Sustaining Your Lean Six Sigma Gains

January 16th, 2011

Tags: sustaining the improvement, sustaining the gains, Lean Six Sigma, Six Sigma, dmaic improvement process, DMAIC

Sustaining the gains from your improvements is always a sticky point, but it doesn’t have to be.  It begins with the structure of your Lean Six Sigma initiative and the application of performance measurement.  These two things are the keys to sustaining your gains.

The organization of the Lean Six Sigma program requires a high level, senior management, sponsor who has program success tied to compensation and bonus.  The sponsors of projects must be held accountable for success of the project teams.  The teams must be held accountable to complete projects in a timely manner and implement the solutions.  Time must be provided for the teams to work on their projects so they can be successful.  The people most critical to the organization must be involved.

During the measure phase of a project key performance metrics were established to set the baseline to measure the improvements from.  This is essential for sustainment.  In the control phase we compare the new performance after the solutions are fully implemented to the baseline to validate that the project was successful.  Then we can celebrate that success.

To maintain the gains and continue to improve the critical performance metrics must continually be tracked to validate that everything is still working.  If slippage occurs corrective actions can be taken quickly to get back on track with the improvements from the Lean Six Sigma project.

Some high level performance metrics are required for overall program tracking.  The Delphi method is often used to cascade corporate metrics all the way down to individual production processes so the roll up is easily understood.  The general high level performance metric that should always be put in place that drives sustainment is Cost of Quality.  When all is said and done it is the Cost of Quality that shows the reductions in cost from the improvements. 

Monthly reporting of the key performance metrics that each Lean Six Sigma project has made an impact on is imperative.  If the metric slips you can see that the improvement needs to be re-implemented, training is required, or some other form of corrective action must be taken.  Controls must be in place to continue to monitor the improvements, which means performance metric tracking.  If baselines were never established before improvements were implemented it becomes impossible to validate the magnitude of improvement and the gain we are trying to maintain is a mystery.  Records of completed projects need to be archived and easily retrievable for future project teams to use as reference and replication of solutions.

Sustaining the gains from Lean Six Sigma improvements requires an organization structure that is held accountable and a performance measurement system for maintaining control and fostering continued improvement.

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