Six Sigma vs Kaizen

A person’s hands operate a computer keyboard and a smartphone.
A person’s hands operate a computer keyboard and a smartphone.

As two management philosophies, Six Sigma and Kaizen have some similarities. Both philosophies aim for continual improvement of a business by creating more efficient business processes, reducing waste and eliminating defects.

While the goal of both strategies may be similar, the process is different. Both can be effective methodologies if implemented correctly, and it’s important to understand which method is being used in order to better understand what’s going on.

Six Sigma and Kaizen are applied in a myriad of industries including healthcare, automotive and manufacturing. Six Sigma is covered as part of the curriculum of the online MBA Healthcare Administration program at Spring Arbor University. Kaizen is a technique that you may come across in your chosen field. 

The History of Six Sigma vs Kaizen

The Six Sigma philosophy began to materialize in the 1920s as a measurement standard, but the Six Sigma process received its name from Motorola engineer Bill Smith in the 1980s.

Over time, Six Sigma evolved into a way of doing business, described as a vision, philosophy or methodology. Kaizen, on the other hand, is an ancient Japanese philosophy that was first implemented in business following World War II. The goal of this philosophy has been to continually improve every aspect of an individual’s life, which slowly evolved into a business philosophy over time.

How Six Sigma and Kaizen Are Used in Business 

The Six Sigma approach looks at the final product, assessing defects and looking for ways to eliminate the cause behind the defects. The strategy aims to change business processes, if necessary, to develop a final product without defects or to make changes in the way it is manufactured. It is a measurement process that looks at how a result deviates from perfection and how to bring the result closer to perfection. 

The Kaizen approach looks at a business with a wider lens. The goal is to continuously improve every aspect of the business, standardize processes, improve efficiency and always look for ways to reduce waste. It’s a system that always focuses on ways to improve, from the entry-level workers to the highest in management.

Comparing Six Sigma and Kaizen

Six Sigma uses statistics to analyze business processes, while Kaizen doesn’t generally use this type of analysis. Six Sigma aims for perfection, or zero defects, as often as possible, while Kaizen aims to continuously improve the overall work environment, the systems in place and the strategies used without focusing on percentile success rates.

While Six Sigma and Kaizen are notable in their differences, they’re ultimately parallel in their goal: to help businesses eliminate deficiencies and increase their productivity. This means the two philosophies can be used in tandem. In fact, businesses in many industries may adopt a synchronous approach, combining Six Sigma and Kaizen principles. 

Six Sigma vs Kaizen vs Lean

It’s difficult to talk about Six Sigma and Kaizen without also mentioning Lean. All three are performance improvement philosophies, and all three have their roots in American and Japanese manufacturing innovations from the 20th century.

When considering Lean, Kaisen and Six Sigma, it’s clear that Lean is laser focused on the elimination of waste, defined in the Lean framework as anything that fails to add value to the customer. The primary forms of waste include the following:

  • Inventory
  • Transport
  • Overproduction
  • Defects
  • Wait times

Lean can be a valuable philosophy for companies looking to increase production speed and enhance overall product quality standards. Note that Lean can also be used in tandem with Six Sigma and Kaizen principles.

The Benefits of Implementing Six Sigma and Kaizen Strategies in Your Business

Both the Kaizen and Six Sigma business methods aim to decrease overall spending. Many big businesses use the Six Sigma approach, while others use the Kaizen method to improve efficiency in the workplace and reduce costs.

It helps to remember that Kaizen isn’t a set process, but rather a belief system that considers the whole picture. Kaizen is regarded as a continuous improvement, and there’s rarely a finite end to any new processes established. With Six Sigma, the approach is methodical and driven by statistics. The goal is to improve the overall whole by reducing defects.

Each method takes a different approach in the business world, but both strategies aim to deliver quality, reduce waste and increase profits for the business.

Learn More About Core Business Philosophies 

One of the best ways to further your education in business and production philosophies is to engage in an online business training program. Spring Arbor University’s online Master of Business Administration degree and Healthcare Administration concentration offers a faith-based education that can teach graduates about different business principles, such as Six Sigma, and how to apply them to healthcare organizations. Find out more about the program and how it can help you gain expertise in business leadership and healthcare management.

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