Lean Six Sigma and Innovation

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Introduction

It has been proven that the integration of Lean Six Sigma and innovation tools may provide the most effective results for an organization. According to Jones (2014), Six Sigmas can be merged with innovative strategies to improve the technological path of the company and meet the expectations of its customers, which leads to performance improvement. Therefore, to use the convergence of Six Sigmas and innovation strategies effectively, certain tools related to ideas generation, selection, development, and implementation can be added to the Lean Six Sigma toolkit. Since innovation can be described as a process of introducing new ideas and theories, it can be associated with the “Improve” stage in the DMAIC Methodology. Further, the innovation techniques contributing to improvement are presented and discussed in detail.

Idea Generation Tools

Since the first stage of the innovation process is the creation of new ideas, certain tools belonging to the generation phase can be added to the Six Sigma model. For example, brainstorming allows people to work in a team and suggest ideas based on the opinions of others (Gatignon, Gotteland, and Haon, 2015). Moreover, it incorporates different perspectives and applies critical thinking, making a comprehensive analysis of an issue possible (Tang, 2020).

For Lean Six Sigma, where collaboration and an in-depth analysis of the problem define the company’s success, brainstorming can be considered one of the most effective techniques. At the same time, its major limitation is that not all members of the group may be equally interested in solving the problem. Additionally, participants with different levels of knowledge and skills are less likely to achieve significant results (Mangal and Mangal, 2019). Therefore, brainstorming can be effective in case if it is carefully planned.

Another tool of idea generation is easy to implement and effective in a small group of participants. The 5-3-5 method is used to encourage five people to share three ideas each in a five-minute time (Buchholz and Aerssen, 2020). This technique can be considered especially applicable for integration into Six Sigmas because it weakens the fear of criticism and rejection, which may prevent participants from suggesting ideas (Buchholz and Aerssen, 2020). Moreover, unlike brainstorming, the 5-3-5 method helps involve all team members in a discussion, including introverted and silent participants, which contributes to a more diverse output within a short period. Therefore, the principle of the overall inclusiveness makes the 5-3-5 method especially effective in the Six Sigmas model.

Finally, the use of focus groups is considered a widespread qualitative research technique in many applied sciences. A focus group can be defined as a small-size group of selected participants who discuss a particular topic or case (Leavy, 2020). Various data collection instruments, such as questionnaires and interviews, are used to study stakeholders’ reactions to different issues in question. An advantage of this technique is that it can be applied in many areas of interest, such as counseling, marketing, and sociology, among others (Leavy, 2020). This method is considered especially effective in terms of analyzing participants’ opinions and needs, which contributes to the Lean Six Sigma principle of making decisions based on verifiable data.

Selection Tool

So far, the paper has covered the methods of generating ideas, which correspond to Six Sigma principles of analysis, management leadership, and continuous improvement. Other techniques that can be integrated with Lean Six Sigma are connected to the selection, which is another essential phase of the innovation process. For example, the six thinking hats method is aimed to “facilitate constructive decision-making by groups and individuals” (Golensky and Hager, 2020, p. 108).

According to this technique, the generated ideas should be evaluated from six different perspectives, among which there are the global picture, facts, emotional features of the theory, its negative and positive characteristics, and creativity. This comprehensive approach to assessing an idea is described as “an extended role-play” (Golensky and Hager, 2020, p. 109), which encourages teamwork. Since cooperation is essential in Lean Six Sigma, the six thinking hats approach can be the most appropriate for integration.

Development Tool

After generating and selecting ideas, it is important to define how to implement them in practice in the most effective way. According to Six Sigma, the decrease in the occurrence of errors and the removal of defects are vital for the company’s successful operation (Márquez, Segovia, and Bányai, 2020). Therefore, prototyping can be viewed as one of the development strategies aimed at the evaluation of a theory. A prototype is defined as “a preliminary version of a product or product component” (Yu, Pasinelli, and Brem, 2017, p. 122). Representing a proposed idea, prototyping demonstrates its advantages and disadvantages and helps avoid defects in practice, corresponding to Lean Six Sigma principles.

Implementation Strategy

The implementation of an idea in practice is the final stage of innovation. From the Six Sigmas perspective, flexibility and readiness for change are essential elements of corporate culture (Márquez, Segovia, and Bányai, 2020). Therefore, change management as a tool of the innovation process can also be added to the Lean Six Sigma model. This technique can be viewed as the path from the company’s starting point to its goal (Lauer, 2020).

Change management may serve for designing, controlling, and evaluating innovations and making the process of change beneficial (Vlados, 2020). In this case, the company will be able to prepare for the implementation of new ideas and theories and apply them most effectively. In conclusion, it is possible to say that the tools of innovation described above correspond to the ideas proposed by Lean Sigma Six, and therefore, can contribute to the improvement of companies’ business performance.

Reference List

Buchholz, C. and Aerssen, B. (2020) The innovator’s dictionary: 555 methods and instruments for more creativity and innovation in your company. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG.

Gatignon. H., Gotteland, D. and Haon, C. (2015) Making innovation last: volume 2: sustainable strategies for long term growth. New York, NY: Spinger.

Golensky, M. and Hager, M. (2020) Strategic leadership and management in nonprofit organizations: theory and practice. 2nd edn. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Jones, E. (2014) Quality management for organizations using Lean Six Sigma techniques. New York, NY: CRC Press.

Lauer, T. (2020) Change management: fundamentals and success factors. Berlin: Springer Nature.

Leavy, P. (ed.) (2020) The Oxford Handbook of qualitative research. 2nd edn. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Mangal, S.K. and Mangal, S. (2019) Learning and teaching. Delhi: PHI Learning.

Márquez, F.P.G., Segovia, I. and Bányai, T. (2020) Lean manufacturing and Six Sigma: behind the mask. London: Books on Demand.

Tang, H. (2020) Engineering research: design, methods, and publication. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Vlados, C. (2020) ‘Change management and innovation in the “Living Organization”: the Stra.Tech.Man approach’, Management Dynamics in the Knowledge Economy, 7(2), pp. 229-256. Web.

Yu, F., Pasinelli, M. and Brem, A. (2017) ‘Prototyping in theory and in practice: A study of the similarities and differences between engineers and designers’, Creativity and Innovation Management, 27(2), pp. 121–132. Web.

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