MIT article comparing Lean, TQM, Six Sigma, “and related enterprise process improvement methods”

Last week, my Suggested Content on Scoop.It! contained a link to a May, 2010 working paper from MIT’s Engineering Systems Division (ESD) by Kirkor Bozdogan, entitled Towards an integration of the Lean enterprise system, total quality management, six sigma, and related enterprise process improvement methods . For a scoop, it is a bit stale but it nonetheless caught my attention and I would like to supplement Bozdogan’s academic perspective with my implementation experience.

Describing these approaches as “complementary,” as Bozdogan does, avoids controversy, but I don’t believe it is accurate. They really are competitive brands put out by consultants vying for clients in overlapping markets. And they are so different is scope and track record that they do not belong together in a list. The topical literature is a cacophony of claims of effectiveness, originality, and universality, as well as bandwagon jumping. It befits a marketplace, and competitors should be expected to pitch aggressively. As Hillary Clinton said about running for office, “you cannot be above the fray, it is a fray.” It behooves the clients to sort the wheat from the chaff and make their choices.

Exposure to the Toyota Production System (TPS) sparked my interest in manufacturing, in Japan in 1980, but then I immediately went to work in the semiconductor industry, where TPS is not much of a fit. Over the years, I have been exposed to all of the approaches surveyed in the article, and formed opinions about them, that I am sharing here. In particular, I would like to explain why I chose to work under the Lean flag and none of the others.

The sequence of topics is as follows:

Brands versus Science

As academics are prone to do, Bozdogan treats Lean, TQM, Six Sigma, etc., as if they were scientific theories, when in fact they are marketing brands, developed by consultants for commercial purposes. It is not quantum versus Newtonian mechanics, but Coke versus Pepsi. An engineer or a manager conducts a successful project within a company, and, in doing so, develops a unique approach to a problem. The next step may be to leave the company, go into consulting, and market this approach as a more general solution, but it needs a name to distinguish it from competing offerings. If successful, it is then diluted for application to ever broader classes of problems. Five years on, PhD students are writing dissertations about its theoretical foundations; ten years on, articles appear in business magazines bemoaning its failure to deliver the expected results.

MIT article comparing Lean, TQM, Six Sigma, "and related enterprise process improvement methods"

Product developed to match its name

Sometimes, the name is coined before the content is developed. A well-known marketing story is that the name Hershey’s Hugs was an entry by a Hershey employee in a naming contest. The product, a Hershey’s Kiss with a twist of white chocolate and milk chocolate, was then developed to match the name. This pattern was followed in manufacturing consulting in at least two cases. When Roger Nagel at Lehigh University created Agile Manufacturing in the early1990s, he defined it as the “next step after Lean,” whatever that might be. Likewise, I have heard a rumor that TPM was a label concocted at JMA in the late 1960s by a group of consultants who wanted to offer services in the Maintenance area, and that the content was developed afterwards.

This is not a criticism of consultants. They have to package their ideas in a way that attracts clients and inspires confidence, or else these ideas remain unheard and unimplemented. And it may take several attempts to get it right. The Toyota Production System was marketed in the 1980s as Just-In-Time, Demand-based and World-Class Manufacturing before John Krafcik came up with the Lean label. For Six Sigma, the title of “Black Belt” for engineers given basic training in statistical design of experiments was marketing genius, as it had none of the wussiness of “Staff Statistician” and implied a non-existent link to Japanese martial arts.

Market share

How successful are these brands in the market? One easy way to answer this question is to check LinkedIn discussion groups. LinkedIn is the largest professional social network, with >135M members worldwide, and the amount of chatter each approach generates among them strikes me as a valid measure of its influence as of 12/31/2012. I found the following:

  1. If you search LinkedIn groups for Lean, you find 2642 groups with the largest ones having tens of thousands of members. The memberships overlap, and therefore their counts do not add up, but largest group, Lean Six Sigma, has 160,000 members and, if you check the content of the discussions, you find that it all about Lean, not Six Sigma.
  2. Searching for TQM, you find 87 groups, with the largest having 942 members.
  3. For Six Sigma, you find 1411 groups, but nearly all are about Lean Six Sigma, which, contrary to what the name would lead you to believe, has next to no strictly Six Sigma content.
  4. The “related” methods also reviewed in the article are the Theory of constraints (TOC), Agile manufacturing, Business process reengineering (BPR).
    • For TOC, you find 177 groups, topping out at 1307 members.
    • For Agile manufacturing, 10 groups topping out at 2,700 members, but, for just Agile, you find 1481 groups with the largest having 37,572 members, reflecting that, even though the Agile brand is dead in manufacturing, it lives on in software development and project management.
    • Business Process Reengineering (BPR) has 16 groups, topping out at 4,500 members, but these groups are not dedicated to this topic. They are about business processes, with reengineering listed among the topics of interest.

These numbers make a statement about the relative popularity of brands, not the technical effectiveness of approaches. It is possible for the best products to fail in a market for all sorts of reasons. But these are ideas and, in the market of ideas on management and technology, time has a way of filtering the bad ones. The newest of the approaches discussed in the MIT article, BPR, has been around since the early 1990s; all others, since the 1980s. If they have not made their mark by now, when will they? The inescapable conclusion is that Lean is the only one that is thriving. As a consequence, the bulk of the article should be about Lean and the reasons it crushed its competition.

Different approaches for different enterprises

The article treats “the enterprise” as a generic entity. The introduction refers to different types of enterprises, but the body of the article does not. Even within just Manufacturing, companies that make products through machining, fabrication and assembly have been under the influence of car makers for 100 years, first Ford, then GM, and now Toyota, as a result of which their management responds to the Lean message. By contrast, companies that primarily run a chemical process and package its output, like detergents makers, are much more focused on the maintenance of their facilities. They have been more receptive to TPM, and have then lumped under the TPM label all sorts of improvement activities that are not related to maintenance. In high-technology fabrication, as in the semiconductor industry,  if your processes are mature, your products are obsolete, and you must therefore constantly face the challenge of producing in high volume with immature processes. This makes you receptive to the promise of Six Sigma and its techniques for enhancing process capability. “Services” covers an even broader range of activities, from engineering development to car rental, with different needs, both actual and perceived.

Change programs in a corporation

When the top management of a corporation embarks on a change program, it does not only impact the content of the work, but its organization and power structure as well. There are evolutionary paths to promotion in a corporation. Excel in sales and you rise in the sales hierarchy; get involved with a successful new product and it will make your career; exceed your goals as a production supervisor and you will on your way to become plant manager… This is the normal operation of the organization; it does not alter its structure. By contrast, successful change programs are revolutionary, in that not only are their supporters rapidly promoted but their opponents are brutally pushed aside, sometimes demoted, often fired. Change programs can degenerate in many ways, for example by attracting zealots who  turn its original clever methods into a dogma that is used to exclude not only non-believers but heretics as well. This manifests itself in a variety of ways, from mandating the use of VSMs and Kaizen events in Lean, to making a Six Sigma black belt a requirement for promotion.

The politics make it difficult to even have a rational discussion on the merits, or even the relevance of a tool in a particular circumstance.  And the presence of camps with interests in the success or failure of the program prevents the collection of objective metrics.

The “Methods” and their descriptions

Bozdogan labels all the approaches as “enterprise process improvement methods,” which, at least in the case of Lean, strikes me as overly restrictive. First, it is not a method, in the sense that it does not have a sequence of 12 steps you can follow without thinking and expect to succeed. Instead, the implementation of Lean, particularly outside of car making, requires you to abstract the principles behind the Toyota tools and select, adapt or develop new tools to apply these principles in a different context. Second, the term process improvement implies an exclusive focus on how things are done, or tactics, as opposed to what things are done, or strategy. And Lean is a business strategy, requiring leadership and participation from top management, not just a tactical tool. It isn’t just about fixing details of operations, but also about make-versus-buy decisions, new plant and new line designs, human resources and compensation policies, etc.

Lean Enterprise system

The description of the Lean enterprise system in the paper (section 2.1.1.) is actually accurate, if too brief. While it is broader is scope and depth than any of the other “methods” covered, it received the shortest explanation. As explained in my author’s page, my involvement with it dates back to 1980. Lean is based on the Toyota Production System, and therefore has the following, unique characteristics:

  1. At least in Manufacturing, it encompasses all facets of the business. Toyota designs, develops, makes, and markets products and therefore has an approach to all these activities, as well as management and support functions like Maintenance, Quality Assurance, Accounting, or Human Resources.
  2. As Takahiro Fujimoto puts it, it is system that emerged over decades, as Toyota engineers and managers developed solutions to overcome crises as the company grew from nothing to the largest car company in the world. There is no theory of which it is an application. Instead, it is a living and evolving system, from which we have to reverse-engineer underlying principles in order to deploy them in other contexts.

Of course, we shouldn’t be blinded by enthusiasm. While learning from Toyota, we should not assume that it is perfect. We should not forget that it is a business, run by  fallible human beings, and with a commercial interest in its image.  We should not assume that its system applies everywhere to everything, and we should keep our eyes and minds open to equally good ideas from other outstanding companies, like Ikea, Apple, or Michelin, or from management and technology thinkers. And we should never blindly apply recipes but instead use what we learned to work through the specific issues of every factory.


Today, as an object of consulting, TQM is dead and little more than a historical footnote. Bozdogan’s description of TQM make no reference to TQC, and in particular the Japanese version of TQC, on which it is based. By 1975, all the major manufacturing companies in Japan had received the Deming prize for implementing TQC, and all that could be gained from it was incorporated in their practices. It was a successful approach that had run its course. TQM, as a watered-down version of the Japanese TQC, became the object of the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award in the US in 1988, and soon lost credibility as a result of being given to organizations that were notorious for bad quality. The spirit of TQM, however, lives on in the ISO-900x series of standards, for which certification has been a cost of doing business for many companies.

Six Sigma

In his recollections of implementing Six Sigma at Allied Signal, Six Sigma creator Mikel Harry proudly recalls getting an executive fired for speaking up in a meeting in favor of the previous improvement program, Total Quality Leadership (TQL), the company’s version of TQM. So much for these programs being complementary!

If you peel away all that has been piled onto the original Six Sigma from Motorola in the 1980s in order to make it a universal approach to the enhancement of enterprise performance, what you find is a modernization of the SPC of the 1930s for the purpose of addressing the process capability issues of high-technology manufacturing. In the semiconductor industry, you first develop a process to make chips, and then design products to make by this process, which is not the way most other industries work. Then competitive pressure forces you to start producing chips in high volume at yields as low as 10%, and start a battle for yield enhancement that is key to market share and profitability. This battle ends two years later, to be rejoined immediately on the next generation of technology.

In the old SPC, a state of statistical control for a process variable of mean μ and standard deviation σ was arbitrarily defined as having its tolerance interval contain the [μ-3σ, μ+3σ]. It is was a normal variable, then 99.7% of its values would be within the tolerance interval. The problem that became critical with electronics in the 1980s was that, if a product had 100 such independent process variables, they would all be within their tolerance intervals .997100 = 74% of the time, meaning that the product would be 26% defective. Raise the requirement for each variable from ±3σ to ±6σ, and the ratio of values out of the tolerance interval drops from .3% to 3.4 ppm. Then, with 100 independent, normal process variables as before, the ratio of defect-free products goes to  (1 – 3.4╳10-6 )100= 99.97%.

For non-normal variable, or for attributes, the meaning of Six Sigma extends to the achievement of <3.4 defects per million opportunities (dpmo). As we have seen, with as few as 100 defect opportunities in a product, it works out to .03% = 300ppm of defectives, a level of quality that the auto parts industry, among others, have long exceeded, by non-statistical methods. I know of one case of a Toyota supplier that had produced more than 1 million units without a single defective by using Toyota’s Jikotei Kanketsu (JKK) and Change Point Management (CPM).

In the most successful semiconductor companies, yield enhancement involves the combination of the following:

  1. Knowledge of process physics and chemistry.
  2. The ability to mine test data on finished circuits.
  3. Statistical design of experiments.

These skills are almost never found in the same individuals. I believe that Six Sigma Black Belts were intended as a solution to this problem. The idea was to give solid statistical training to 1% of the work force and let them be a resource for the remaining 99%. The Black Belts were not expected to be PhD-level statisticians, but process engineers with just enough knowledge of modern statistics to be effective.

As a metaphor,  Black Belt also made sense because there is a parallel between the Six Sigma and martial arts training. Traditional  masters in the martial arts of China trained one or two disciples at the Bruce Lee level in a lifetime, just as universities train only a handful of experts in statistical design of experiments who could be effective in electronics manufacturing. One Karate instructor, on the other hand, can train hundreds of Black Belts, just as a Six Sigma program can teach a focused subset of statistical design of experiments to hundreds of engineers.

The effectiveness of Six Sigma is unquestioned in the high technology niche for which it was developed, but the inventors of Six Sigma would not be content with just this application. To market it to other industries with different needs, they removed the technical content and retained only the management parts, with Black Belts and the DMAIC problem-solving model. It was an initial commercial success, with massive adoption by companies like GE and Raytheon. This success, however, did not endure and even GE has now abandoned it. For technical content, some companies are now using the old SPC and calling it Six Sigma, but the most successful repackaging attempt is “Lean Six Sigma,” in which the technical content is entirely from Lean, with only the title of Black Belt remaining for implementers.

Lean Six Sigma as Lark Pate

Lean Six Sigma as Lark Pate

The combination of Lean and Six Sigma in “Lean Six Sigma” reminds me of the French recipe for Lark Pâté, which calls for horses and larks in equal numbers: 1 horse to 1 lark. These migrations have caused confusion and an identity crisis among black belts, as reflected, for example, in a long discussion in the Lean Six Sigma Worldwide discussion group on LinkedIn about the meaning of Six Sigma.

Theory of Constraints (TOC)

I first heard of this approach from an article in Fortune magazine in the early 1980s, describing a secret algorithm called OPT (Optimized Production Technology) developed by an Israeli physicist named Eli Goldratt who did not claim any manufacturing background but did claim to have achieved spectacular results. It was disturbing on multiple levels:

  1. As I was already aware of at the time, there is more to production technology than just scheduling. To this date, production control remains the focus of TOC, and it is predicated on the fallacy that the physical arrangement of machines and work stations on the production floor does not matter. This is diametrically opposed to the Lean/TPS approach.
  2. I was developing software for production planning and scheduling in the semiconductor industry. As part of this project, I was studying what the theory of scheduling had to offer, and did not find the notion of a secret algorithm attractive or credible. What I found was that the key challenge was generating schedules that could be executed. Advanced algorithms didn’t work without data at a level of detail and accuracy that was unavailable.

OPT sounded like snake oil, yet Eli Goldratt had managed to get it covered in Fortune! Soon afterwards, I saw a video of a presentation by Goldratt on how accounting was the number one enemy of productivity. His points made sense, and much work has been done since then to improve management accounting. The video was amateurish. Partway through his presentation, you saw a magnet fall off a white board and the speaker himself bend over to pick it up. And he made repeated references to “Murphy’s Law” as if it were more than a joke. The rhetorical style was also unlike any business presentation  I had ever heard. While Goldratt was proud of his academic credentials, he spoke like a preacher or a televangelist, which was undoubtedly a marketing decision. Academics who specialized in Operations Research (OR) did not know how to speak to plant managers, but Eli Goldratt did, and many listened. As for televangelists, the real question was whether he was leading them in the right direction. Like many at the time, after reading The Goal, I was willing to suspend disbelief, and, in early 1986, received training as an OPT implementer. My first assignments after that were to participate in implementation projects in two high-volume/low-mix factories for which the approach did not fit.

The first plant made eight models of roller bearings and was laid out as a giant job shop, with rows of identical machines so long that the end vanished in a haze of oil mist, with the corresponding mountains of WIP between operations. The second one was an aluminum foundry centered around 50 diecasting machines working in parallel with multiple machines making the same product. Scheduling was not the key issue in either, but the company had made a corporate decision to deploy OPT in all of its tens of factories,  whether it made sense or not. For these reasons, I stepped away from OPT and Goldratt.

Shortly thereafter, his organization stopped marketing OPT, which was not professionally engineered software anyway, to focus on what he called the “thoughtware” behind it, what later became the “Theory of Constraints” (TOC). If phrased as the need for organizations to focus on what is preventing or limiting their ability to reach goals, it is obvious and, at this level of generality, not markedly different from eliminating waste or focusing on “value adding” activities. When you consider specifics, such as production operations, it reduces to an execution methodology called drum-buffer-rope, which still ignores the elephants in the manufacturing room, including how to design factories, lay out production lines, engineer work stations, and apply human resources.

Agile Manufacturing

The MIT article is largely dismissive of Agile Manufacturing as “as a patchwork of plausible concepts and methods,” an assessment I agree with. In manufacturing, it is dead, as reflected, for example, by the absence of substantial LinkedIn groups on the subject. Two points, however, still need to be made about Agile:

  1. The term is still used in software development and project management, with LinkedIn groups on these topics that are of comparable size to those about Lean.
  2. Roger Nagel’s team at Lehigh borrowed the registered service mark “Agile Enterprise” without attribution from Crispin Vincenti-Brown and Ingersoll Engineers. Their Agile Enterprise was a manufacturing company with production organized in their version of cells, grouped in focused factories, as defined by Wickham Skinner.

Business Process Reengineering (BPR)

Business Process Reengineering (BPR) is also dead, after a burst of popularity in the 1990s. Its concepts and philosophy, however, live on in a kindler, gentler version called “Business Process Management” (BPM). The differences between the two are explained in a blog post by Sweeta Anand. BPR failed in the market because the employees of companies that tried to implement it perceived it as a threat, before its technical shortcomings ever had a chance to appear.

BPR is not about manufacturing but about business in general, and is predicated on the assumption that any business can be structured as a family of processes, characterized entirely by the outputs they generate and the inputs they use. In the BPR perspective, R&D is a process with product designs as output. Manufacturing, on the other hand, is not a process but is instead subsumed under order fulfillment. BPR takes Wickham Skinner’s focused factory or Womack and Jones’s value stream and expands it to all business activities. Each process has its own technical and human resources, and only interact when the output of one process is the input to another. BPR is intended to break down the functional silos that make bureaucracies slow and unresponsive and replace them with process-aligned structures that are focused on their useful outputs.

According to the founding fathers of BPR, Michael Hammer and James Champy, part of the definition of a process is that its output must be “of value to the customer,” but what is meant by customer is ambiguous. Manufacturing is not a process because its completion does not place a product in a customer’s hands but Product Development is, even though it does not do it either. The output of Product Development is used internally, by other processes, like Order Fulfillment, that are only metaphorical customers. One of the principles of TQC is “the next process is the customer,” which means that you should treat the users of your output inside the company as if they were customers who paid for it and had the choice of shopping elsewhere. It is a useful metaphor, but blurs a vital distinction, and, in the case of BPR, creates ambiguity. We could easily argue that Sales is the customer of Manufacturing, and that Manufacturing is therefore a process.

The process model is also not an obvious fit for all the activities of a company. A production line processes input materials into products; an office may likewise process applications into accepted and rejected applications. In these cases, the input-process-output model applies naturally. On the other hand, any activity that can be described as maintenance is usually thought of in terms of its objects rather than input-process-output. It takes work orders as input, processes them by dispatching technicians to the machines, and produces completed work orders as output, but this is an administrative view of the activity. The technicians perceive their job as keeping the equipment up and available, not processing work orders. Likewise, a Master Data Management department executes transactions, but only as a means to the end of keeping a database of specs up to date, and this database is the object around which their work is organized.

In terms of processes, there should not be a Shipping & Receiving department. This function should be distributed among the order fulfillment processes of the different product families. It doesn’t happen because the focus of Shipping & Receiving is the external entities it interacts with, the truckers. If it were distributed, an incoming truck might have to deliver the same item to multiple docks in the same plant. Shipping & Receiving remains centralized because it is a point of contact with world outside the plant.

Technically, BPR is simplistic, but it’s not the reason it failed. What is absent from the BPR literature is any consideration of the people doing the work and what happens to them as a result of reengineering. In manufacturing, Lean improves performance, the company grows, and the people freed up by productivity increases are used to support the growth, and it is essential to the success of the approach that operators not be putting their jobs in jeopardy by participating. BPR, on the other hand, simply reengineered people’s jobs away, which, predictably, resulted in mutinies.

Considering that BPR is essentially equivalent for business in general to converting job-shops to flow-lines in manufacturing, why is it that it can be done without firing people in manufacturing but not necessarily elsewhere? A machinist who knows only one milling machine can practically be cross-trained on lathes, broaching, drilling or grinding machines, or more modern milling machines; an assembler, on different stages of assembly, or on subassembly. But it doesn’t generalize to every business activity. It is a tall order to turn an accountant into a design engineer, or vice versa.

The ineffectiveness of isolated functional “silos” is the object of the 9th of Deming’s 14 points. As we have seen,  however, Deming does not prescribe reorganizing along process lines, and it is not always feasible or advisable.

Conclusions on the consulting profession

Over lunch at a Lean Forum in Cheboksary, Russia, I was seated with consultants from Russia, Japan, and the US, including Mark Warren. One of the Russians asked me about Lean, and I confesses that, while I was using this label, what I was helping clients with would more aptly be called Baudin Production System, just as Mark’s should be called the Warren Production System, and the same would apply around the table. Indeed,  it would be abnormal if, after a couple of decades of doing this kind of work, we didn’t have our own twists on it. The key issue is what clients expect from consultants.

Most of the people who call themselves consultants are really contractors, hired to produce outputs that are needed occasionally, but not often enough to justify hiring employees. The contractors are a temporary extension of the work force, and their knowledge and skills leave with them at the end of their engagements. Then, there is a second category of consultants who are really trainers, hired to help an organization comply with external mandates, such as regulations from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or  Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), ISO-9001 certification, or certification as a Lean supplier. These consultants coach clients in the art of passing a particular kind of audit, and are needed as a cost of doing business. Their emphasis is not on improving performance but on providing auditors with what they need to see in order to check-mark the items on their lists. This is the realm of named, formal processes where no deviation from a standard is tolerated. They transfer knowledge, but this knowledge is procedural, and  usually has no value beyond ensuring certification.

The last category are consultants who are brought in to help clients improve performance. There, what matters is less the ideas they already have than their ability to come up with new ones, as well as ways to implement them that are feasible in the existing organization. It is similar to solving a Harvard Business School case, with the differences that it is a real situation and that the issues are technical as well as managerial. Top management has identified shortcomings in the company’s operations, feels they must be remedied to remain competitive, but has not found the ability to do it with internal resources. The external consultant brings in a fresh pair of trained eyes, the experience of similar situations, and a kit of tools, either mastered personally or made available through colleagues. The consultant’s generic abilities must then be melded with the specific business and technical knowledge available internally to come up with innovative, ad-hoc solutions. This kind of work requires direct observation of the operations, communication with people at all levels in the client organization, and analysis of the company data. It cannot be done dogmatically. The solutions will vary, as will the means of implementing them.

This is what my colleagues and I do. It cannot be done rigidly or dogmatically. It requires us to be open-minded and evaluate ideas on their own merits from wherever they may come. We operate under a flag or label but, whatever its orthodoxy is, we are always heretics.

119 comments on “MIT article comparing Lean, TQM, Six Sigma, “and related enterprise process improvement methods”

  1. I really enjoyed this article. It is mostly level-headed and comprehensive. Because the different brands of improvement exist the arguments for or against something are more marketing than anything else.

    However, just as there is poorly instructed lean there is a LOT of poorly instructed Six Sigma and nearly all the LSS is poor. You can have a bad thermodynamics teacher that doesn’t mean thermodynamics is flawed. Further, the linkedin evidence for Six Sigma confusion is weak (albeit perhaps the best that can be reasonably collected). Because the forum has no vetting mechanisms any one can post with whatever training or lack thereof they have.

    I really appreciated how you mentioned that Statistical tools make sense for some industries more than others. I started in an industry that wasn’t mature and a DOE and SPC saved the day more than once.

    One book that comes to mind is Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths And Total Nonsense: Profiting From Evidence-Based Management by Pfeffer and Sutton. The buyer/learner must beware before buying into a methodology/philosophy.

  2. Michael; thank you for an excellent account of the different production improvement philosophies! A carefully crafted post. If you want further viewpoints; it reminds me of the paper by Richard Schonberger (2007. “Japanese production management: An evolution – With mixed success”. Journal of Operations Management, 25, 403-419.)

  3. Pingback: Lean, 6 sigma, etc.: comparison of process improvement approaches

  4. Dear Mr. Baudin,

    Thank you for sharing some of your thoughts and perceptions regarding my working paper entitled “Towards an Integration of the Lean Enterprise System, Total Quality Management, Six Sigma and Related Enterprise Process Improvement Methods” (August 10, 2010; MIT ESD-2010-05).

    Your aim, as you articulate it, is to “supplement” my “academic perspective” with your own “implementation perspective.” This sounds fair enough, as I always value insights from the world of implementation. Please keep in mind that MIT’s motto — “Mens et manus”, which is Latin for “Mind and hand” — is an important component of our academic culture. More to the point, I have been personally steeped in the world of BOTH academic work and implementation. Even closer to home, you are welcome to look up the website below (under my name), which provides a window into our work through the Lean Advancement Initiative at MIT since 1993. The program, initially Lean Aircraft Initiative and later Lean Advancement Initiative, has represented a consortium of companies, government organizations and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) organized to enable focused and accelerated transformation of complex enterprises. The program was initially created to help transform the defense aircraft industry and later broadened in scope to help transform the aerospace industry, encompassing all industry and government operations. In recent years, it has been open to membership by all enterprises internationally. The program’s central mission has been the creation of new knowledge, initially motivated by lean enterprise principles, and its translation into action. Thus, LAI has served as a unique platform for collaborative learning and action, with far reaching impact in terms of transforming complex enterprises.

    However, instead of supplementing my “academic perspective” with your “implementation perspective” you seem inexplicably determined to engage in a number of gross misrepresentations of my paper. But for the purposes of this exchange, I will assume that your comments reflect mere sloppiness or carelessness. I will also ignore a certain undercurrent of condescension running through your remarks.

    Let me focus on a number of specific statements you make related to my paper:

    STATEMENT 1: You state that I describe these various approaches as “complementary,” that I do so to avoid controversy, and that you believe such a description is inaccurate.

    Response: Your characterization is overly simplistic, misrepresents my position, and is very misleading. I say explicitly (INTRODUCTION) that the purpose of the paper is to explore whether, to what extent, where and how these various methods can be brought together, by exploiting the potential complementary relationships among them, to evolve a more effective “core” integrated enterprise management system, with the lean enterprise system serving as the central organizing framework.

    I also maintain that they do not represent distinctly different or mutually exclusive or competing methods for achieving the same end results, that they differ in quite discernible ways (e.g., in terms of their underlying mental models or cause-effect relationships they posit, scale of implementation, their scope or coverage of enterprise operations, their primary focus, the implementation methods they employ, and mode of change or improvement they espouse to achieve). I also point out that despite the differences that separate them, they share common roots in manufacturing, focus almost exclusively on enterprise operations, and concentrate on process improvement. The task then becomes an identification of those common elements (mostly at the tactical and operational levels) that could be integrated into the “core” lean enterprise system to evolve a more effective enterprise management system and to encourage further research to develop new insights into the design, development and transformation of large-scale enterprises as complex adaptive socio-technical systems.

    Meanwhile, I do agree with you that these approaches have been presented, by their respective “tribal” proponents, as unique, distinct, universally-applicable approaches for improving enterprise operations and achieving enterprise change, much to my chagrin (and yours, too, I gather).

    STATEMENT 2: You state that, “as academics are prone to do,” I treat these approaches as if they were “scientific theories”.

    Response: Let us, for the moment, overlook (again) your condescending remark about what academics are prone to do. Contrary to what you state, I never treat these approaches as if they were “scientific theories”. I clearly state (see Abstract) that these approaches, taken together, represent practice-based, rather than theory-grounded, methods with common roots in manufacturing. I further state that most of the literature on them is descriptive and prescriptive, aimed largely at a practitioner audience. Your statement, therefore, is patently false.

    STATEMENT 3: You offer your opinion that all of these various approaches, except for Lean, have basically disappeared and that, therefore, “the bulk of the article should be about Lean and the reasons it crushed its competition.” In the same vein, you state later that “[T]he description of the Lean Enterprise system in the paper (section 2.1.1) is actually accurate, if too brief. While it is broader in scope and depth than any of the other ‘methods’ covered, it received the shortest explanation.” In the process, you seem to be wondering why anyone should even bother discussing these other approaches since, to use your vocabulary, time has already filtered them out as bad ideas.

    Response: There is a very good reason for my brief treatment of the lean enterprise system in this particular paper. If you have read the paper, you will have seen that this is a companion paper to a preceding paper that exclusively concentrates on the evolution of the lean enterprise system. The two papers appear jointly on the MIT ESD working papers website. Also, the two papers have been published as companion chapters in the multi-volume Encyclopedia of Aerospace Engineering (2010), as clearly stated on the paper’s title page.

    I am surprised that you have failed to see the immediately preceding working paper (on the evolution of the lean enterprise system) where the subject paper is posted. Further, you seem to have missed explicit references, in the body of this paper, to the preceding companion paper on the evolution of the lean enterprise system. I hope you now understand that there would have been little reason to treat the lean enterprise system at greater length in this particular paper.

    You are, of course, free to offer your comment that time has filtered out these other “bad ideas” and that the main focus of the paper should really have been, in your opinion, on why Lean has “crushed” these other ideas or approaches. But let’s also understand that your opinion has nothing to do with my aim in writing this paper in the first place.

    STATEMENT 4: You state that I label all approaches as “enterprise process improvement methods” and that you find this overly restrictive at least in the case of Lean. Next, you similarly think my use of the word “method” conveys too narrow a characterization of these “approaches.”

    Response: As I indicate in the paper, the lean enterprise system, alone among these various approaches, represents a holistic and substantively much richer view of networked enterprises. Our research at MIT has substantially broadened and deepened the scope and dimensions of the lean enterprise system, as I discuss fully in my earlier companion paper focusing exclusively on the evolution of the lean enterprise system. Still, however, during much of the period of its manufacturing-centric evolution, Lean’s signature characteristic has been continuous process improvement. Further, process improvement has been the main connecting thread linking these various approaches together, despite some of their differences. Also, let’s not forget, as I point out in the paper, that these approaches came into prominence at a time (i.e., in the 1980s and 1990s) of a major shift in management philosophy and practice, catalyzed by the gradual dissolution of the prevalent mass production system and intensifying international competition, that increasingly concentrated on process improvement to achieve significant improvements in terms of operational efficiency, flexibility and responsiveness.

    You quibble with my (somewhat liberal or broader) use of the word “methods” with reference to these “approaches.” This may be simply a difference of opinion on the correct usage of the word “method” in the English language. Still, please note what I explicitly say in the INTRODUCTION:

    “The six approaches discussed here can be referred to as operational improvement methods, enterprise change initiatives, planned change models, or intervention approaches, reflecting the various ways in which they can be interpreted.”

    Also, you seem to suggest that my use of the word “methods” directly relegates them to merely tactical or operational methods or techniques. This is not correct. I take pains in the paper to delineate the comparative properties of these approaches in terms of their strategic, tactical or operational emphasis, as well as in terms of the extent of their enterprise-wide scope and intensity of focus (Tables 3 and 4). In addition, I show their comparative history, goal, defining features, core concepts, and focus (Tables 1 and 2).

    STATEMENT 5: You state that in my discussion of TQM I make no reference to TQC and that, in particular, I have not traced the Japanese version of TQC on which TQM is based.

    Response: This strikes me as unproductive nitpicking. Even if correct, this would in no way significantly alter the main conclusions reached. Actually, in my (rather high level) discussion of TQM, I make explicit references to the origins of TQM in the 1930s and its evolution since then, with specific references to key driving ideas and thought leaders, such as Deming, who played a key role in the Japanese context, and others (such as Juran, Crosby, Taguchi). I give a sufficiently detailed characterization of TQM by saying that it encompasses a set of precepts, methods and techniques (e.g., statistical process control (SPC), error-poofing (poka-yoke), quality circles, quality function deployment, robust design) — all of which have strong Japanese roots — to improve quality and ensure customer satisfaction. If you are unable to see the link between statistical process control and TQC, this is regrettable. I also indicate that TQM has no single, unified, cohesive definition and generally lacks an integrative conceptual framework. I indicate that, instead, it encompasses a number of distinctive perspectives reflecting not only the main ideas of key figures shaping the quality movement but also evolving notions of quality. In particular, I note that the definition of quality has shifted over time from “conformance-to-specifications” to “value” to “meeting-and-exceeding customer-expectations.”

    Finally, for your information, please note that both of my pre-publication working papers mentioned here represent highly condensed versions of a very lengthy and comprehensive monograph prepared earlier. This had to be done in order to meet the tight space requirements of the Encyclopedia of Aerospace Engineering (2010), even including the number of references. Accordingly, certain details had to be compressed in all cases. On TQM alone, for example, in the original monograph there is extensive coverage of its evolution since Shewcart’s work on statistical process control (1931, 1939), as well as of subsequent developments.

    I expect that you will post my response right next to your comments about my paper.

    Thank you.

    Kirkor Bozdogan, Ph.D.

    • Dear Mr. Bozdogan:
      First, I would like to point out that my post starts with a link to your paper. As a consequence, it will have a few more readers, which I assumed would please you. I read this paper because someone pointed it out to me. I am not familiar with the rest of your work, and have no call to be condescending about it. I . There are a few academics, like JT Black at Auburn University, who have been doing a great job of researching, writing, and teaching what they should for students of manufacturing, and, for all I know, you may be in that number.
      While I have the highest respect for academia in math or biology, in manufacturing, the academic community as a whole is subject to perverse incentives that focus many researchers on abstract nonsense. When you bring up topics like cell design or SMED with professors of industrial engineering, manufacturing engineering, or operations management at top universities, they respond that there is no way they could get grants on such topics. They feel the only available research funding is on cures in search of a disease, like genetic algorithms.
      Writing about an “academic” versus “implementation” perspectives was intended as a way of gently expressing disagreement. I would not doubt your commitment, but it is not quite the same to be a faculty member at MIT who also works on implementation versus a full time consultant for more than two decades.
      In your abstract, you write “Despite certain differences among them, they potentially complement each other in important ways. The lean enterprise system, total quality management and six sigma, in particular, are tightly interconnected as highly complementary approaches and can be brought together.” This is the basis for STATEMENT 1. Perhaps you do not do it to avoid controversy, but saying otherwise does cause a great deal of controversy.
      STATEMENT 2 is about the lack of context and motivation in your descriptions of the different approaches. You don’t say who was trying to solve what problem in what industry. Are academics prone to do that? I remember being taught mathematical theories that way.
      About STATEMENT 3, again, I was reacting to your paper as a stand-alone document, and I am not familiar with the rest of your work.
      In your comment on STATEMENT 4, you say “Lean’s signature characteristic has been continuous process improvement,” I don’t think that begins to tell the story. Continuous improvement is part of Lean but not its “signature characteristic,” which I see in the pursuit of concurrent improvement in all dimensions of performance. It includes large-scale, discontinuous changes as well as continuous improvement as means to this end.
      On STATEMENT 5, I think that the connection with Japanese TQC is quite important, because I believe that the motivation behind TQM and the Malcolm Baldridge award was to emulate TQC and the Deming prize.
      What is essential to TQM and the root of its failure is that it is what Robert Schaffer called an “activity-driven program.” The ideology is that, if you train everybody from the top down in an organization in following certain standard practices, performance will improve as a result in the long run. In English acronyms made in Japan, “Total” is not intended to describe the technical depth of an approach but involvement by everyone in the organization. In the case of TQM, for example, one result I have seen was having engineering PhDs from R&D sit through training on PDCA and SPC.
      Best regards.

      Michel Baudin

      • Dear Mr. Baudin,
        Thank you again for sharing your thoughts and observations concerning my paper. Here are a few more comments that I hope you will find informative.

        First, to repeat, my motivation in writing this paper was to EXPLORE whether, to what extent, where and how the various approaches can be brought together, by exploiting the potentially complementary relationships among them, to evolve a more effective “core” integrated enterprise management system, with the lean enterprise system serving as the central organizing framework. To understand why I believe the lean enterprise system might or should serve as the central organizing framework, I invite you to read my earlier, companion, paper (posted on the same website) “Evolution of the Lean Enterprise System: A Critical Synthesis and Agenda for the Future” (MIT-ESD-WP-2010-04). You will see, also, that I have critical things to say about the lean enterprise system also, lest one thinks I am only advancing our own research at MIT. I outline its certain weaknesses and outline a future research agenda for addressing them.

        In this context, where I come out in this exploratory journey is that there are, indeed, certain specific, tightly-interconnected, perhaps historically-driven complementary elements linking together the lean enterprise system, TQM, and Six Sigma, in particular. I also indicate that certain elements of theory of constraints, agile manufacturing, and business process reengineering can also, possibly, brought into the mix, but selectively. I conclude that such complementarities, as identified, are mostly at the tactical and operational levels. I outline these points clearly in the body of the paper. While it is altogether fine that you are “gently expressing disagreement”, it is not clear to me what the sources of your disagreement are, specifically in the context of what I have just outlined.

        Second, while I respect your long experience as a consultant in industry, we are not talking here about who has the better insight or wisdom on the issues being discussed. As I have said before, I always welcome insights from the world of implementation, as I have done throughout my professional life. In return, I also hope I have made a modest contribution towards bridging the “knowing-doing gap” still so prevalent in industry.

        Third, I have already indicated in the paper that these are largely atheoretical, acontextual, approaches, either assuming a static (or stable) external environment or making no assumptions regarding the external environment. How they would fare under varying external environmental contingency conditions (e.g., turbulent, fast-paced) — long an integral part of the evolving organization science literature over many decades — is not something originators of these approaches or their proponents seem to have much thought about. While I sympathize with the question you raise concerning the specific problem-solving contexts in which one, or some combination of these approaches, might be most relevant or effective, this would be best addressed as part of a longer paper. Nevertheless, I do attempt to summarize the essential features of these approaches, in a comparative setting, such as their history, goal, defining feature, core concepts, focus, implementation, mode of improvement and change, applicability at different enterprise scales and intensity of focus (strategic, tactical, operational), and extent of enterprise scope and intensity of focus (networked enterprise, core enterprise, business unit, factory floor).

        Fourth, I believe much of our disagreement (if any) about the nature and dimensions of “continuous improvement” would probably disappear if you were to read my companion paper on the evolution of the lean enterprise system.

        Finally, on TQM, I make it sufficiently clear that enhancing quality requires the active involvement of the “total” organization and explain what this entails (e.g., committed and engaged management at multiple levels, empowered and fulfilled employees, collaborative relationships throughout the organization, close links to both customers and suppliers). On the importance of TQC in motivating the evolution of TQM and the Malcolm Baldrige (not Baldridge) award, we simply have a difference of opinion.


        Kirk Bozdogan

      • Wow! Great commentary between Michel and Dr. Bozdogan. I have not read the Dr’s papers yet, but will add them to my reading list. I’ve also written about the differences between many of the improvement methodologies you both reference. And would like to simplistically respond to a few of the comments from two very knowledgeable people.

        Hot improvement methodologies are like a hit song or a NYT best selling book. They have a cool riff or a neat lyric that touches people. With Improvement Methodologies the Top 10 Hit List cause people to think a little bit differently. 70% (not totally scientifically documented, but a reasonable guess) of all ‘popular’ improvement methodologies use the exact same tools although not necessarily in exactly the same way. Most of those tools are more than 100 years old and have their roots in traditional industrial engineering practices. The tools are most definitely used in a different way today than they were 100 years ago.

        So what is the cool riff or lyric in the methodologies you both reference:

        TQM – Meet the customer requirements (TQM was coined by Richard Figenbaum by the way); when this became popular U.S. and to a lesser degree European manufacturers were worried about the Japanese onslaught and higher levels of Japanese quality in electronics and automobile manufacturing. So the world took notice and TQM took off as a somewhat limited improvement methodology.

        BPM – Gosh I wish I had coined that label, by alas Hammer and Champy did it. Engineer your processes. Now that sounds totally cool and the methodology took off.

        Six Sigma (admittedly this is statistics, the belts did make it sound cool) it had two riffs. First data driven decision making. And second reduce variation.

        TOC to me has always (perhaps my simplistic understanding) meant manage the bottle necks or the slowest point in the process….get moving Herbie! I never understood it to be more than that.

        Lean (TPS and many other variations of this name) the most cool riff is “Be like Toyota!” Less sexy eliminate waste (which is how most people think about this methodology). And for advanced thinkers (eliminate barriers that inhibit the flow of value creation).

        Not on your list…and not exactly acronyms but still two of my favorites at the moment are:
        “Good strategies/Bad strategies” by Rummelt and
        “Islands of Profit in a Sea of Red Ink” by Byrnes (sort of understand the 80/20 Rule relative to overall enterprise thinking.

        Both of these folks I believe are comrades of Dr. B.

        I could and have argue(d) that I can take the TQM methodology and do any of the above list. Most people did not. But if I truly and deeply focus on “meet customer requirements” of course I’d want to have good strategies, eliminate waste, have some flow to the work that gets done, engineer my processes and have some cooperation between departments that work for the same enterprise, etc. And a holistic thinking organization might even come to realize that respecting the people who work for the enterprise and developing their critical thinking skills might be a good idea.

        Arguments about which methodologies are best is the wrong discussion – and I’m NOT Accusing either of you of doing that. Personally I want to understand all of the above themes. And if some hot new methodology comes along that does replace lean as the hot thing, I also want it to influence my critical thinking process, because it will offer an additional insight. More critical thinking is the only thing that is important.

        Many people talk about the importance the Toyota’s Production System.’ No one talks about the importance of Toyota’s business strategies. Which is key to what they have accomplished from my perspective…..but I’m going to avoid going here in this short note.

        We working on a new book for 2013. It will build on some of the work we did in “Escape the Improvement Trap” so what I’m about to say is my current hypothesis. I will be able to validate or modify this thought as the result of the research we do this year…but here is what I think is important.

        • The methodology absolutely does not matter BUT
        • You need to be familiar with the methodologies the various riffs (theme/thought processes) they express. So it helps to be coached by a knowledgable resource.
        * Leadership needs to get grounded in ‘reality as it really exist’ rather than the reality they wish existed (going to Gemba can help make this happen); but leaders need to realize their organization is probably average in terms of just about everything it does (strategies, improvement activities, developing people, etc.) So there is a lot of reality to learn about. I like the Jason Jennings note in “The Reinventors” (not one of my fav. books though). In leadership interviews 4 out of 5 said “their company provides SUPERIOR service.” Yet when Jennings minions went and interviewed customers for those organizations 9 out of 10 said – “NOT TRUE!”
        • An extension of getting grounded in reality is for the leadership team to actually participate on several improvement teams. They can begin to see the problems caused by organizational processes and protocols and the actually reality for that particular work activity. They will be amazed at the waste they find. And hopefully this will help them realize perhaps the organization is not quite as good as they thought and customers might not love them.
        • This will helpfully create a degree of humility and greater willingness to learn.

        Next And I think this is the key that replaces a particular methodology……
        • You need to create your own improvement initiative. The act of creating it, generates ownership. And it needs to be developed by multiple levels of the organization. You cannot copy what someone else does and have it be meaningful. Michel’s point about drawing on his experience to figure out what is important for a client is key.

        There are only a few organizations (I know about) that have done an outstanding job of improving. Some of them worked with a true Toyota Sensei. Others followed a different pathway. All them say, ‘the experience of learning, changed they way they think about improvement.’ It is the hard work of learning that permitted them to operate in a different way. There are good (effective) ways to create it; and not so good (which unfortunately is the path followed by most companies).

        Hopefully I did not fly too far off on a tangent. I very much liked the discussion. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  5. Comment in the TPS Principles and Practice discussion group on LinkedIn:

    @ Michel,

    Thanks a lot for your link ,the two documents (MIT and your’s) very interesting and rich.

    I agree with you , and I think is a mistake to put in the same category one and other as if they have the same scope ; labelling all as “ENTERPRISE PROCESS IMPROVEMENT METHODS” . In my point of view Lean Enterprise is an Enterprise Management System, TOC is a process improvement method, Six Sigma is a process improvement method, Total Quality Management (ISO-900x) could be considered as Enterprise Management System , and BPR could be considered too as a Enterprise Process Improvement Method.

    ADMINISTRATION : I remember from high school that teacher told us that is a set of SCIENCES , TECHNIQUES and ARTS to Plan, Organize ,Execute (Direction) and Control an Organization.

    MANAGEMENT SCIENCES : This name constrain the management to “ONLY SCIENCES”

    ENTERPRISE MANAGEMENT/ADMINISTRATION SYSTEM : By this I understand a set of sciences, techniques, arts to plan , organize, execute , control an Enterprise. Its a set of subsystems : Corporate Management System ,Operations MS, Comercial MS, HR MS, Financial MS .

    According to the lines aboive we could classify the items as follows:

    Enterprise Management Systems : Toyota Enterprise Managment System , Lean Enteprise Management System, could be (I’m not sure) TQM/ISO 9000x ,

    Operations Management Systems : TPS , Lean Manufacturing

    Process Improvement Methods : BRP, TOC, SixSigma

    So here we are “mixing apples with oranges” .

    SYNERGIES BETWEEN THEM : Once we agree that are not the same , and cannot be classified all like “enterprise process improvement methods” ; lets do the assumption that Toyota Enterprise Management System and Lean Enterprise Management System “are almost the same”. So the problem to solve is :

    How to integrate: BRP, TOC , Six Sigma , ISO 900x, ISO 1400x , let me add ERP ( notice that ERP is not Enterprise Management System is only E. Resources Planning – not accurate name isn’t ? ), Agile into Toyota/Lean Enterprise Management System.

    I like your approach of eliminating the concepts that doesn’t present ADDED VALUE to the management of the enterprise because are redundant or because have failed in the real life : TOC, TQM (not ISO’s), Agile, etc.

    Perhaps Six Sigma DMAIC is helpful as a Problem Solving tool for specific problems.

    Perhaps ERP could help to bring speed to the information flow through the enterprise, but it presents risks like : technological dependency , lack of flexibility, complexity, and others.

    BOOSTING LEAN/TOYOTA Enterprise Management Systems .

    I think that expanding TPS/Lean Manufacturing to other areas like cost accounting , marketing, sales, hr, ; potentiating this EM systems with IT tools, and other are the next real step to generate a better approach to Administrate the Organizations.

    I want to write this following lines to understand the value of the Academic works in Administration . Some mentor told me that to be a good professional ( Consultant , Business Administrator, Project Manager, Operations Manager, Supervisor, etc) we need learn from 4 SCHOOLS :

    — ACADEMIC School
    — CORPORATE School
    — FAMILY School
    — LIFE/STREET School

    If we don’t have the 4 we are incomplete.

    Frederick Taylor wasn’t PhD from an Ivy Leguage University, niether Henry Ford, Taichi Ohno, Eiji Toyoda , (Deming yes, he was Ph D from Yale)

    @ Michel , I have that “melting pot -best practices – jazz style – unorthodox approach” , that’s why I like too the definition of Administration/Management as a set of Sciences,Techniques and Arts

  6. Comment in the Lean Six Sigma Worldwide discussion group on LinkedIn:

    Michel, Thank you very much for this wonderful synopsis of the history of various fads. I recommend everyone should read it with any kind of involvement in production or service industry. There are millions of non-vocal intellectuals in the arena who are never heard. There are crooked insecure executives who staff the organization with those they feel secure with, not those who are capable. Combine all these factors, and any good program can get corrupted or get burned, and a healthy viable vibrant organization can get messed up.

    I had posted for Discussion “Will someone please answer what was or is Three Sigma?”
    with a note “Six Sigma is the buzz. How many trained in Six Sigma even know what was Three Sigma?” This article has THE answer. I really enjoyed it.

  7. Comment in the PEX Network & IQPC – Lean Six Sigma & Process Excellence for Continuous Improvement discussion group on LinkedIn:

    This article contains truly valuable dialogue…I say that with the caveat that the readers also need to dedicate time and thoughtful consideration to the sage advise and experience reflected in the comments to the article, as well as the article itself. When taken collectively, readers and “genuine thinkers” will advantage significantly through close examination of the entire content (article and comments).

    Great Job to all involved…lots of meat to chew on…even if it includes some Horse Meat too.

  8. Comment in the TPS Principles and Practice discussion group on LinkedIn:

    Thank you Michel, very interesting. If I can summarize very briefly my personal reaction: we basically agree on the importance of Lean (and/or TPS) but I think the presentation of the Theory Of Constraints is limited and outdated. TOC has developed over the past 20 years and can now address subjects such as New Product Development and functions such as Marketing & Sales. It has had to adapt to the new world in which the constraints are no longer always bottlenecks on the shop floor.

    But please don’t take this comment as a criticism. Overall I greatly appreciated your writings, the Bozdogan MIT article that I had missed and your discussion with its author (!).

  9. Comment in the Lean Six Sigma Canada discussion group on LinkedIn:

    This is an excellent article and am very glad to have been pointed to it. I have been involved heavily in Lean, much less in Six Sigma, and in my experience, the competitive angle was driven entirely by the proponents of the methodology.

    Specifically, in my previous organization, Six Sigma was a highly-structured program, in which a great deal of centralized training was provided to process principals. Black Belt certifications were awarded, a select group then went on to become Master Black Belts, most of whom went on to get jobs in other organizations.

    Lean, however, was very grass roots, undertaken piecemeal by each facility, driven primarily by customers (this was an aerospace supplier). If people wanted to “do Lean,” they could. There was no centralized strategy, promotion, teaching (other than from our customers or what I personally assembled).

    And the Six Sigma gurus did a very successful job of planting negative seeds regarding Lean in the minds of many (not all) of their disciples. The Lean vs. Six Sigma competition in the organization was artificial, driven by the company culture and vastly different approaches to each. In reality, though, the two should be treated as complementary, targeting different aspects of process.

    The combining of the two into a “Lean Six Sigma” approach blurs the distinctions between the two. A specific problem is often either a variation issue or a waste issue, and the only direct link is that the variation leads to the waste.

    I have concluded that it all comes down to achieving a thorough understanding of the process at hand, as any process can be defined in terms of the intended results of the process and each step within the process.

    Not very profound, but it liberates the organization from having to strictly follow some rigid, dogmatic approach to analysis, and keeps the focus on, “how do I make it better for my customers, my workers, my leadership and my investors?” Another thing I have concluded is that the improvement strategy that “works” is the one the organization happened to be implementing when they became serious about actually achieving improvement. The last thing I have concluded is, if you have a team of people in the organization that are committed to improvement (as opposed to just being on the up elevator on the org chart), the methodology will ultimately work itself out (becoming a variant of the strategy honed by application and adjustment within the organization).

  10. Comment from Charlene Spoede Budd in the Lean Six Sigma Worldwide discussion group on LinkedIn:

    A word of caution: This is a fairly recent working paper (2010), but the author’s knowledge of Theory of Constraints (ToC) is limited to techniques developed in the 1980s. The world, and ToC, has changed considerably in the past 30 years.

    Some statements regarding ToC in this paper are clearly wrong and invalidate many of the paper’s conclusions.

    I asked for clarification as follows:

    Could you elaborate on which statements are wrong and provide corrections? Could you also clarify whether they are statements in K. Bozdogan’s paper, in my comments, or both?

    To which she responded as follows:

    My earlier comments referred to the paper itself. (Frankly, I did not read your entire comments until I saw your response to my post.)

    I have no problem with your views of academics, consultants (I could be viewed as a member of both groups), or your experience with OPT, that preceded ToC. (None of these — or the rest of us — are perfect.)

    ToC has evolved into a true system approach where the “constraint” search begins at the top organizational level, then procedes to the quest to minimize its impact, coordinate everything else with this limiting factor, and then evaluate (cost/benefit where cost does not include irrelevant allocations) its possible elimination. (This is the five-step process supporting all ToC advancements.)

    Lean, TQM, 6-Sigma, etc., while containing many good ideas, generally are designed and applied to specific (local) areas of an organization, according to some priority system. Local improvements may or may not (they typically do not) improve an organization’s bottom line. Therefore, I believe ToC should be the “umbrella” management concept that uses the other concepts as they are needed. Thus, because Bozdogan assumed that Lean was the “umbrella” approach, and his knowledge of ToC is extremely outdated, I conclude that his model description in “Towards an Integration . . .” is biased and his conclusions irrelevant.

    Of course, ALL the management philosophies constantly steal the best ideas from each other, so it is becoming more difficult to differentiate them and to tease out where ideas originated. However, this is exactly the way knowledge grows.

    As they say in Georgia, “I have no dog in this fight.” I no longer accept new consulting engagements and am trying my best to retire from those responsibilities I still have.

    I remain interested in progress and identifying “best” practices, however. When you have time, give ToC another look, especially as it is applied to projects and portfolios of projects (Critical Chain).

    • In Lean, the takt time is the key to ensuring that you pursue global rather than local improvements. This is explained in Chapter 4 of Lean Assembly.

      Takt-driven production, in which product units move instantly to the next operation at a regular beat set so that you can meet the demand within the available work time, is an ideal state, called “True North” by some, that is never fully achieved but constantly striven for. In particular, it provides you operational criteria to determine whether a local project contributes a global improvement: does it move the actual production system in the direction of takt-driven production? The robots in The Goal didn’t, but conversion from batch to one-piece flow does.

      After my brush with OPT in the 1980s, I read Eli Goldratt’s Theory of Constraint, as well as something on Critical Chain. In both cases, he just seemed to me to be going further in the same direction.

  11. Great insight & overview. When NBC issued their white paper, “If Japan Can….Why Can’t We?” in 1980, it started the Quality revolution in North America. Toyota stood out as different than other Japanese manufacturers. TPS is the basis of Lean.
    The Toyota Way took decades to build a culture. I find Deming’s 14 point complementary to Lean.

  12. As a multi-decade Lean implementer and Six Sigma belt I look forward to the next generation “Common Sense” paradigm. The most powerful culture changes and process improvements are through the implementation of ideas and tools that are common sense and understood by any 4th grader. In my opinion, the Six Sigma fad dropped our industries into low gear, and only now are we coming out of it. My former employer, Lear Corp, dropped the Lean Enterprise initiative flat and spent $20MM training people in Six Sigma. My guess would be that the Six Sigma tools are required in less than 2% of all problems confronted. I enjoyed the discussion of the politics surrounding organizational change, very helpful.

  13. Comment in the Operational Excellence discussion group on LinkedIn:

    I was happy to see this discussion because, as one who has consulted, trained and practiced TQM, Six Sigma and Lean, I have found the Lean devotees a bit overbearing. In my own practice over the last 20 years I have found place for all of these methodologies and have reached out for guidance in problem solving from all of them (see my article on the subject, “Lean and Six Sigma –The twain have met”, CEO LEADERSHIP 03-03 P68-70 6/9/04).

    Bozdogan is correct in pointing out that these methodologies all strive to stabilize linear processes but an enterprise does not work that way; it is a non-linear system. I have had to reach out to non- linear thinking and methods to deal with complex process issues in supply chains, health care and innovation (articles on these can be supplied on request). This is where the future is for practitioners who work at the enterprise level. The seeds of this thinking go back to Shewhart who described statistical process control as “…a dynamic scientific process of acquiring knowledge.”

    From my recent paper on innovation: “In linear processes, outcomes are reached through a series of organized steps. Linear processes are stable and the outcomes predictable (within statistical limits), based on the behavior of each step. Linear processes are scalable, particularly if flow is continuous. For example, if more or less ‘material’ is provided as input to a linear process then outputs will increase or decrease proportionately.

    In non-linear processes, non-additive interaction makes it impossible to determine the performance of a structure from a study of its isolated parts (Holland, 1992). In other words, the whole is not always equal to the sum of its parts. Non-linear processes often have significant feedback loops. Outcomes are sensitive to changes in driving factors and initial conditions in ways that are not always understood. Results are dependent on combinations of driving factors rather than individual values. Lorenz (1993) describes a non-linear system as “(one)… in which alterations in an initial state need not produce alterations in subsequent states.” With respect to innovation, one could anticipate, for example, that increasing the amount of money dedicated to an innovation project (an input), would not necessarily increase the number of new products invented (the output).”

    • I understand a Linear System simply to be one in which the output is a linear combination of the inputs, meaning that, with inputs x and y, the output H(x+y)= H(x) + H(y), and that, if you multiply input x by any number a, H(ax) = aH(x).

      If you are selling a family of products in a market at a fixed price for each product, your total sales is the sum of the quantities for each product, weighted by unit price, which makes it a linear combination. This is a linear system, and the object of techniques like Linear Programming (LP).

      Of course, if aggregate production from all suppliers is near demand, it becomes non-linear because prices start to vary, and by large amounts. If production is 105% of demand, prices crash as each producer scrambles to get rid of his own output; if 95% of demand, prices skyrocket as each customer is afraid to be left short. This is what we have seen occur time and again, for example, in the oil market, with small variations in the ratio of supply to demand causing prices to triple or fall by half.

      I don’t see, however, “linear” as meaning that “outcomes are reached through a series of organized steps,” because, for example, an organized production plan may lead to a situation of shortage or overage and non-linear sales. Conversely, the presence of non-additive interactions makes it more complicated but not necessarily impossible to anticipate performance. Pent-up demand scenarios, for example, are common in electronics and they are non-linear, but you can plan for them.

      All this to say that I don’t see a connection between Lean and linearity. Lean manufacturing enhances a company’s ability to deal not only with fluctuations but with all sorts for curves the world may throw at it, be they war, earthquakes, floods, or self-inflicted quality emergencies.

  14. Comment in the Operational Excellence discussion group on LinkedIn:

    Very well written article. I feel we often attempt to over analyze and over evangelize these techniques and methodologies. I have used all over the past 35 years including basic operational analysis from Fredrick Taylor days. All are good, solid approaches and can work well. But they can, and do, often fail miserably. Regardless of the terminology and approach (BPR, TQM, DMAIC, TOC, PDCA, etc) you have to have the basics covered. Communicate well, get management buy-in, involve the employees and make sure they understand what’s in it for them, measure and measure some more, know the environment you are in and adjust as needed to compensate for drivers and factors you may not be able to control. Keep focused on the goal and how best to get there, not what approach you decide to use.

  15. Comment in the Lean CEO discussion group on LinkedIn:

    Michael, this synopsis is positively enlightening, and from my experience,I find it is also accurate in each instance. What is most revealing is the quantitative analysis of the ‘current fashion scene’ amongst improvement crusaders. I have always felt that there was a direct inverse correlation between the enthusiasm for an approach and how recently the zealot promoting it had discovered it.

  16. Does it matter?

    I started reading this article, thinking it would help me actually add to my knowledge. After a few para’s I started wondering if the author believes in “my mind > sum total of all other minds – past, present (and possibly future)”.

    I am not sure what was the purpose of this post:
    -self glorification, that “I am ok; none of you are ok”
    – criticism of the article that elicited this blog
    – increasing traffic to your blog / marketing
    – genuine intellectual contribution to professionals who practice any of the science / art of Lean or TOC or Six Sigma, etc.

    As someone with a “plain brain”, I gave up reading this article. Even the intellectual banter between the two guru’s did not tempt me to read it end to end as I doubt I will be better off.

    • This is a blog post, not a journal article. You experience something today, or a document comes across your desk, and you post your reaction to it. This is just my reaction to Bozdogan's paper, that I am sharing in the hope you and others might find it useful in making their own decisions.

    • Dear Mr. Gupta,

      You seem to be quite ignorant of Mr. Baudin’s work and his background. He is one of the Gurus/ Authority on the subject of Lean Manufacturing/Management. So be it, the fact that you do admit that you did not read through his article and are commenting on the subject clearly shows your inadequacy to comment in the first place. In fact your subsequent comments actually indicate that you are quite hurt to know some hard facts about the so-called, inadequate, scandalous, incompetent, marketing-hungry philosophies you might follow.. like TOC! Why don’t you read through Mr. Baudin’s blog from the very beginning, this I am will illuminate you with the real philosophies which matter like TPS… (FYI: Toyota Production System) and not make you throw banter to someone of the stature of Mr. Baudin. If not for TPS just read for the sheer depth of thinking and quality of writing.

      Abhijit Deshpande

      • Abhijit
        Let me borrow Michel’s own words – this is not a journal, just a blog and what’s posted here are reactions. So it does not matter what anyone thinks of anyone eles’s posts. We’re all reacting – you and I, included.
        I started my journey in TPS 15 years ago and I have practiced TOC as well. As a practitioner, I will only see what will work to the situation I face and not worry about where the source of the tool came from. Let’s just say I am indifferent because I do not have a preference to any school of Science (that’s how I see Lean, Six Sigma, TPS, TOC, et al). It is the Art (i.e. the practitioners) that makes the difference to the Customer.
        I am aware that my post did not add value for anyone; neither did yours.
        Enjoy your day..

      • I agree with Sandeep. Nothing in the Kirkor Bozdogan’s article nor the following conflicting interchange between Bozdogan and Baudin provides any essence to improve understanding. Clearly both show bias toward Lean, and from their own arguments it seems that is what they know best, even if both seem to need further research and analysis.

        In my practice as consultant, I integrate TOC, LEAN and SIX SIGMA when developing solutions for Competitiveness Improvement and Bottom-Line Results. In some cases, TPM also becomes part of the solution. Agility is obtained by doing so, and Process Re-engineering falls into place. Taking the best from each, based on the specific circumstances, achieves better results all the time. In every case, for me, TOC provides the systemic perspective and road-map for improvement.

        In the academic world, theory must precede practice and scholars struggle to understand practices they need to turn into theory. If a practice doesn’t fit a theory then either the practice is not good or there is no theory to support it. In many cases it is just lack of understanding or just not capable of changing paradigms.

        What I have found, and it does work for me, is that integrating Lean, SS, TPM, BPR, etc., is a circumstantial dynamic approach only possible when subordinated to TOC. It is like blending ingredients in a case by case basis, where in every case TOC clearly shows the why, what, how and when, from a systemic perspective.

        Could this controversy be just a reflection of MIT’s need to pioneer the future of management and resisting to follow others doing a better job than they are doing? Could it be that inherent simplicity and common sense is out of their curricula? Maybe MIT should stop focusing in researching big firms and start looking into small successful businesses that do great… until a university guru starts directing their improvement efforts with sophisticated management approaches.

        The TPS doesn’t fit a theory, it just fits Toyota.

  17. Michel.

    Manufactured products have long since decoupled Supply and Demand, insofar as pricing is concerned, and are not well characterized by linear relationships save those which have reached commodity status, which is why your Oil industry reference still holds true.

    As manufacturers have long realized, by offering “differences without distinction”, “options”, “bundling” or “un-bundling” they have been able to maximize profitability and in some cases total sales, by having non-linear pricing models for each sale of the identical item. Of course the ability to individually “reach” and “isolate” the customer is crucial to achieving this and we are witnessing this directly via the “social media” marketing which is exploding.

    Apple, itself a player in this market, uses this non-linear pricing strategy which has long been used in the automotive industry, with the results we are witnessing. Non-linear pricing as sales price has little/nothing to do with production costs.

    Under these conditions, Lean manufacturing basically means that one is prepared and can “serve all comers”, at any level of demand without much/any impact on input costs and deliver consistent minimum levels of quality/performance that have been promised to the customer. Of course there is a minimum level of production to have the machine work properly, activation energy as it were, but reaching lot size one economies is another way to define “true North” with Takt Time being used as a proxy.

    Nice imagery with the Lark Pate….. 🙂



  18. Comment in the Lean CEO discussion group on LinkedIn:

    We need to focus more on improving the process and less on what we call the process improvement. Each method has transformation value as long as it aligns and involves the entire organization in improving the system.

    • You speak like a true engineer. You think that what we call it doesn’t matter, and that the only thing that really does is our ability to achieve the improvement. Unfortunately, the way you package and label ideas often determines whether anybody adopts them. It’s marketing, and we cannot ignore it.

      Skilled marketers, however, can wrap an ineffective approach in a package that will sell for a while, align and involve entire organizations, and lead them astray. The PowerPoint can look professional and press all the right buttons for a worthless content.

      We have to cover both sides. Not only do we need methods that truly have transformation value, but we must present them in such a way that they are adopted.

      • Comment in the Lean CEO discussion group on LinkedIn:

        Thanks for the compliment on being a true engineer.

        Marketing does play a role, but a smaller one than you would lead us to believe. I contend that if you need to do too much marketing, the culture is not ready for transformation.

        I have seen too many companies waste a lot of time debating if a project belongs to Lean, Six Sigma, TOC, etc. Six Sigma is now Lean Six Sigma for that reason.

        PDCA is virtually the same as DMAIC; Visual Controls are the same for TPM and Lean; First Pass Yield is the same as First Time Through; Quality Circles are the same as Problem Solving Groups…the list goes on and in.

        In the end, all of the process improvement activities have the same goal – to improve the process. It is up to leadership to decide how to proceed and best use the scarce manpower resources available.

  19. Comment in the Operational Excellence discussion group on LinkedIn:

    Never have a Logistic in search of a Strategy…
    … Never have the tool dictate the approach to an opportunity..
    … Always have the Strategy drive the Tactics – which then drive the Logistics.

    When people become more fixated on the tools, methodologies, acronyms, whatever…
    … than keeping their eye on the prize…
    … then they (and the realization of the opportunity) are doomed.

    And… businesses are not linear…

    • After Harvey Dershin, you are the second contributor to this thread to refer to business as “linear,” which I find puzzling, because I am used to thinking of linearity and non-linearity as mathematical properties, of techniques that are actually used in operations management. All the math behind ERP/MRP, for example, is basic linear algebra, while forecasting and trend analysis involves both linear and non-linear methods.

      According to Wikipedia,

      “Linear management is the application of reductionism to management problems, often relying on the ability to predict, engineer and control outcomes by manipulating the component parts of a business (organization, operation, policy, process and so on). Business process reengineering (BPR) is a popular example of linear management at work. The key defining characteristic of linear management is that order is imposed – usually from above.

      Nonlinear management (NLM) is a superset of management techniques and strategies that allows order to emerge by giving organizations the space to self-organize, evolve and adapt, encompassing Agile, “evolutionary” and “lean” approaches, flextime, time banking, as well as many others. Key aspects of NLM, including holism, evolutionary design or delivery, and self-organization are diametrically opposite to linear management thinking.”

      If I read this correctly, in this context, “linear” comes from line management and not math, and “linear management” is roughly synonymous with command-and-control while “non-linear management,” to use a dated term, is about empowerment.

      To which I have the following objections:

      • Linear, in this context, has nothing whatsoever to do with the established usage of this word, which is a problem because both uses of the term are applicable in business.
      • Defining anything by what it’s not is usually not a good idea, because it is too broad. “Non-linear” covers everything except linear.
      • Comment in the Operational Excellence discussion group on LinkedIn:

        We are discussing about linear and non linear processes, i.e. their dynamic behavior, aren’t we ?

      • It is a digression in this thread, but I am puzzled by what different participants actually mean when they write about a business being linear or not.

        If we were discussing linear versus non-linear processes, then “linear” would have its usual, mathematical meaning.

  20. A bit harsh on Engineers Michel, but a very enlightening comment!

    You might consider that only engineers can develop “methods that truly have transformation value”, as was the case in the development of TPS and only Organizational Leaders (from within the organization), can assure “that they are adopted.” Usually, not mutually exclusive and most often the same guys.

    The rest is left for Priests, Gurus and Consultants….. 🙂


  21. My firm had the priviledge of working with Mike George and his team at George Group, to the best of my knowledge the first consultancy to full integrate lean and six sigma methodoligies into a single process improvement discipline. We have found that the combined tool set is head and shoulders above either discipline individually. Here are a few examples why.

    1) Project Charter – the elements of a project charter “contract” fit well with the strucuture of westen companies where sponsorship, accountability and resource allocation are all management controlled. The Lean PDCA structure does not account for that cultural scenario as well. The charter is particularly well suited to cross company initiatives where value chains need to align for optimal results. We find using a charter at the beginning of our kaizen newspapers is complimentary to the effort and helps the process move along.

    2) DMAIC serves both as a problem solving structure as well as a project management tool with clear, easy to understand deliverables at the end of each stage. The final step – control, does not have an analogous step in the Deming PDCA that clearly jumps out as the point where Lean standard work is finally implemented – along with tie backs to policy and procedures as necessary.

    3) Stakeholder analysis and communication planning addresses the change management realities of rice bowls which are threatened by process improvement. Hoshin planning addresses some of these from a strategic direction. Unfortunately, it does it a facility or company level, and rarely allows for departmental issues / concerns to be addresses. So the six sigma tools “bridge the gap” in the execution of improvement activities which contribute to the overall plan, at the process owner level.

    4) Efficiency versus Effectiveness – Wow, why not address both with complimentary tool sets? Whats wrong with identifying and addressing “Constraints” in processes as well as policies to unburden your execution. That insight from Goldratt is worth it’s weight in gold!

    5) Value Chain Improvement – Six Sigma process mapping does not care whether your dealing with information flow or product / material flow – it assumes a process is a process. The lean discipline of value stream mapping leads many practictioners to “miss the big picture” of how information processing by departments such as purchasing, engineering, accounting, and product development constrain the process to accelerate the order to delivery cycle. Combining the techniques allows one to better represent Porter’s Value Chain,or even value chain linkages across tiers. It makes dramatic changes easier to measure and execute in lead time, on time, and return on invested capital performance.

    6) Mistake proofing is much easier to execute when one has conducted sound root cause analysis. So besides observation based data gathering why not use LSS tools such as Design of Experiment or Failure Mode Efects Analysis to where it makes sense for deeper understanding and development of efective mistake proofing / process control techniques?

    7) Show me a lean method that does a better job of identifying Kano value criteria better than the six sigma tool Voice of the Customer analysis.

    So my suggestion is to set aside the pride and use what makes sense for the project or problem that needs to be addressed. Just like in carpentry, there is no substitute for having the right tool, at the right place at the right time.

    • I gotta comment on this one. Mike George simply took the Motorola materials made some enhancements and went public with them. A very good entrepreneurial opportunity. And a smart guy and no problem with what he did. I also agree very much that no single methodology is perfect. Every methodology that became popular over the last 30 years did so because it offered an insight. Not necessarily something new. But they provided a focus (meet customer requirements, engineer your processes, eliminate waste, let value flow, reduce variation, eliminate defects, etc.).

      Project charters way predated lean, six sigma and many other methodologies. They were always useful. We used them with quality circles in the early 1980s and what we called ‘critical process improvement teams’ since the early 90s. They of course predated our usage.

      DMAIC = PDCA with a spot light on Measure. Which I find cool. Motorola pulled out the measurement step, given the rigor that they wanted to apply with statistical methods. A like it as an enhancement. But PDCA is also workable.

      Stakeholder analysis is a long time strategic tool SWOT analysis being one component. Motorola had a workshop (not that I’m using them as an example of stellar excellence) called the Jumpstart Workshop where stakeholder analysis at the front-end was a key component.

      Addressing efficiency and effectiveness is fine, so long as effectiveness comes first. Let’s make sure we are becoming efficient while working on the ‘right thing’

      FMEA is another tool that predated Six Sigma. It has long been one of my favorites. Sorry to rag on about this list, and I will not restate the whole thing. But the comment ‘set aside the pride…..’ was just funny given the language of everything that proceeded it.

      • Michael, I thought your history lesson was superb.

        Its kind of like the story of who invented the light bulb. As an GE Alumnus, I always knew that answer – Edison of course did it in 1879.

        Imagine my dismay to find that the urban legend is untrue – as it really was an Englishman named Humphry Davy, way back in 1809.

        Edison had a need to consume what he could now practically and econo mically distribute – hence the commercialization of the “modern” light bulb.

        My business was a “Lean House” for years – until we found, through customer needs, that one size does not fit all. Sometimes those old inventions that are on the shelf – repackaged though they may be = are tremendously effective given the situation. One indeed needs to set pride aside.

        Your on the money regarding “Creating Value” and Engaging People in a Meaningful Way”. And thank you to the Lean Wizard – it is all about creating jobs and opportunities for our kids and grand kids. That requires enterprises that create wealth and opportunity. Hence my shame in focusing for a decade on mainly cost improvements, with no answers to help clients grow.

        Your discussion points remind me of Peter Drucker’s simplistic view of why organizations exist

        To Create Customers
        To Market
        and to Innovate.

      • Bill.

        Next thing you’ll be telling us is that TPS was invented by the US Government in the War Time plants, taken to Japan after the war, by people like Deming, and then came back to us thirty years latter, as Lean…. 🙂

    • Michel, yes I manage the Virginia based affliate of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Maunfacturing Extension Program. We are one of about 60 centers across the US that provide affordable, not for profit, subsidized assistance to help US based manufacturing and technology companes to Innovative, Grow, and Optimize their processes. Research based sevices developed from NIST MEP, academia and the private sector are offered through our network. Centers deliver services through a delivery model that includes drect delivery as well as third party resources.

      I do want to applaude Joseph Paris comments reqarding strategy- that is where it all starts!

      • Comments about the usefulness of techniques do not carry the same weight depending on whether they are users who have improved their operations by applying them, consultants who sell implementation services, or government-subsidized consultants, whose services are subject to administrative approval.

      • You have got to be kidding. Our work requires no “administrative” approval. We work at the pull of the client, with no agenda attached. We have worked with Womack, Jones, Hall, George, Rother, Kao, Liker, Verma and others to understand from and contribute to the body of knowledge. I thought your perspective on marketing was unique, and enjoyed the blog, and thought sharing my experience would be acceptable. Guess not.

      • Your comments are welcome. Please keep making them.

        We all have our biases. Users in factories are in a political environment with careers that can be made or broken based on the success of an improvement initiative. Consultants have obvious commercial interests, and a government-subsidized organization has a government organization as a major client.

        Because of these circumstances, it is difficult to obtain objective information. The best we can do is to be open about our situations and let readers decide with how large a grain of salt they should take what we say.

      • Michel, you are correct,as the government is a major investor and has expectations regarding performance. Yes, that does introduce bias. Thanks for the clarification!

  22. Comment in the Operational Excellence discussion group on LinkedIn:

    Michel, thanks for sharing the article! And Joseph, I could not agree with your assessment and comments more. WAY too many people fixate on tools and loose sight of the bigger picture…..the strategy! And for business, the only effective way to the prize is….via a strategy that everyone supports and uses as their guide.

  23. Comment in the ASQ – The American Society for Quality discussion group on LinkedIn:

    Excellent points Michel and thanks for the gaps in the history. If I may, I found Prof Amasaka’s research into Toyota over 25 years – his ‘New JIT’ shows they have Toyota Marketing Systems, Toyota Development Systems, Toyota Production Systems all centred around TQM and the Science of SQC.

  24. The battle shouldn’t be between the various different counsultants or MEPs about what is the right strategy or techniques to use. Everyone’s battle should be to help our manufacturing base to continuously improve and become better at coming up with innovative new products that we are willing to purchase or helps the country become stronger from a sustainability point.

    Reading through the comments and seeing some of the pictures, many of us have been around for a while. As we try to make cultural and sustainable change at home, school or at work, we have to pick the method that will work with the organization. There is no single method that works for everyone. My biggest challenge has been to get companies to stay the course and move beyond just training and implement what they have learned.

    I believe that our end goal is to not only keep the jobs that we have available today but to grow the number of jobs that are available for our children and grandchildren in the future. Companies have to be producing innovative and meaningful products that have strong global demand.

  25. This whole discussion began with a focus on improvement methods. And a number of methodologies that have come, gone and hung around for the last 50 years were discussed. I think to some degree we are getting lost in the weeds and missing what is most important.

    Most organizations go about the business of improvement pretty much the same way everyone else does it. They read the same books, work with the same consultants and go to the same conferences. I don’t think it is just a brand by consultants. The popular methodologies do touch a nerve. They do offer an insight. Not necessarily a new insight, it’s simply that most organizations have gotten quite mediocre in their execution of that particular theme. When a wake-up call comes they say, “Oh my gosh! We need to do a better job of this.” Which is typically a true statement. The problem being then that they try to solve the problem by applying a few tools and not really transforming the way the company operates.

    Most Leaders think they are doing a superior job. I love this quote from Jason Jennings at an AME Conference. In their book “the Reinventors” they found 4 out of 5 senior leadership teams felt their organization did a superior job of serving their respective customers. When the researchers went and talked to those customers they got exactly the opposite response 9 out of 10 said, “Absolutely not true!” The service (products) were pretty normal vs. the alternatives….nothing elegant and not a disaster.

    Competition has changed radically over the last 60 years.

    Post WWII the southern hemisphere was not a competitive factor and Europe, Asia and the Soviet Union were devastated infrastructure wise. U.S. companies competed with one another for the global markets.

    1980s as was referenced earlier – people were worried about Japan taking over the world. And North American companies realized they had a competitive problem vs. Japan and European companies. Quality improved significantly in most industries. Outsourcing became a big time thing (even though people typically lacked a deep understanding of ‘total costs.’

    And in 2010 competition truly has become global. Japan is not quite the threat it once was. As a country they have even bigger problems than those experienced in the U.S., which they have ineffectively been wrestling with for the last 20 years. Hopefully we will not duplicate that pattern for as long of a time frame.

    So relative to the essence of what we are discussing in this blog….what needs to happen?

    First leadership teams need to get in touch with reality as it truly exist. Not as they wish it were. Lean’s idea of going to Gemba can help, if people really have their eyes open and that would certainly foster a degree of ‘humility’ at a leadership level. Here are three questions you can use to determine if your organization is highly effective at improving or if it is merely average. Rating scale –

    (-) = not typically done well
    (+) = sometimes we do it, sometimes we don’t, we are inconsistent
    (*) = we almost always do it that way

    1. Have you been able to dependably sustain, and replicate elsewhere, the gains from improvement projects (meaning 18 months after you proved something worked we come back and look at it)?
    2. Have key overall business performance metrics (e.g., financials, new revenues, customer loyalty, strategic results) shown meaningful change as a result of improvement initiatives?
    3. Are your employee engagement survey scores more than 2x above your industry average?

    If you score two or more stars you might be better than average. If you have less than that….well….perhaps you could elevate your level of improvement maturity to a higher plain of existence.

    You are more than welcome to use those questions. Would appreciate it if they were referenced “Used with permission of the Cumberland Group”

    Once people are in touch with ‘reality’ they are ready to move forward. So what do organizations that are highly effective at improving do better than the rest? I’ll just touch on the two most important items from our perspective.

    Create value for customers. Just like most improvement efforts are average. So is the value creation process for most companies. Reference Richard Rummelt’s “Good Strategies/Bad Strategies” book. It is an easy read. Most organizations do not have a real strategy. They seek to do a little bit better next year, what they were doing last year. The business strategy is an organization’s most important improvement hypothesis. Yet seldom is a strategy looked at from that perspective. Creating value does not equal eliminating waste. They are different things.

    Engage People in a meaningful way. Leadership’s primary responsibility should be to create an environment where people can do the best job possible. They should be actively focused on helping people to improve their critical thinking skills and to have employees help leaders better and more quickly understand reality. Yet how many leadership teams do you know who operate that way? In the case of U.S. Fortune 300 companies executive compensation actually drives the opposite behaviors that are needed improve competitive abilities and to create more jobs.

    There are a couple of more that could be added to the list….but those two are far and away the most important. Organizations that practice the above two items would naturally use the tools common to effective improvement practices.

  26. While implementing Lean Six Sigma in GE and suppliers I hear from manufacturing and office people: BPR = layoff, TQM = more inspectors, audits, etc., Six Sigma = damned statistics for mass production only, Lean = mainly 5S, visual management and Kaizen events.
    None of those methods really adressed the overall business context and attracted all stakeholders. I think another big management theme is round the corner and some smart consultants will sell it to us.

  27. It looks to me like the need for greater standardizing, clarity and clarification has come the Lean Enterprise Businesses that has a quandary of terms, definitions,theories,meanings,applications of ,etc… Maybe its time for an ISO Standard of what is Excellence and I think Joe Paris and the OpEx group of followers and practices expansion proves this point.

    The good think is that one shoe size does not fit all and there are many tools and applications in the tool box to finding solutions. Where I was they tried and used every tool out there more than once to find the tailored solution or customized to the specific needs.Secondly they don’t care who wrote or created it or what it is called as long as it works.

    Thirdly I lived the 18-second cycle time of lean and large scale mass production and know what that means to product, workers efficiency and the human cost that is never mentioned by must lean practicioners…Every business today wants to be lean, mean and green, the problem is there are many ways of doing this is many different businesses. This is why to me it is necessary to bring greater standardization and uniformity to the lean six sigma consulting business. This I believe is the only point that Mr. Bozdogan should be trying to make.

    • Standards are wonderful for weights and measures but not for manufacturing excellence. ISO does not have the competence to do this. Nobody does. It would be like issuing a standard on how to coach a sports team to win a championship.

      The human cost of true Lean is lower than the alternative. Lean is not about pressuring people, but about improving all dimensions of manufacturing performance. High productivity and quality provide job security, and a safe workplace the opportunity to work and grow skills for an entire career. This perspective on human resources is central to Lean, and managers or consultants who ignore it are just slapping the Lean label on other approaches. What you call things matters because it creates this kind of confusion.

      What would you expect standardization under ISO to accomplish? I would recommend checking the ISO website to see how the standards are developed. They are written by committees of experts who have the time to sit on such committees, and approved by votes in which countries like Cyprus and Saint Lucia count as much as Japan or the United States. Any kind of ISO standard for Lean would certainly generate business for compliance consultants, but is likely to do as much for the performance of companies as ISO-9001 did for Quality.

  28. Comment in the Operational Excellence discussion group on LinkedIn:

    Really enjoyed this discussion. I agree with Jerry Cavert that you need to have the basics covered first. Then depending on the complexity of the problem you are trying to solve will determine which of the tools/methodologies you apply. I find that working with senior managers who are not well versed in any of the improvement methodologies I have to be careful not to apply labels but to simplify the approach to achieve improvements.

  29. Comment in the Operational Excellence discussion group on LinkedIn:

    Enjoyed discussion – Unfortunately, today, there are many poorly instructed Lean and Six Sigma courses and washed out, wrongly written material in these areas. In addition there are ineffective instructed courses in Statistics in some Colleges and Universities. These are some of the reasons to blame for the bad reputation of the valuable fundamental concepts of Lean Six Sigma. Among hundreds of books on the subject, two well written books come quickly to mind:
    1. The Machine That Changed The World by James P. Womack, Daniel T. Jones, and Daniel Roos; HarperPerennial.
    2. Practitioners Guide to Statistics and Lean Six Sigma for Process Improvements, Mikel J Harry, Prem S. Mann, de Hodgins, et al; Wiley

  30. Comment in the Operational Excellence discussion group on LinkedIn:

    Great article and great discussion. – The article states that Agile is dead in Manufacturing, however Quick Response Manufacturing is truly alive. Quick Response Manufacturing (QRM) is a strategy designed for high mix low volume manufacturing and is the missing link when you want to be agile in manufacturing Read more on the QRM Center website: or

  31. Comment in the Operational Excellence discussion group on LinkedIn:

    Thanks for the article. While dated, it still has merit. There is no single road for every organization to follow. What ever is used to provide improvement, must fit the organizations business and be dynamic, changing with the business as necessary. Lastly, the organizations that are successful in continous improvement, always involve the people and share the success. Thanks again!

  32. Comment in the Institute of Industrial Engineers (IIE) discussion group on LinkedIn:

    Lean has been highjacked by many lean expert for years. OR people are more honest and have more integrity than these people. People without years experience in manufacturing will not understand why Michel call such guys televangelists.

    But I do not agree that “Operations Researchers (OR) did not know how to speak to plant managers”. I would like to say “Operations Researchers (OR) did not know how to speak to people who have not learned math for years”, but, unfortunately, most plant managers are such people.

  33. Comment in the Operational Excellence discussion group on LinkedIn:

    I’ve come across organizations recently that whisper to me “We can’t use the word ‘Lean’ here; let’s call it continuous improvement…” or “We had such a battle getting Six Sigma implemented, we have to do TPM under that umbrella – we can’t sell another ‘program'”.

    As many have pointed out, they are all just different tools in the toolbox, appropriate in some circumstances, but damaging in others – a bit like that spray nozzle on the end of the garden hose, with settings like “Soaker”, “Jet”, “Mist”, and “Shower”. I’ve seen Six Sigma work like that “jet” setting, blasting away at a problem with intense focus, wielded by statistically competent but interpersonally challenged engineers. Blast the sidewalk clean? Sure. Stray to the wife’s flowers (the employees on the process)? Not so good. Water the tomatoes with the shower setting? Great. Clean the clog from the gutter? Wasted effort.

    Its all the helpful water of continuous improvement, but apply the focus and pressure wrong, and you are wasting time and hurting people.

  34. Comment in the Lean CEO discussion group on LinkedIn:

    Interesting what you had to say about TQC/TQM, I have found that it is the current flavor in parts of Asia, Thailand especially.

    I think a big part of this had to do with Siam Cement Group’s adoption of TQM in 2006/7; they are the largest industrial group in the country so their adoption is a seal of approval for many other companies – not to mention the pressure put on their value chain partners to integrate TQM into their operations.

    I like Ed’s first comment, the challenge from a sales perspective is that most clients would say they are already doing that. The results, however, speak for themselves.

    From a sales perspective, however, you need to present the concept in a way that clients will easily understand it. That’s why we call our TWI program the Foundation to Lean. If we called it TWI clients would wonder why we are offering a program that was developed 70 years ago. Forget the reason that it works, that Toyota is still using it (albeit it has been adapted to their needs). But this is the process improvement consultant’s problem, how to get the client excited about concept, committed to making it happen, and then to make it happen in a way that delivers sustainable results.

    Finally, I have to say the tables on P. 16 are quite telling, especially when we look at it from the customer’s perspective. No wonder clients love TQM, lean sigma, etc… they require less support from senior management than lean/value stream programs.

    Thank you for sharing, Michel!

  35. Comment in the Operational Excellence discussion group on LinkedIn:

    Very nice and interesting article. This will be helpful in discussions with managers concerning the decision-making process about improvement, efficiency, customer satisfaction, etc, etc.

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  38. Having implemented both Six Sigma and Lean in healthcare, I can tell you that the methodology and tools are COMPLEMENTARY in this industry. Lean can be used as a management system and provides an easy transition into formal process improvement. Focusing on eliminating waste and teaching Lean methods can be done easily across all levels of the organization. Six Sigma can be used for the projects in which there is no known root cause and where a data-driven, sustainable solution is required. Where Lean is resource heavy in the Define and Measure phases, Six Sigma picks up at Analyze, Improve and Control. Lean lends itself to continuous process improvement while Six Sigma is considered step improvement (find 80% of the problem and fix it for good). We used Lean for 75% of our projects and Lean for the other 25%.

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  40. Comment in the Operational Excellence discussion group on LinkedIn:

    Great article

    Having been through TQM efforts and meeting Malcolm Baldridge, then Theory of Constraints and loving “The Goal”, then Re-Engineering, then Six Sigma, love the comments about Marketing brands.

    The underlying basics have not changed, but evolved and been consolidated to sell and market them.

  41. Comment in the Institute of Industrial Engineers (IIE) discussion group on LinkedIn:

    First of all, this is a great article and you mentioned indeed some key issues. Moreover, I enjoyed the “discussion” between you and Dr. Bozdogan as well as the other comments. I think we need more conversations like that in order to bridge the gap between theory and practice.

    Generally speaking, I think we all need to get aware of the fact that neither any “brand” can be applied in every factory, nor can they just copied.
    You need to have a deep understanding of you own processes and think about which tools, ideas, approaches you can use to improve your processes.
    Of course, consultants have developed strategies and tools to help a specific company to improve their processes. Since these have been developed (in most cases) based upon root cause analysis, we should keep in mind that we cannot just copy these tools, and assume that we will gain the same improvements. Yet, we should not push these ideas away just because they were developed for a specific company or process. Instead, we should take these ideas as input for developing our own system. This may mean, including different tools from different “brands” and combining them appropriately for our specific purpose.

    Frankly, I do not completely share your point of view that all these brands are rather competitive brands and not complementary. Maybe that is because I have not the same amount of experience as you do, but still, I have seen many companies combining Lean and Six Sigma successfully. I think Lean is a wonderful approach, but as you stated, it is not perfect. Therefore, I believe one can compensate Lean flaws with other tools. Although quality is addressed in lean, I think it could be more emphasized. Therefore, any quality tool, whether it is SIx Sigma or ISO 9001, might be useful to supplement the Lean journey. Actually, I have recognized that many people who are deep believers of Lean, are too focused on lean and do not recognize that it is not “THE Solution” for every company.

    I guess there is no question about it that Lean is not known for using statistical methods. Hence, even if it is just SPC, we should consider that typical Six Sigma tools do make sense for some companies where Lean is practiced. Moreover, although Six Sigma is clearly most suitable for the high-tech industry, I think that applying statistics can be helpful for any company that has high volumes. Companies like Eli Lilly or Nestle, as well as companies that manufacture bearings are known for applying statistical methods.

    As for ISO, especially in Europe, companies have not only improved their processes, but also gained an increase in sales, as it is seen as a seal for quality by many customers. Yet, I think ISO has still a high potential for improvement, since many companies fail to apply it correctly. This has affected ISO’s reputation deeply, although it isn’t that bad.

    Also, I’m not sure if I understood you correctly when you stated “TOC is … not markedly different from eliminating waste or focusing on “value adding” activities”. Anyway, I think that identifying the bottleneck in the system is indeed very important no matter if you follow the lean principles or not. Yet, by doing VSM, identifying the bottleneck is actually one key element. You want to know where your process is constrained. Based on that, you focus on rebalancing the workload and improving the bottleneck. Hence, TOC can be seen as an important element of Lean, can’t it?

    To sum it up, I think your article is very insightful and provides a very interesting prospective. On the other hand, I’m not sure if it is necessary to judge every tool and to distinguish them from each other. Maybe we should just recognize them as means that have helped different organizations to improve their performance, and make use of their ideas and approaches as much as we can for our own situation.

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  43. Great insight made by you both. It is great to perceive the contrast between academic and practical views of a subject
    I think that the main discussion is due to each document’s style. One was written as an academic paper whilst the other posted a point of view on his own blog. One has to be scientifically oriented while the other is an opinion, based on experience of many years implementing such methodologies.
    It surely is interesting to observe both your comments and both point of views.
    IMO I agree with the statement that all these methods end up being commercial products named to be sold by consultants but they surely are effective in their own ways and special scope. I guess that there is no special formula to end up with clutter inside companies and no special method to reach perfection in its lean definition.
    All the presented methods are based on factory shop practical experience and observation and are not based on mathematical models or theories. All of them were born, if subconsciously with one thing in mind: improvement, all the names and acronyms came after.
    To sum up, I think both opinions are valid and represent different ways of thinking and different experiences but both with great knowledge behind.

    • I completely agree with you G. Nunes.
      I just hope that a bridge can be built between both worlds, practical and theoretical, and that from this encounter a new and better method can be developed. As the continuous improvement methods, the objective is to slowly improve or leap to a better method, and not to get lost in an argument battle.

  44. I enjoyed the two articles and I would like to emphasize the following ideas on what I read.
    I agree with Bozdogan when he argues that the various methods mentioned can be complementary to each other and I think the description of each method is debatable but it is always necessary (being more or less theoretical or practical). However, the transition from theory to practice and the search for a “better” or “ideal” theory (as result of the connection of the methods discussed) are not easy tasks, in my view.
    Like Baudin, I believe that in practice, the use of these methods depends primarily on the company and the specific case – each company has a very particular situation and has different problems and goals. The use of each methodology also depends on the sector of activity in which each company operates, and the history of the methodologies applied so far in that sector. The use of any methodology requires the acceptance of the method and the acceptance of the changes it will produce. The support from the top management, the interiorization of the philosophy in the company structure and the acceptance and implementation of the method also depends on past outcomes (regarding the application of each method).
    I recognize the importance of literature and information on all these methodologies, however, they will always be seen as brands, and, in this market, it will always appear a new brand (which probably resulted from the junction or adaptation of existing methods). It is the search for the next innovation or product.
    Finally, I would like to emphasize that although the difference between thinking and doing is considerable, do something successfully involves thinking about this action (before and after the action). That said, I believe that the ideal would be to take some of the opinion and experience in both articles and do something (applying a methodology, or simply common sense) to improve the companies in which we operate.
    Best Regards.

  45. I have some difficulty in understand why TQM is so undervalued. From my point of view whatever the methodology (Lean, TQM or Six Sigma) the true value come from the understanding of the purpose of each activity, process or requirement that we want to perform or accomplished. For example, when we are implementing an ISO9001 system we have to accomplish a set of specific requirements. If it is expected that accomplishing a requirement will directly improve something in the company….someone is totally wrong. I believe that we have to ask ourselves, why we have to accomplish this requirement. In what way this will help my company to get better (efficient and effective) processes and services? From my point of view the great mistake of companies that have QMS implemented is that they don’t understand the purpose of the requirements that they are accomplishing. Many times this is only way to get a diploma on the wall to have a commercial advantage. Thus, the continual improvement is very limited.
    Thinking on TQM principles and requirements I really don’t find any incompatible with lean thinking or with six sigma (quite the opposite). Maybe the great advantage of the lean thinking methodology is a clear, simple and more incisive way to see the improvement, which isn’t guarantee if it’s a better or worst method comparing with the others.
    In fact these improvement methods follow similar principles. Identify an objective; think about the solution to get that objective; implement a solution with the less wastes possible; and finally see if it worked. Meanwhile we need to have a vision, work with facts, have a strong leadership and especially don’t be tied to the past.
    I believe that real improvement and success comes not from lean, or six sigma, or TQM or other (which in fact are only names). Real improvement comes from the capacity to see and analyze a problem, understand the purpose of how things happen, and use the knowledge available (which is shared in all the methods) to make things work.
    Best Regards

  46. The main issue is related with the different points of views, academic vs practical. In my opinion, to do something successfully and that “works” we need to know the theory first, but we can´t base our decision only in the theory (by the book).

    It´s needed to know the reality of the company, what is the history, the market it´s in, the goals and the most important (in my opinion) how the company “thinks”,what is the motivation and the level of acceptance they have to the changes.

    After we have the answers to these questions, we know how to transform/ implement the theory into practices and make real improvements, changes and make the difference.

    Best regards.

  47. I would be interested to know the Six Sigma result on Six Sigma projects…i.e. what is the success rate of Six Sigma (DMAIC) process, to applicable projects?

  48. I think that both Six Sigma and Lean have proven results in the manufacturing and even in the healthcare worlds; I would like to know your opinion of the aplicability of both nethods in the services world, more specifically in an office or administrative environment.

  49. As we read Bozdogan’s and Baudin’s opinions, it’s easy to understand two different point of view in how to use most effective improvement tools.
    In Bozdogan’s article, it’s possible to see a description of some enterprise process improvement methods, in order to exploit the potential complementary relationships among them.
    I agree, when Baudin states, most of methods described in Bozdogan´s article are marketing’s brands, and consultants are interested stakeholders, in order to sell those brands to their clients. But, despite the brand names, it’s a win-win situation, since enterprises are motivated in increasing their profits, with hard and soft savings.
    As Baudin wrote, he choose to work under the Lean flag, and none of the others, but he also recognize the most successful repacking attempt is “Lean Six Sigma”.
    In my point of view, all of described improvement techniques, are based in Deming’s cycle PDCA, including Six Sigma. To apply any improvement tool it’s necessary to define the scope, know process (measure), analyse data, implement solutions, and verify how temporal evolution is. Six Sigma has all of these phases, and it’s based in the scientific method, with centuries of succesful applied results.
    To have continuous improvement, each organization, should implement a own way of thinking, and find the best group of tools to improve day to day processes.

  50. Great discussion. Let me thank you both because I end up reading the study and the posts and I’ve learned with both.

    “Academic perspective” or “Implementation perspective”, there’s one thing that surprises me in your article. I believe that all methodologies are important and have their own value. If they tie together or have a crucial and obvious implementation is something that in my experience really depends on the challenge we’re facing.

    Furthermore, saying that only Lean survives and all other methodologies are dead is too radical in my perspective. I see it as an evolution. If there’s a bond between them is what we learn with each methodology which makes us improve and build a new concept or methodology more specialized in a specific field or group of projects, maybe just to solve that one problem you’re facing. You can call it marketing, strategy or innovation.

    I call it simple evolution where we need to learn and add value if you have the talent to. I always had the spirit to dress my customer jersey, feel their pains, and at the same time have the ability to look from outside, and as you mention correctly, have the flair to come up with new ideas, as well as ways to implement them, always having in mind improving their performance.

    I believe that to achieve the later and deliver the best in class output we have to drink from all the methodologies, even if you don’t agree with one or if it’s “dead”.

  51. I believe that joining this Lean thinking, Six Sigma science (statistics) and some other cousin tools are all about merging some (more) intuitive and with other exact science methods, building a tool set approach that is able to adress any kind of problem, no matter the environment it is applied.
    A paradigmatic and organized mindset is crucial to facilitate adressing the problem with DMAIC methodology, from an outer perspective. This is why an outside consultant should be an external person that can have a fresher look and question the very bottom assumptions.
    I find it very interesting in the way it can join such two diferent (Lean and SS) approaches, being so complementary.

    • In what way is Lean “intuitive” and Six Sigma more “scientific”?

      You seem to think that the different approaches are complementary, but, in many cases, they are contradictory. It doesn’t mean either is wrong, only that they apply in different contexts. You cannot apply the quality approaches of Lean and Six Sigma in the same shop, because the former does not rely on statistical tools while the latter is a statistical tool.

      I have no idea what a “paradigmatic mindset” is. Could you elaborate?

  52. Very interesting article I just have these comments:
    Conerning Agile I think that there are no direct links between agile manufacturing and agile in software industry (refer to agile manisfesto)
    In addition the weight of agile is bigger because you have to include scrum (one of the family of agile), which represents more than 500 groups
    Note: in the agile software community there are also some different brands (scrum, xp, kanban etc.), but they share the same 4 values.
    Best regards

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  55. I have received two comments in the last couple of days from authors who do not fully identify themselves, respectively describe my post as “a load of self righteousness rhetoric” and “a bunch of self-aggrandizing bullshit,” and assert that I have no idea what I am talking about.

    Neither author makes any specific objections to points made in the post. As the 80 comments above clearly show, I have no problem with disagreement. In fact, I see it as necessary to keep the blog entertaining as well as informative. On the other hand, emotional outbursts are neither.

    In keeping with the emerging blog comment and discussion group etiquette, I ask all of you to clearly identify yourselves, make points about content, and avoid personal attacks.

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  58. All of these titles are simply a repackaging of the scientific method applied to operations.

    Branding the specific “methods” and tools has resulted in immeasurable waste and unneeded competition and debate over comparable efficacy. Countless dollars have been wasted on the packaging for these products and for the glorification of a consultant who claims to have invented scientific thinking.

    The basics of scientific inquiry, analysis, hypothesis development, experimentation, inference, and learning are represented in each of these “breakthrough” methodologies.

    Diligent and respectful application of scienctific thinking will result in new knowledge – irrespective of the banner, form, logo, certification, and other pomp needlessly applied alongside of it.

    • Yes, the approaches are marketing brands but, no, they are not just a “repackaging of the scientific method.” As the whole subject seems to annoy you, you may not be interested in looking closely at what is under each label. If you take the trouble, however, you find differences in scope, emphasis, approaches, and track record.

      • Your assumptions that I have never closely looked at what’s under the labels is false. Yes, there are differences in scope, emphasis, and general approach but I stand by my assessment that the underlying “method” in each is consistent with the scientific method. DMAIC, PDCA, 8-Step, A3 Thinking, TPM, TOC are all underpinned by the scientific method. Some of the specific approaches just happen to be testing a specific hypothesis about every operation.

        It is convenient to disregard this fact – many people can make a lot of money by arguing that their templates, toolkits, “philosophy”, or strategic powerpoint presentation represent a breakthrough in thinking for operations. What “annoys” me is the proliferation of these suposedly unique approaches and the arrogance of many practitioners, marketers, and consultants that they have discovered a “new best way”.

        Looking forward to the next best “cookbook” – a prediction: the new “method” will require the following to “fix” the business:

        – The need to understand an operation (Define a problem, define value, inquire, define current processes, research, Plan, Scope, Charter, etc.)

        – Analysis of the operation (Cause/effect analysis, waste, variation, market barriers, benchmarks, risk analysis, identify constraints/bottlenecks, operations research, etc. etc.)

        – Developing a theory about how it could be better / hypothesis (countermeasures, reduce variation, new processes, equipment, layouts, operations, elevate/exploit a constraint, eliminate operational waste, build quality circle, etc.)

        – Testing, Experimenting, Implementing, etc. (plan, DOE, project, rapid experimentation, pilot, simulation,etc.)

        – Evaluate and Draw Inference (measure, share, learn, spread, etc.)

        But I guess you’re correct and I am indeed an ignoramus – none of the methods described in the article sound anything like this…

      • Sorry. I meant no offense. You seem quite irritated by the whole topic, and I am at a loss as to what might make you feel better about it.

        To me, there really is no science of operations. Instead, there is engineering and management. My goal is not to understand but to improve. Human biologists try to understand how the human body works; sports coaches try to make specific humans perform better. It is not the same pursuit. The scientific method may help, but it is just as a tool.

        There are also many differing views of what the scientific method is. it’s been a major subject for philosophers for more than 2,000 years, and there is certainly more to it than PDCA or DMAIC.

        The bottom line is that I think Lean, TQM, TOC, etc., are neither trivial nor equivalent or interchangeable, and I believe my original post makes this point.

      • There is no possible improvement unless you first understand a system, otherwise you will just realize improvements from serendipity – I hope that by saying your goal is not to understand but to improve, you are not implying that understanding is not a necessary step before you decide how to improve.

        I could envision that in chaotic domains, understanding all interrelationships for all factors is quite impossible, and therefore one must act without clear understanding on a trial and error basis, which doesn’t mean not trying to understand and just jumping into decisions to just see what happens.

        Your persistent bias against TOC has been so evident in all your posts that I wonder if you are just pushing arguments from your limited knowledge or if you are really trying to understand. Lean is a repackage of TPS and Six Sigma a repackage of Deming’s scientific method (not to be confuse with TQM movement). Both are great and very useful. TOC is more than just a method or a set of tools, but to understand the essence of TOC you need a change in mindset.

        Are you just trying to improve using only the limited tools you have, eventhough some of those tools are not appropriate for any specific set of circunstances? Are you pushing Lean just because you think you know all about it and thus are becomming a fanatic of Lean?

      • What I meant is that, in Science, you pursue understanding for its own sake; in Engineering or Management, as a means to an end. It is a different attitude, leading to different behaviors. And yes, sometimes there are ideas, methods, or tools that you can understand at some level only by actually using them.

        If I misrepresented TOC in any way, please enlighten us. What exactly did I write about it that is incorrect or unfair? What did I miss about its essence?

        As for Six Sigma being a repackaging of Deming’s ideas, I don’t think so. I don’t recall Deming saying anything about goals like 3.4 defects per million opportunities or anything resembling Black Belts.

        I hope I am not a fanatic of anything. I do have opinions on the different approaches, that are rooted both in personal experience in the field and reflexion about the underlying ideas. You are welcome to disagree, but please be specific.

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  61. Comment in the TPS + 1 Sensei discussion group on LinkedIn:

    In my last role, I was responsible for two manufacturing units. One was semiconductor based and the other a more traditional PCB assembly type process. Overall, we were very much a TPS/Lean organisation, with our problem solving culture very much focused on the 5 Why and PDCA approach. In terms of quality, both product groups had made significant progress, with both heading very much towards zero defects at the customer, and trending at <5 ppm. Whilst much progress had been made in "protecting the customer", there were some clear cases where some internal processes were running at 80% of their problems were caused by individual batch “issues” whether at the wafer level, or in the packaging level. Their focus was more on detecting these batch issues, and the path was about getting better detection/screening methods. Six Sigma, with its strong process variation focus was definitely NOT appropriate.

    But as we drilled deeper, a very different ‘reality’ emerged!

    In the PCB group, we actually found that >90% of what were termed “natural variations” were actually special causes. Solder faults were caused by blocked stencils rather than the ‘natural’ limits of the process, and, placement errors were caused by incorrect setting/programming rather than the natural variation of the placement machines. So the quantum improvement lay in rigorous adherence to setting and maintenance processes. 5S, 5 Why, TPM and rigorous PDCA were the enablers. There were a couple of key processes however where Six Sigma techniques, DoE, etc were used to optimise limits and parameters, but this was the lesser of the contribution.

    In the semiconductor group, the faulty batches were not special causes: they were simply the natural variation of the batches. Six Sigma techniques were used extensively to drill down into the parameters and their inter-correlations to set new limits and define new parameters. Sure, there were also some need for further extensive addressing of some special causes, but this was much the minor effort.

    My conclusions from these two very interesting experiences, that occurred almost in parallel:

    – Understanding ‘what we really need to solve/improve’ is far more crucial than how we solve them, or, what we use to get there. This understanding has to go far deeper than just an informed opinion, however ‘expert’ it is.
    – A deep understanding of distinguishing “special causes” from “natural variation” is core to the organisation’s thinking, and especially at leadership level. Although this is often seen as ‘SPC 101’, I have far too often found that this is somehow not explicitly expressed in organisations. This distinction is one of my learning treasures that I derived from Deming’s work, which is not always as strongly celebrated.
    – Involving of all people is a mandatory pre-requisite. It is not just “asking for opinions but about contributing to the meticulous search for the truth: systematic recording of observations, definition of parameters, etc.
    – Lean/TPS is the core. Six Sigma may be a crucial enhancer!

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    • According to the page you pointed to “The agile enterprise aggressively embraces change,” which suggests that the Lean Enterprise doesn’t. It places the Agile Enterprise as the next step beyond Lean. If you can find substance behind this claim, please let me know.

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  67. Hi Michel,

    It’s good to read that we are part of the trainers striving to transfer knowledge and to improve performance by coaching intern people to get autonomous. It’s however easy to say, but not always easy to apply. Sometimes clients have their own objectives and are just looking for a temporary contractor.

    My dream? Being able to work with clients that fit to our “learn where and how to fish “philosophy and being able to refuse a basic contractor mission. We all know that this is very difficult. Unless you are a Lean Six Sigma rock star.

    Best regards,

    Lorenzo del Marmol – Partner

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  73. Michel
    one of my favorite topics, the “flavor of the month” and which ones have real nutritive value. Quite frankly, well led and well supported, any will create success of some form, for some time. However, I have both taught and used Lean and Six Sigma for longer than I care to admit.
    The largest distinction I draw is that while both are process improvement methodologies; Lean, the TPS version of Lean, is culture changing and Six Sigma is not. I know my SS friends argue this, and I have yet to lose that debate, when discussing face to face over a bowl of boiled shrimp or a cold beer. In fact, the Six Sigma concept is precisely what were earlier called the Deming Statisticians; a group he would form at each of his engagements. and in a discussion I had with him once, he gave me your advice, spend 10 years studying under and master and then go out and do some good. there are others and I touched on some of them in Lean Refining.

    Here’s what I think of the Six Sigma Certification process. Over the years I taught and helped over 200 Blackbelts reach certification, all were required to do a project in the training. I was a certified Master Black Belt and Trainer and I kept a list of these Blackbelts and made a list of those I might ask to help me on consulting projects, should the opportunity present itself… list only had 11 of these Blackbelts. To acquire the intellectual understanding and be capable of passing a classroom test is an awesome task – in and of itself – but it does not mean they can execute in the field. Most certifications confirm you can regurgitate the information back…it does not mean you can apply it

    Be well

  74. Michel
    one of my favorite topics, the “flavor of the month” and which ones have real nutritive value. Quite frankly, well led and well supported, any will create success of some form, for some time. However, I have both taught and used Lean and Six Sigma for longer than I care to admit.
    The largest distinction I draw is that while both are process improvement methodologies; Lean, the TPS version of Lean, is culture changing and Six Sigma is not. I know my SS friends argue this, and I have yet to lose that debate, when discussing face to face over a bowl of boiled shrimp or a cold beer. In fact, the Six Sigma concept is precisely what were earlier called the Deming Statisticians; a group he would form at each of his engagements. and in a discussion I had with him once, he gave me your advice, spend 10 years studying under and master and then go out and do some good. there are others and I touched on some of them in Lean Refining.

    Here’s what I think of the Six Sigma Certification process. Over the years I taught and helped over 200 Blackbelts reach certification, all were required to do a project in the training. I was a certified Master Black Belt and Trainer and I kept a list of these Blackbelts and made a shorter list of those I might ask to help me on consulting projects, should the opportunity present itself… list only had 11 of these Blackbelts. To acquire the intellectual understanding and be capable of passing a classroom test is an awesome task – in and of itself – but it does not mean they can execute in the field. Most certifications confirm you can regurgitate the information back…it does not mean you can apply it

    Be well

  75. Recently innovation is heating up and all organizations are turning their heads towards it. What Change Management may be required to transform the traditional and all these approach followers into innovation-centered approach, can I know your inputs pl?

    • The question is too broad and answers vary depending on whether you are considering, for example, your products or the processes you use to make them. If you are asking about process technology, you need to do the following:

      1. Technology watch. You need to be on the lookout for new developments by having at least one member of your team routinely review the trade press, and attend conferences and trade shows.
      2. Engineering sandbox. You need to set aside a space to experiment with and learn new technology, and vet it with customers
      3. Pilot implementation. You implement new technology in one production line and monitor the results.
      4. Deployment. You deploy it plantwide, wherever applicable.

      This kind of stepwise approach lets you learn the key points of making the technology work, including the way your people can work with it, and estimate its costs and benefits.

    • Babu,

      Your question to me is confusing. It sort of presumes that some kind of an “innovation centered” process is somehow a common approach that will get all these other approaches back on track. There is certainly merit to the discussion of the power of innovation but after doing this for 198 years, i find the most common “thing” i could find as a problem or bottleneck to these process improvement models, is the skill set of the senior leaders..the skills of management and the skills of leadership. I have found if they have these in abundance…they find a way to make a system work…if they lack these skills…very little works.

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