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Kaizen: More Than Just a Word

published on September 26, 2011

This blog post comes out of a recent conversation about Six Sigma specifics. I was discussing a Six Sigma engagement and the client asked to see specific experience in Kaizen. Kaizen is a Japanese word for improvement, for Six Sigma purposes it means continuous improvement. To be categorized as a Six Sigma project, the project will inherently be improvement focused.

When looking for specialized service, the temptation is to use the acronyms and jargon is pretty normal, but beware sometimes using these terms only highlights your lack of knowledge to unscrupulous consultants.  To shift the knowledge paradigm back to the customers here are a few basic 6Sigma terms and what they mean.

Six Sigma Belts

This refers to the level of the Six Sigma professional running your project. Yellow is the lowest level of expertise and Master Black Belt is the highest level of expertise. I break down each belt and the belt responsibilities in my blog post ‘What’s in a Belt”?

Continuous Improvement Methodology

Six Sigma is a management methodology and as you consult experts you will hear them talk about continuous improvement methodologies as they try to impress you with facts and figures. What you need to know is 6Sigma is one of many improvement methodologies. The key to improvement methodologies is to finding one that works well with the internal culture of your organization.

Lean Initiatives

This simply refers to the lean projects your organization has attempted or completed. This phrase usually shows up when a consultant or an organization is analyzing the ROI in lean projects. When you hear or see this phrase, what you are looking for is a summary of the projects and their respective results.

Rapid Deployment

These are lean projects tailored to produce immediate or near immediate results. Now from my prospective rapid and lean are mutually exclusive, but any tweak to a process can create improvements. Organizations should be aware that fast improvements typically are not sustainable improvements and rapid deployments need to have a near perfect implementation.  If you are in the operations field you probably work on the basis of Murphy’s Law so you’ll have realistic expectations; for the other fields there is no such thing as a magic bullet. There are changes that can be made but a process is a very fragile thing and any change even the most subtle ones, can wreak havoc to an improvement project.

So these are the terms that you will probably hear thrown around regarding Six Sigma and as you delve deeper into the methodology you will hear more complicated terms. The key to Six Sigma is understanding that it isn’t this archaic, complicated methodology.
If you have a question about it, I have an answer.

published on September 26, 2011

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