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Models for continuous improvement Part II

In the first blog about continuous improvement models, we analyzed in detail TQM and Six Sigma, origin and advantages among others. In this blog, we will focus on the lean model, and we will finally compare the three models. The comparative table that you will find at the end will help you to take the decision of which model fits you better.

Continuous Improvement Models

Lean Model

The Lean Manufacturing management model is part of the Continuous Improvement culture and proposes a set of tools that help in the identification and elimination of all types of waste, (unnecessary transportation, excess movement, defects, waiting, excess production, excess inventory, etc…) with the purpose of improving performance, in time and costs. It affects all processes of the organization (not only operational, but also administrative, purchasing, HR, etc…).

Lean Origin

We have already talked about the Lean Manufacturing origins in past blogs so we do not want to focus too much on it. But as a reminder, the origins of Lean are found in the Japanese company, Toyota at the beginning of the twentieth century with its Toyota Production System. Their fathers are Sakichi Toyoda and his sons: Kiichiro Toyoda and Eiji Toyoda, and Taiichi Ohno a manufacturing engineer.

Lean model advantages

It focuses on providing cheaper products and services (meaning at the lowest cost), better quality, and reduced delivery time, by eliminating waste and relying on the synergy of human talent and promoting teamwork. This trust in human skills seems to be easier in the Japanese culture than in the western one, where it is valued group goals over individual goals.

For organizations that have successfully implemented Six Sigma, skills, statistical control, and experience, rank first in importance. Conversely, for organizations that have successfully implemented Lean Manufacturing, employee involvement, cultural change, and teamwork, are more critical.


It is not difficult to achieve the conclusion that the models TQM, Six Sigma, and Lean manufacturing can coexist, as they are not contradictory at all, on the contrary, they are supplementary. In our experience, we recommend starting with the TQM Quality approach to set up bases, then a robust Lean model supported by Six Sigma individual projects for some critical characteristics. And of course, a deployment of objectives in the company, Hoshin Kanri, that really guides us towards where we must improve “All of us”.

Necessary clarification about the three methodologies

Any of these tools in isolation can work, but they are much more efficient if all of them are applied somehow. The ideal situation is to take advantage of the most positive part of each model. It will undoubtedly help us to achieve the objectives we need, want, and must achieve. However, those will only be achieved if :

  • We bet and believe in them
  • We transmit to our collaborators the importance of their correct application and the objectives we must achieve
  • We train our collaborators to extract from each of them all the positive things they can offer us
  • We lead by example in a constant way in its implementation and we follow up on the status of the objectives
  • We apply in a timely manner the necessary corrective actions when we detect deviations from our objectives
  • Without the leader or the owner of the company, and without the complete involvement of his team, neither these nor any improvement tools will work.
  • The implementation of these tools entails a paradigm shift in the company.

But what is the meaning of paradigm in a dictionary?

Theory or set of theories (tools) whose central core is accepted without question and which provides the basis and model for solving problems and advancing knowledge. The Newtonian paradigm.

Comparative Table

Comparative table between continous improvement models: TQM, Lean and Six Sigma

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Every business has a different methodology but all of them need one to start with. Request a demo and we can guide you on what suits you better in your transformation journey.

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