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July 29, 2014
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Forward Thinking

Lean overtakes Six Sigma for corporate improvement

Supply chain job postings indicate employers are placing increasing emphasis on "Lean" knowledge.

A new study suggests that the "Lean" doctrine has overtaken Six Sigma as the leading force for continuous corporate improvement. The Avery Point Group, an executive search firm in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, came to that conclusion after a recent review of almost 3,500 online job postings. Avery noted that more companies were looking for managerial talent with knowledge of Lean than of Six Sigma.

The Lean production or manufacturing approach, developed originally by Toyota (hence sometimes called the Toyota Production System), focuses on waste reduction to achieve efficiency. Six Sigma uses data and statistical analysis to measure and improve operations.

Avery said its study of job postings this year found that demand for candidates with Lean expertise exceeded those with Six Sigma knowledge by almost 35 percent. A similar study the previous year found that Lean had an 11-percent edge over Six Sigma. Comparing the current results with those from the search firm's inaugural study, in 2005, reveals how much things have changed: five years ago, demand for Six Sigma talent exceeded that for Lean by more than 50 percent.

The study also found that of those companies seeking Lean talent, only 41 percent required candidates to possess Six Sigma knowledge as well. Yet almost 55 percent of companies seeking recruits with Six Sigma know-how wanted job candidates to have Lean knowledge. "For companies seeking Lean practitioners, these results may be signaling a possible trend toward a decoupling of Lean and Six Sigma, or at very least a de-emphasis on Six Sigma as a core job requirement for Lean talent," said Tim Noble, a managing principal at the Avery Point Group, in a press release. "It may also indicate that companies are instead opting to consolidate their limited resources around Lean as a hedge against the steep challenges of today's economic climate, which they feel may be better served by Lean's more immediate and practical focus on waste, flow, and flexibility."

When it comes to Six Sigma knowledge, hiring companies often ask for proof of that expertise. The study found that companies seeking Six Sigma talent were almost 50 percent more likely to require some form of certification versus companies seeking Lean talent.

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