Lean Six Sigma for Small to Medium Businesses

Lean Six Sigma for Small to Medium Businesses

Helping your Business Grow to the next level

Over the past few weeks, I had the pleasure of working with a unique small business that has seen tremendous growth in the past few years.  This business has an exciting niche that needs their expertise.  What was even more interesting about this business is that they had some excellent core values and exceptional people that work there.  The business owners recognized that they are growing faster than they anticipated and are experiencing growing pains. They knew they needed help in order to get to the NEXT LEVEL! This is one of the many reasons why this business realized that they can use Lean Six Sigma (LSS) to help get them to the next level.

This business is a perfect example of how small to medium businesses (SMB) do need some type of Lean Six Sigma (LSS) to help them through the growing pains so they can progress to the next level.  However, these SMBs may feel overwhelmed, alone, and they are on a downward spiral.  But how can LSS help?  There are several different things that these businesses can do that doesn’t require a separate LSS, Quality Improvement, or Business Process Improvement organization. 

Business Process

Business Process

Let’s first talk about business processes. Most SMBs do have processes, but these processes are not scalable for them to grow correctly.  By not having the right processes in place, the following problems start to appear:

  • Business owners and leadership are unsure how the business is genuinely performing
  • The client is starting to complain, especially the more prominent clients
  • While revenue grows, so does cost
  • Confusion or lack of transparency between all groups within the business
  • Different types of work are not in the right place
    • People’s talents are underutilized, or they are not performing because they are in the wrong position
    • Everything has become inefficient through the organization
  • Business owners or leadership are lacking direction and leadership growth

How to apply Lean Six Sigma 

Lean Six Sigma can help your business grow.


There are several different things that these businesses can do that does not require a separate LSS organization.  Below are a few small and quick ways to implement this into the company.  Remember the key is to start small and then build upon these steps.

  1. Culture and mindset

    • Setup a culture and mindset of growth and positive mindset
    • Encourage people at all levels to be a part of the culture
    • Encourage continuous improvement through growth, learning, and process improvement
  2. Measurements

    • Create the right sizes or Key Performance Indicators (KPI)
    • A business needs to measure the right things to ensure that the company is moving forward and not backward.
    • The Lean Startup is a great book that touches upon this and the Lean mindset from a business start-up.
    • Examples of the right KPIs are:
      • Revenue
      • Operating Costs
      • Waste counts
      • Rework counts
      • Number of customer complaints
      • Number Service or products errors or defects
      • Cycle time
      • Accounts receivable – are customer paying their pays on time
  1. Map out all of the current “as is” processes

    • Include everyone within the company to map the processes.
      • Do not map the processes by yourself!
    • You do not need to use anything fancy to map out the processes.
    • Examples of software to use:
      • Powerpoint
      • Paper and pencil
      • Lucid Chart
    • Ensure everyone has access to see the processes
  1. Train your people on Lean Six Sigma Concepts

    1. This training does not have to be a full Green Belt or Black Belt Training
    2. Yellow Belt Training or Lean Training is usually enough to get things started.
    3. Chick-Fila is a great company that uses Lean throughout their organization.
      1. David Reid from Chick-fil-a spoke on the Lean Blog Podcast how Lean is used throughout the company
      2. By teaching Lean to the Store Operators, this allows Chick-Fila employees to incorporate the different aspects to Lean throughout the entire organization
  2. Identify the processes that need improvement

    • Two ways to identify the problem processes:
      • Use the KPS that was created to determine what parts of the businesses are doing poorly
      • Use the Lean Wastes to identify the areas that need to improve

  3. Use basic tools to improve the processes:

    • 5S
    • Visual Factories
    • Kanban
    • Pull systems
    • Poke Yoke or mistake-proof
    • Continuous Flow
    • Stanard Work
    • Reducing Change over time
  4. Involve everyone within the entire company along this journey

    • This requires the buy-in on all levels to ensure success
    • Once everyone starts to be involved, I’ve seen businesses and organizations move beyond using the simple tools to becoming a successful business that grows year after year

Do you find the ideas listed in this article helpful? What are some of your ideas to implement the ideas from this article within your business?

If you would like to learn how I can help you grow with Contact me to see how we can work together.


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