Six sigma, lean etc etc where to start !

January 1, 2014

There are a whole range of quality management tools and techniques and that includes Lean and Six Sigma. Includes being the key word. They are not by themselves ‘Quality Management’. A recent research paper on barriers to implementing lean construction in the UK shows the problem that occurs when one thinks that Lean or Six Sigma are all that is needed.

The problem is that many are picking just pieces of quality i.e. Six Sigma or Lean and not including other aspects of quality. How can Six Sigma or Lean work if you don’t have the culture embedded in he company to start with! This is why many dont do BOTH lean and six sigma in construction, they think they are separate issues, that is the thinking is flawed from the start.

Quality is about having the foundation of leadership, culture and strategy linked to the operational tools and the tools should be what you need, you don’t go on a construction site with only a hammer, you have a full toolbox that would include ISO9001, ISO14001, OHSAS18000, EFQM Excellence Model/Baldrige, a focus on employee and customer satisfaction as well as basic quality tools like 80/20 and fishbone charts, Cost of Quality, trade satisfaction surveys and so on.

Lean and Six Sigma are a combination of good tools but they are only part of the package.
So often we hear about Lean in construction and really its BIM, BIM is great, but you can have BIM and NOT be doing lean. Using lean means using certain key tools, the reason so many link the two is that they don’t understand the lean tools (the quality tools) but since BIM can
help reduce waste they stick the term LEAN on it !
Just calling something a name doesnt MAKE it that thing!
Calling a hammer a screwdriver doesn’t make it a screwdriver !

What’s in YOUR toolbox ?


Denis Leonard has a degree in construction engineering an M.B.A. and a Ph.D. in quality management. Denis is a Fellow of the American Society for Quality, a Certified Quality Manager, Auditor, and Six Sigma Black Belt. He has been an Examiner for the Baldrige National Quality Award Board of Examiners a Judge on the International Team Excellence Competition and a Lead Judge on the National Housing Quality Award. A former Professor of Quality at the University of Wisconsin, he has experience as a quality manager in the home building industry as well as construction engineer, site manager, and in training, auditing, and consulting with expertise in strategic and operational quality improvement initiatives. His work has achieved national quality, environmental, and safety management awards for clients. 

Denis is co-author of The Executive Guide to Understanding and Implementing the Baldrige Criteria: Improve Revenue and Create Organizational Excellence.


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