When organizations today look for ways to get back in the game in this post-recession economy, many realize they lack the processes, discipline, and culture to embrace meaningful innovation continuously, according to the IBM executive brief, “Driving operational innovation using Lean Six Sigma.” 

Moreover, organizations that found the most success aimed beyond merely operational improvements and sought innovation throughout the enterprise. Their goal was to create a company culture in which innovation was instinctive. And Lean Six Sigma had a major impact beyond process improvement and cost reduction. In fact, this perspective was seen as “shortsighted.” 

The leading companies we studied are proving that the Lean Six Sigma approach has applications far beyond process improvement; they are using it to innovate in all areas of their businesses – their operations, their products and services and even their business models. 

Traditionally, Lean Six Sigma has offered operational assistance in areas such as:

  • Reduced lead time
  • Reduced material waste
  • Increased value-added processes
  • Reduced labor costs

However, Lean Six Sigma offers companies the opportunity to rethink their entire business and create a more innovative environment, according to the IBM executive brief. Specifically, the organizations highlighted in the brief found success through:

  • Strong leadership. When there was “a high degree of CEO commitment and a top-down corporate deployment approach,” teams saw the impact of their efforts and how they contributed to the whole
  • The ripple effect. Innovation in one area of the business led to a “transformation in another”
  • Factual discovery. Instead of relying on “guesses and assumptions” companies gained insight into areas that required improvements

Ultimately, the common characteristics shared by these successful companies included:

  • An innovation vision based on factual customer and market insights
  • Leadership committed to perpetual innovation
  • Alignment across the extended enterprise
  • Organizational capabilities that made innovation habitual

Clearly, Lean Six Sigma approaches can significantly affect innovation throughout business operations. It’s just a matter of whether or not your organization is ready to take the next step.

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