How to control the craziness of believing that Lean and Six Sigma will make your company successful

The biggest mistake this Third World Country manufacturer can do is to adopt Lean Six Sigma. It’s a sure way to keep their Third World Country poor.



To Whom It May Concern,

Currently, I’m engaged in field-work at a Plastic Manufacturing Company. I’m trying to understand the process cycle efficiency, root cause of its current failure in meeting production capacity, and apply lean six sigma as the solution.

Additionally, I’m trying to incorporate Lean and Six Sigma, with various tools like – 5S, DMAIC, FMEA, Lean-event charter, Six Sigma (DO-CHECK-ACT) project worksheet, root cause analysis from fish bone, SIPOC process definition sheet, process improvement form, quality function deployment, total productive maintenance, etc. Do you have any format of the above mentioned best manufacturing practices? We are a Third World Country manufacturer and our ways of industry practice are too traditionalist and gives no manufacturing velocity at all. Applying great globally accepted business practices is a must for a Least Developing Countries like ours, and we youth are looking forward for it.

If you’ve any study materials or formats of best business practices, it’d really help me to understand ‘manufacturing experts’ insights. My passion is to start up a business in this industry after my graduation. Maybe start with small to medium enterprises. Your help at this stage will encourage me. I’d be very happy, if you could possibly share me other articles, ppt slides or pdf files, so I can have great lessons from the manufacturing industry.

Your generosity and resourcefulness will help increase my intellectual capacity.

Respect & regards, Sushil



Dear Sushil,

Like all of us when we first discover Lean and Six Sigma you have gone crazy with a Vision of huge future potential. You need to get over it fast.

If you try and use Lean and Six Sigma your company will never be world class successful. Especially as you are in a Third World Country where none of the support you need is available. We always recommend no company use Lean or Six Sigma as a start point. They are impossible to get right in any novice industrial operation.

I love the idea of Lean as much as you do. Now after many years of observing Lean solutions used in industry we no longer recommend them. We advise all our clients that they do process improvements without resorting to Lean or Six Sigma until they are the very last options left to use.

It took me a long time to realise why Lean and Six Sigma are such dismal failures when companies use them—they forget it’s their people on the shopfloor who have to want to use Lean and Six Sigma! Until your people want Lean you will fail in its use. You need to get your people as excited about Lean as you are, then you might even successfully learn how to become a Lean operation.

When you use our Plant Wellness Way methodology, getting world class operational excellence performance is the result we want clients to deliver in Phase 4 of the business improvement project.

Phase 1 is totally about educating the workforce and company management on making business process improvements. During the first phase we teach your managers and workforce how to do process improvements, especially how to find all those changes that make the most operating profit. By the end of Phase 1 the workforce and management have worked together to design and document their future processes and estimate their new operating profits.

In Phase 2 we get clients to experiment with changing their processes to the new designs. It’s impossible to design the best process solutions first time through. People have to test their ideas and refine them. It is an incredibly powerful way to get buy-in and commitment to ‘Change’ from your people. At the end of Phase 2 your new business processes are imbedded in your company and they all are in use. You will see huge operational benefits by the end of Phase 2 and would have got a big jump in operating profits.

During Phase 3 we challenge everyone to drive and change their processes to reach world class performance by the end of the Phase. Here you get the phenomenon of Teamwork. Your people begin to team-up and cross-link their knowledge, ideas and solutions. The jump in operating profits you see in Phase 2 are dwarfed by the operating profit rise at the end of Phase 3.

Phase 4 is when we look at using Lean and Six Sigma and whether they will add value and bring greater operational success. By this stage your entire management and workforce understand what is happening to their company’s processes and can look at Lean or Six Sigma with a business-eye. If they adopt any of the Lean tools or Six Sigma solutions you can be sure they will be implemented well, quickly and will bring sure new operating profits.

All praise to you Sushil for wanting to use Lean Six Sigma to better your company. But don’t start with them. If you do I predict you will never become a Lean operation.

The passion and craze you have for Lean Six Sigma is because you dream of a wonderful future. You have read books about amazing Lean transformations and want the same for your operation. You sprout the names of Lean solutions and Six Sigma methods like the newly converted. Keep the passion, you need it to sustain you, but put the books away and start at the beginning with the education of your workforce and managers. Bring them with you on your climb to operational excellence. Don’t leave them behind. There is no chance of success if you climb the mountain alone.

I hope you now understand you don’t need Lean or Six Sigma to be a highly successful company. Don’t use them until they are the only solutions left to be used. We find the best place to start is to open up your peoples’ minds and give them the dreams, permission and opportunities to create a successful company from the bottom up.


All the best to you,

Mike Sondalini
Managing Director
Lifetime Reliability Solutions HQ


P.S. After reading Sushil’s email and seeing his excitement with Lean and Six Sigma I did not want to destroy his passion and hopes to improve his business. Yet I needed him to start small with his process improvements. The actual reply I sent him started with, “Get the book by Kevin Duggan called ‘Creating Mixed Modal Value Streams’ and use his approach for your company.” It’s one of many books he could have used. It’s as good as many other books on Lean solutions. But it is realistic and it gets you to start simply and keep things simple.

P.P.S. Get our Introducing Lean Six Sigma, 5S and TPM training PowerPoint presentations at the Lean and Quality Management Training Store where you can purchase them online.

P.P.P.S. If you require advice or input on real Lean Business Processes, Lean Manufacturing or successful Lean Improvement, please contact me by email at

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