to be a key principle of many production system today. The best way to understand this truly is by seeing what happens on the shop floor. For that, you will have to go there. It is here that the value will be added and here the wastage shall also be observed. Go and see can effectively help you solve problems. If a problem like this exists, then you have to check the source and the facts and create consensus so that all goals can be reached at a good speed.

4. Teamwork and respect for one another:

Kaizen techniques are also about showing respect for others and team work. You have to take the stakeholders problems very seriously and make every effort to build all mutual trust. You should take up responsibility for other people and help them reach objectives and goals as well. Teamwork is equally essential. You have to meet and engage with more people, develop them so that there is better team performance etc. There are around three team levels here: shopping floor teams, whole site team etc.

5. What are Kaizen events like?

Kaizen events include setting goals which are needed for the plan, reviewing the present state and developing a good plan for all improvements, implementing the improvements, reviewing and fixing what does not work, reporting the results and determining any of the items that follow up, planning and coming up with a final hypothesis, running experiments, checking and acting so that experiments can be refined and a new cycle can get started.

Six Sigma Definition:

Six Sigma also known as Lean Six sigma is a proven and powerful method for improving business efficiency and effectiveness. In one nutshell, here are six principles of lean six sigma business transformation you have to bear in mind. First one is called focusing on the customer, second includes identifying and understanding how work needs to be done, improving the flow of process and managing it, removing any waste and non-value added steps, managing and reducing variation, involving and equipping more people in the process, improving activity in a systematic manner.

Six Sigma Principles:

The following mentioned are few six sigma techniques and principles. They are

1. The law of market:

One of the basic and most important principles of six sigma has to be the law of market. This signifies that customers must be given special emphasis and the most importance. The company must also implement this right away and make sure that all employees are able to adhere to it. The company would always want their employees to understand it without having any customers, there would never be any business.

2. Law of flexibility:

The second law that falls under this category includes law of flexibility. If a process can be maneuvered easily, it will become much easy to work with in this field. A good method of business cannot focus or change so that it will lead to problems.

3. Law of focus:

The third principle is widely called the law of focus. This means you have to lay emphasis on the crux of the matter, find out what the problem is within the company itself. Most employees and executives should make sure to concentrate on the portions of their company which is causing any problems, being able to fix the problems and dismissing the distractions by several other sections in that field of business which are not facing any problem.

4. Law of velocity:

The fourth principle is called the law of velocity. This also means if the process has several details that have to be done, it could also slow down the whole process. The work which is put into the process has to be proportional to the result that the company sees.

5. Having a proper process:

An approach that is refined when it comes to completing a Kaizen can be used for ensuring the best results. More importantly, the approach has to be boosted by the individual who has a proper team of working people, has brilliant working capacity, can solve problems quickly as well as negotiating skills. The leader coupled with a good team is needed for success. Kaizen can also mitigate issues and by using these criteria, they can follow rigorous application and the principles for better changes at work.

6. How can topics be identified for Kaizen?

A few common themes that could be discussed for Kaizen include improving the customer forms and seeing if they have been received in a proper order, secondly improving the first time call resolution in any call center, third to streamline the order to process of payment when it comes to purchasing. Fourth, to reduce the time which is needed to hire new employees. Fifth streamlining reports of hours which are worked to payroll. Sixth, designing the forms of content and finally reduction of the submission to completion of cycle time for requests of facilities.

7. The ten step method of solving problems:

First, the problem needs to be identified. Second, it needs to be documented. Third, the ideal situation must be visualized. Fourth, measurement targets have to be defined. Fifth, solutions to the problem can be jotted down. Sixth, developing a proper Kaizen plan is important. Seventh, add an implemented plan. Eighth, record, measure and compare the results. Ninth, get ready with the summary documents and finally creating an action plan that is short and sustaining and will produce good results.

8. How can kaizen work inside your organization?

Kaizen is one of the best and easy ways in which you can improve activities at work. It avoids stigma of any formalized project which could be drawn out of several weeks, months or maybe even years. Most importantly, Kaizen will also provide you with improvements that are right on time. If you use their ten step methodology, you will be able to make sure that the event has been completed within thirty days. Kaizen also checks if there is enough improvements in any of the organizations.

9. Timing is important:

The biggest difference between Kaizen or any other event includes timing. Kaizen is a small change for the future. Today the events by Kaizen are known to produce some of the best results which are implemented before the event has been concluded. The process development also tends to hinge on all the participants which are buying in to consensus and that the changes are all beneficial and correct. This will also lead to pride of ownership in the changes made.

What is Six Sigma?

The fifth and final principle is called six sigma, also known as the law of complexity! If put in simpler terms, when a process gets tough and difficult, it could have some elements that are not needed. More complexity always doesn’t have to mean it is more important or valuable.

What is Lean Kaizen?

Just like the name suggests, lean is opposite to fat which means it focuses on removing wastes which are often known as muda in Japanese. The operations which fail to create any value will be seen as wasteful. One more basic lean model was something that was introduced a hundred years ago or even more. It had involved over time from the assembly lines to concept of interchangeable parts which are by Samuel Colt and Eli Whitney to production of Toyota. The concepts have all come together in order to formulate on what we often call lean manufacturing.

Principles of lean kaizen:

The first principle is about knowing the definition of kaizen as well as its traditional application. Second, you have to know the concepts of lean and know how the projects have paved the way for a lean journey. Third, you should use Kaizen to attack, defects, cost, cycle time and other wastes. Fourth, studying the methodology of Kaizen, the tools and steps as well as the techniques of application so that there are more breakthrough events. Performing a successful kaizen event is also important. Finally developing a proper plan for lean transformations inside the organization is a major principle.

What is the difference?

Kaizen looks forward to take care of all aspects of a business through the process of standardizing, increasing more efficiency and removing waste by involving more people, whole Six Sigma program focuses on boosting the quality, improving it and working on the final product by removing all defects. Whether by any variance in the process of business or simply by manufacturing Lean focuses on the elimination of wastes so that the quality of speed can be improved through the reduction of process wastes.

Overall assessment of Lean vs Six Sigma vs Kaizen

The overall assessment of Kaizen, Six Sigma and Lean Kaizen includes innovation, creativity and leadership. When the team of leadership understands Lean, Kaizen and Six Sigma system, they can always improve themselves, have clearer and better focus on what can be done in order to boost and improve competitiveness and profitability. Second, the pegs of element accountability as well as process ownership also counts! The real time measurement of performance will also allow more people to understand the cause and effect relationship between the improvement goals and actions. Teaming and employee involvement also provides the right connection between concept and reality. People will see the need to change and they will also have all the right tools which are needed to take better action.

This brings the post to an end. If you have enjoyed reading the article, have found some benefit and have been able to understand all concepts clearly, do let us know what else would you like to hear from us. In case you don’t like the article, let us know about that as well. We are waiting to hear from you. So don’t hesitate at all. On that note, good luck and here’s hoping you will be able to use these principles for your company.