What Is Lean Six Sigma? - Definition & Difference

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  • 0:00 Six Sigma
  • 1:20 Lean Processes
  • 2:46 Benefits
  • 3:59 Process
  • 4:55 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Increasing efficiency and boosting profits are important to all businesses. But how can businesses do that? In this lesson, we'll examine the Lean Six Sigma program, including how it can help businesses eliminate waste and become more efficient.

Six Sigma

Jerome owns a company that designs websites for clients. From the content on the website, to the design, to the actual programming and getting the site up and running, Jerome's company covers it all. But he worries that they could be doing things more efficiently than they are. If they could create websites faster, and with fewer errors, it would save his company lots of money.

Six Sigma is a problem-solving program for businesses. It focuses on improving processes. The name Six Sigma comes from a statistical term that means fewer than 3.4 errors per million opportunities for error. That's the goal of a traditional Six Sigma program. For example, in a traditional Six Sigma program, Jerome's company might be able to make millions of web pages with fewer than 3.4 errors on those pages.

That sounds pretty good. After all, whenever Jerome's clients have a problem with a website his company designed, it looks bad for the company. But that doesn't happen all that often, and really, what Jerome is more interested in is improving the efficiency of website design. That is, he wants to make very few errors, while having his company produce websites faster.

To help Jerome out, let's look at a variation on the traditional Six Sigma program, Lean Six Sigma, including its benefits and processes.

Lean Processes

Jerome's goal to have his company work more efficiently is in line with lean processes, which focus on streamlining business processes to eliminate waste and make things more efficient. In the case of lean processes, waste could be anything keeping the company from being efficient: time, too much inventory, defects or errors, communication, or anything else that blocks efficiency.

For example, while everyone at Jerome's company is very skilled, they all have very different skills. His programmers are very good at programming but not very good at designing websites. His writers are great at creating content but couldn't program to save their lives. And, while his designers can make every webpage look gorgeous, they aren't very good at writing copy.

None of this is a bad thing, but what is a problem for Jerome is that his writers, designers, and programmers engage in a constant back-and-forth between their departments, which slows down the process of creating the website.

Lean Six Sigma combines the principles and process of Six Sigma with the focus of lean processes. That is, it looks at how to improve business processes to create a leaner, more waste-free business. Take Jerome's issue: his company is wasting a lot of time with the back and forth between writers, designers, and programmers. A Lean Six Sigma program would help him focus on how to streamline the process of creating a website so that they can be more efficient.


As you've probably already guessed, increased efficiency is the main benefit of a Lean Six Sigma program. If Jerome can increase the efficiency of his company, they can produce websites much faster than they have been.

A corollary benefit of increased efficiency is increased profits. This can occur in two ways: by increasing revenue and/or by decreasing cost. For example, if it takes Jerome's company less time to create a website, they can take on more projects, which leads to an increase in revenue, or money coming in to the company.

At the same time, the fewer hours it takes to complete a website, the fewer hours Jerome has to pay his employees. This means that cost is decreased, which can also increase profits.

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