Lean Six Sigma Tools

Maximize customer value by eliminating non-value add and waste from processes, products, and services

published by Quality Arete Group

I have been part of implementing and managing Lean Six Sigma programs in different industry segments and have come to understand that the context of the industry in which the program will be implemented is very important. Understand the industry and take a systems point of view in order to effectively manage and lead the overall process improvement efforts. Understand the bigger picture and use it to enable and empower organizations.

Trying to figure out ways to get executives excited about process? Don Linsenmann has one piece of advice: think like a CEO by focusing on the strategy: what are we trying to do and what’s the overriding goal?


Process Mapping

Know your starting point. Understanding a process is easier when it can be visualized. Understanding and improving processes is the key to improving productivity. Process maps often reveal hidden complexities. A process map:

  • Enables all team members to understand the entire process
  • Reveals variation within the process
  • Enables to view process from different actors point of view
  • Helps to identify problem areas

I would like to start by first defining “What is a process?”

A process is a collection of interrelated work tasks initiated in response to an event that achieves a specific result for the customer of the process


This tool offers several advantages by aiding in scoping the project, identifying the boundaries of the processes, focusing most importantly on the customer, and facilitating the preparation of the Project Charter.

Process for creating SIPOC:

  • Define the process. Name it. Agree on the beginning and end of the process.
  • Start with the Customers and work to the left. Always keeps the customer as the focus (Note that this can be confusing if the process is not clearly defined)

Or –

  • Start with the Process and work outward. This is more intuitive for team members but may risk a loss of customer focus!
  • Identify the process steps using brainstorming and storyboarding techniques
    • Start by rapidly writing process steps on sticky notes.
    • Write large, one step per card. All steps should begin with a verb.
    • Don’t try to establish order.
    • Don’t discuss process steps in detail.
    • Once all ideas have been captured on sticky notes, group the notes into categories.
    • Once all the notes have been categorized, name the category.
    • The name of the category is usually one of the high-level process steps.
  • Use brainstorming and storyboarding techniques to identify all the outputs, customers, suppliers, and inputs.
  • Next step, brainstorm the customer’s requirements for the primary outputs.


I prefer to use an extended version of SIPOC, by adding controls and resources, as per the diagram below:

SIPOC + Resources & Controls

Swim Lanes

The process maps capture the current state of the process. It identifies flow of transaction & responsibility of different business functions. shows hand-offs between functions and rework loops, aids in identifying value-add and non-value-add activities, and serves as baseline for improvement activities.
Swim lane process maps are the best way to show handoffs between organizations.

  • Create macro level flow of the process
  • Determine functional areas
  • Detail the steps
  • Connect with arrows

Value Stream Map(VSM)

If we are not familiar with the current state of the process, VSM is a good tool to use. It helps us to mine the meaningful areas that need special attention and identify steps involved, time spent verifying accuracy, time taken to complete each step, time spent looking for information / waiting for approval, input time spent transposing data / information between systems & formats (SAP to Excel, Excel to PPT, PPT to PPT, etc.) We are in relentless pursuit of the perfect process through Waste Elimination. The table below provides 7 types of wastes and illustrates them via examples:

A VSM is the start to the overall change journey. It shows the % of Value-Add and Non-Value-Add, by steps, so that we can zero in on and reduce those steps providing little or no value. In addition it pinpoints areas of opportunity to increase process capacities.
Is a great tool to use to stimulate your organizations imagination about operational improvements.

Voice of the Customer (VOC)

To be more profitable you must understand and meet the customer’s expressed or unexpressed needs – Delight the Customer! VOC is a continuous process – it must adapt to the ever changing customer demands

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