Lean and Six Sigma – Key Similarities and Differences?

03 May

Lean and Six Sigma are probably the most researched, published and utilized Continuous Improvement methodologies in Operations Management and Supply Chain. Lot of guys in my team are eager to learn both Lean and Six Sigma tools but they don’t always know which method and tools are applied in which problem scenario. I thought I should try  to answer this problem scenario….

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One way to look at how lean management and six sigma can complement each other is comparing the strengths and weaknesses of both, as shown in Table below, to understand their correlation. This Table identify the strengths and weakness  for both lean and six sigma, highlight the fact that both philosophies complement each others’ strengths and weaknesses, address process variation reduction, waste reduction, reduction in non-value added work and cycle time at the same time . However, in the current literature it is still not clear how companies can systematically select and align Lean Six Sigma tools, or, in other words, what processes should  companies adopt to systematically select and evaluate use of available CI methodologies to achieve the desired strategic or reactive goal link with their supply chain strategy? Hope fully below mentioned summary can help you with this.

Lean Vs Six Sigma - the difference


  • Marcelo Reyes

    Could you add to this comparative analisys in a third column the methodology Theory of Constraints?

    • muddassirism

      Hi Marcelo,

      That is the good idea and I will try to do this in some time in future.

      Thanks for reading the blog, stay connected!


  • Jeff Patten

    Great blog. Junior operations leader often don’t realize the six sigma and lean are entirely different tools and systems used for different purposes. When they were rolled together I always wondered why in the world that made any sense.

    Well done.

    Jeff Patten

  • Nick Khawaja

    Hello Sir – great article.
    The teachings from my sensei’s taught me that, Lean is a transformation methodology which helps an organization to address all three aspects; Physical, Operational and Cultural to change for good. Whereas, Six Sigma is defect focused problem solving methodology to improve processes. It does not provide any concepts, tools and techniques to address the Physical and Cultural aspects of an organization, which are extremely essential for any transformation. That’s why Six Sigma fits very well under the Lean Transformation Umbrella, as an approach to solve problems to reduce process variation which will results in improving the quality. Lean Thinking which leads to Lean Transformation is way beyond Womack’s five principle, which are mainly focused on Operations side of Lean…and may little bit of Physical aspect too.

    I hope this make sense.

    Nick Khawaja

    • muddassirism

      Hi Nick, it does make good sense. I will extend this blog by adding more cultural elements as you mentioned when get more time!

      Regards, Dr. Muddassir Ahmed

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  • Ron

    So then what are your thoughts on Lean Six Sigma, as opposed to Lean and/or Six Sigma?

    • Muddassir Ahmed

      For me, both are awesome Continous Improvement methodologies. Lean is for Flow and Six Sigma for Variation Reduction.

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