How Lean Six Sigma and Smartsheet can work together

by Britt Williams

Prior to working at Smartsheet, I worked at a Fortune 250 global apparel and footwear company for about 10 years in a variety of roles, from product development to merchandising. During my time at the company, I was exposed to several small and large operational issues across various departments, which hindered our productivity and growth. 

When I got the opportunity to work for the new Continuous Improvement wing at the company, I jumped at the chance to make a positive impact on our global supply chain. To accomplish this goal, I trained in the Lean Six Sigma methodology, earned my Black Belt Certification, and managed the company’s Lean Six Sigma training program. 

It was around then that I was introduced to Smartsheet, and I was immediately hooked. The no-code platform gave me the power to streamline communication and build a real-time dashboard that I could share with my executive team. If they had any questions about a particular project, they could drill down and see what the issue was, which transferred the accountability from me to the project owners. 

This led to huge time savings, and the full week required for reporting every month was being used to drive more continuous improvements at the company. In a sense, Smartsheet helped us enable Lean Six Sigma in our own organization. These experiences inspired me to create this new Lean Six Sigma template set, which can help you unlock the full potential of Lean Six Sigma at your organization. 

What are lean management and Six Sigma?

If you already know about these topics, jump to our section on how Smartsheet fits into Lean Six Sigma. If you are new to Lean Six Sigma, here’s a quick summary of lean management, Six Sigma, and how to combine them.

With its origins in Japanese automotive manufacturing, lean finds any process that does not add value for the customer, where “value” is anything a customer will pay for. With this focus, lean strives to eliminate seven types of waste in any type of industry:

7 wastes of lean

Lean can help project managers avoid or mitigate situations that can cause harm to a project, such as scope creep, failure to establish customer value, lack of stakeholder commitment, or lack of stakeholder communication.

Also rooted in Japanese manufacturing, Six Sigma was named after the standard deviation term sigma (σ), and Motorola’s quality goal of 6(σ). This process improvement methodology aims to identify and eliminate variations, and determine the root cause of problems to increase accuracy, quality, and performance. It commonly follows the acronym DMAIC:

Lean management DMAIC diagram

While Six Sigma focuses on finding and fixing defects after the fact, lean works to prevent wasteful defects from occurring in the first place. When combined, a data-driven Lean Six Sigma approach can help companies streamline operations, boost profitability, and create a problem-solving culture in the workplace. 

The benefits of using Lean Six Sigma reach beyond the factory floor. For example, the financial industry can streamline the loan-approval process to approve more requests for financing in less time. This can boost customer satisfaction as well as potential earnings. 

Where Smartsheet fits in

Most traditional companies rely on lagging metrics (or historic data) to make decisions. However, to be truly agile and responsive to the threat of competition or variations in business processes, companies need leading metrics (or predictive data). This is where Smartsheet comes into the picture. 

Smartsheet helps companies get up-to-date real-time data and lets them put the controls in place to automatically perform some actions when certain conditions are triggered. When companies have transparency into issues as they are happening, they have the power to proactively make impactful decisions faster, versus making decisions after an event has already transpired.

During my time at the apparel company, I saw the power of Smartsheet time and again in streamlining communications and recording the unstructured work that normally happens over emails, spreadsheets, and phone calls. This improved accountability and helped me discover areas which needed continuous processes improvements — and act on them — faster. 

Using industry best-practices and prior experience, I created a comprehensive Lean Six Sigma template set which contains a mini DMAIC template set as well as a collection of independent sheets including Control & Follow Up, Counter Measure Ladder, Critical to Quality, FMEA, SIPOC, and more. 

The figure below is a visualization of all the components of this template set. For more information on the details of each component and guidelines to roll out this template set to manage your Lean Six Sigma process, please visit our getting started guide.

Smartsheet Lean Six Sigma Template Set

Power up your Lean Six Sigma process

Smartsheet helped me focus my time and effort on projects with real monetary savings, and now, I hope that this Lean Six Sigma template set can help your teams get further along the path to operational excellence. The real-time data will not only elevate visibility; it will also help you improve decision making across projects and achieve your project management goals.

Get the template set