Key Lean Six Sigma Tools (14)

Above all, this is a list of 14 key Lean Six Sigma Tools. As a brief summation, I just give the inputs and outputs of each tool or method. Subsequently, these tools, plus the tools of the Toyota Production System, will position your system as a leader today and well into the future. Study each Lean Six Sigma Tool.

Some of these tools are executive management tools and some are tools, whose use is directed by Master Black Belts, to improve your system. There is no specific order as these tools are used based on need.

SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats), PEST (Politics, Economy, Society, Technology), and Porters 5 Forces

Importance: These three tools give you the information needed for self-reflection and a significant understanding of threats from the outside.

Output: Input for Strategic Plan establishing long-term goals and objectives. Along with the necessary actions to accomplish them. Leverage strengths and improve weaknesses. Eliminate threats. Note, this is a result of using all of the methods.


  1. Strengths,
  2. Weaknesses,
  3. Opportunities,
  4. Threats,
  5. Politics,
  6. Economy,
  7. Society,
  8. Technology,
  9. Buyer Power,
  10. The threat of Substitution,
  11. Supplier Power,
  12. The threat of New Entry, and
  13. Competitive Rivalry.

Lead Every Complex Project with the Lean Six Sigma Tool – Project Charter

Importance: Firstly, every project will have contention for personnel, authority, funding, and management time. The Project Charter gives you a picture of what it takes to produce a successful effort.

Output: The reason you are performing the task and the challenges. A definitive statement of the goal and scope. Including a list of stakeholders, individuals on the team, and the plan.


  1. Business Case,
  2. Problem Statement,
  3. Goal Statement,
  4. Project Scope,
  5. Project Plan, and
  6. Project Team.

Lean Six Sigma Tool Brainstorming and Brainwriting 6-3-5

Importance: There is a wealth of knowledge and vantage points contained in every individual. These two tools bring that expertise to bear undefined challenges.

Output: New ideas to power innovation and growth among participants.


  1. Collective Knowledge,
  2. Varied perspectives, and
  3. A Structure for Idea Generation.


Importance: DOWNTIMES is an acronym for what Lean Six Sigma refers to as waste. Waste is defined as effort performed that is not directed towards either generating the product or service. Removing waste is the easiest way to improve process performance. A system will become much more efficient if everyone in that system understands DOWNTIMES.

Output: The information about all the impediments to perfection or actions that impede increased profits.

Input: DOWNTIMES is an acronym for:

  1. Defects,
  2. Overproduction,
  3. Waiting,
  4. Non-utilized talent,
  5. Transportation,
  6. Inventory,
  7. Motion,
  8. Extra processing, and
  9. Services to support the above, such as HVAC and real estate space.

Value Streams

Importance: A Value Stream will be life-changing for your system. A value stream connects every process between customer orders and customer delivery by crossing departmental lines. It connects everything that a customer cares about and it is also a required solution for many other Toyota Production System tools.

Output: Profound Knowledge of every process needed to provide a product or service.

Input: A Value Stream includes every process from customer order to customer delivery. It is archived in a Value Stream Map which includes, every process in the value stream:

  1. The time through the process,
  2. The time during the process that value is being added, and
  3. The defect rate.

Production Statistics

Importance: In statistics, there is an acronym: DIKW. It stands for Data Information Knowledge Wisdom. Statistics takes you through this transition. But beware, any data fed into any statistical program will generate a result. It takes expertise to understand whether it’s appropriate to use a specific statistical tool with your data.

Output: The right statistic at the right time is used to make the right decision. Statistics are used to analyze the performance of your environment.


  1. Discrete or continuous data,
  2. Data that follows a normal distribution and data that doesn’t,
  3. Whether you are measuring a central tendency or a variation,
  4. Whether you are measuring a sample or a population,
  5. Whether you are comparing two sets of data, multiple sets of data, or characterizing one set of data, and
  6. Data that is subject to measurement error.

A Key Lean Six Sigma Tool – House of Quality or Quality Function Deployment

Importance: The House of Quality provides design information that includes input from a plethora of different important areas. This will ensure that your design requirements lead to a product or service that meets all stakeholder requirements.

Output: The Key Solutions is a quantitative measure of feature importance such as cost or customer service. The quantitative measure comes with a percentage importance to ease analysis.


  1. Customer Requirements,
  2. Competition,
  3. Engineering Solutions,
  4. Engineering/Customer Relationships
  5. Correlations, resulting in
  6. A Summary of Key Conclusions

Fishbone Diagram

Importance: The Fishbone Diagram is a reactive look at every aspect of what could have contributed to a failure.

Output: An understanding, beyond what failed, but what caused the failure. It helps you understand if the issue is a person, a process, or a machine.

Input: Each of the subject areas is fleshed out in more detail. For example, Material may affect surgery contamination if there are issues with sterilization or material wear:

  1. Material,
  2. Measurement,
  3. Machine,
  4. Process,
  5. Environment, and
  6. Worker.

DOE (Design of Experiments)

Importance: Let’s say that you are interested in optimizing the components of a mixture. A common way of doing this is by changing one component at a time and observing the resulting mixture. The challenge this gives you is that you’re ignoring potential interactions between components of the mixture. DOE is a methodology that not only lets you determine the impact of a particular component of the mixture but also the impact of interactions between components of a mixture.

Output: The optimized mix input levels to a process that includes the effect of interactions.

Input: This methodology incorporates different levels of mixing by changing the values of each mixture such that each combination is tested. This allows you to determine the best mixture ratio and eliminate the impact of interactions.


Importance: TRIZ is a solution devised by a Russian patent office or clerk who analyzed 40,000 individual inventions. This allowed him to the ways inventors used to overcome problems. By putting TRIZ together it gives an inventor or designer the alternatives to making a trade-off. An example could be a trade-off between weight and velocity.

Output: The optimal solution to your problem or challenge.


  1. Identify the problem,
  2. Identify the feature that worsens when the problem improves,
  3. Consult the TRIZ matrix for solutions, and
  4. Progress through the list of solutions to find the optimal one.

Mind Map

Importance: The Mind Map is not specifically a Lean Six Sigma tool but is nonetheless important. The Mind Map is a design tool. It is great for helping you understand all the different aspects of the design.

Output: The design of a project solution such as a Refrigerator Inventory System.

Input: A Mind Map is a design process and the impact is your imagination guided to flesh out all aspects of the design criteria.

FMEA (Failure Modes Effects Analysis)

Importance: The FMEA is a key tool used to understand the impact and chance of failure before you start the design process.

Output: Allows you to detect associated project risks before you even start. Delivers a risk mitigation strategy.


  1. Process,
  2. Identified Failure Risks,
  3. Impacts of Failure,
  4. Failure Severity Rating (1-10),
  5. Occurrence Probability (1-10),
  6. Current Mitigation Controls, and
  7. Detection Ability (1-10).

Each of the above-listed inputs is performed for each Identified Failure Risk. For instance, for a Hospital surgery, you might have the following three risks:

  1. Supplies don’t arrive on time,
  2. Tools contaminated, and
  3. The patient doesn’t arrive.

Control Chart Failures: We Control Chart was a wonderful invention for processes that operate at 3 sigma. This was used long ago but today nobody should be operating at only 3 sigma. Toyota operates at greater than 6 Sigma and control charts are useless at that level of performance because the mechanics of a control chart become unworkable.

Kaizen Event is Outdated: Toyota does not perform Kaizen Events because it would slow them down, be ineffectual, and not consider their strategic importance. Toyota’s Kata Continuous Improvement, Policy Propagation, and Realization improves at a rate of 11 ideas per person per year and all those ideas move Toyota forward in their strategic direction. By using Kata your improvement rate is so fast, that you do not have time to perform Kaizen Events. This is why Toyota does not perform Kaizen Events.

Lean Six Sigma Tool In Summary

Between Lean Six Sigma Tools and the Tools of The Toyota Production System, you will march towards Extreme Operational Excellence, a competitive advantage. Academic powerhouses Treacy and Wiersema determined that all great companies either excelled in Operational Excellence, Innovation, or Customer Intimacy. This moves you towards Operational Excellence.