Lean principles are now core components of companies’ strategic planning

Posted on May 03, 2019
Lean principles are now core components of companies’ strategic planning

Before data analytics became a ‘thing’, businesses, particularly in the manufacturing industry, adopted a way of looking at their operations and how they could be improved.

The goal was to produce a better product more efficiently and meet required new international standards. That process is known today as Lean Six Sigma. As the movement progressed, it became apparent that the same processes could be applied to services, which has the goal of achieving maximum customer satisfaction.

The method, which involves looking at how your business operates using key metrics, was, in a way, the original data analytics movement, with its use of analysis to generate fact-based improvements. But, says Mike Ewing, program director of Schulich ExecEd’s Masters Certificate in Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, it was at one time treated as a standalone project within a company – a good thing to do. Today, he says, Lean Six Sigma is being incorporated into many organizations’ strategic plans and is viewed as critical to business success in these days of increased competition and market disruption.

“It’s becoming a strategic imperative,” said Ewing. “It’s not just an offshoot any more. Organizations are making Lean Six Sigma more integrated in their overall strategy and using it to inform their KPIs (key performance indicators).”

The Lean Six Sigma program, which is a progression of steps, starting with White Belt and proceeding to Black Belt, is itself learning to improve and the program content is continually being updated to answer, not just requirements of the method, but also the other skills leaders need to lead what is essentially a “change management project”, particularly at the Black Belt level.

“We’re constantly refining the material and the way it’s delivered,” said Ewing. One example is the inclusion of “soft” or interpersonal skills. Today’s Lean Six Sigma practitioners need to not only understand and convey the method but be able to communicate the rationale for adopting a program that involves significant change to how organizations do business.

As issues such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Big Data come to the fore, the need to make changes to processes and service models needs to be more fact-based than ever, which is why Lean Six Sigma is becoming critical to business success.


Mike Ewing is program director of Schulich ExecEd’s Centre of Excellence in Lean Six Sigma, which offers the Masters Certificate in Lean Six Sigma Black Belt (starting Nov. 1, 2019). For more information on this program visit the web page. For information on other Lean Six Sigma courses, visit the Centre of Excellence page.