How to Solve Your Problems With Lean Six Sigma (Free DMAIC Checklist)

Elisabeth Swan is the co-author of “The Problem-Solver’s Toolkit” and co-host of “The Just-in-Time Cafe Podcast.” She’s been a process improvement consultant, speaker, and innovator for over 30 years. She’s the Chief Learning Experience Officer for GoLeanSixSigma.com, a former cast member of ImprovBoston, and – if asked – may still be able to ride a unicycle.

Surgeon Atul Gawande made headlines when he told the world that a simple checklist could drastically reduce unnecessary deaths in The Checklist Manifesto.

Yet, checklists conjure images of forklift drivers on loading docks with clipboards counting boxes. How could they transform healthcare?

He has… produced a 90-second checklist which reduced deaths and complications by more than one-third in eight hospitals around the world – at virtually no cost and for almost any operation.” – James Clarke, reviewing The Checklist Manifesto, Ulster Med J. 2011 Jan; 80(1): 54.

Aviation was transformed decades earlier when management and engineers at Boeing Corporation created the pre-flight checklist after the 1935 crash of the prototype Boeing B-17 at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio. Checklists have become so essential to the airline industry that most crashes can be traced to the misuse or failure to complete a checklist.

A New York Times reviewer noted, “no matter how expert you may be, well-designed checklists can improve outcomes”. Since the purpose of process improvement is improving outcomes, Lean Six Sigma and checklists are natural companions.

To prove that, this Process Street blog post will show the relationship between checklists and lean six sigma, and provide you with a free DMAIC Improvement Project Tollgate Checklist that you can use right now.

Use the links below to jump to that section of the post:

Or, if you just want the checklist, check it out below!

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For those unfamiliar with Lean Six Sigma and process improvement, it is a structured approach for organizations to scrutinize how things are done, poke at data and processes to uncover waste and then cut out things like extra forms, out-dated approvals and other time-wasting steps.

It’s a customer-focused, 5-step problem-solving model that engages entire workforces to constantly seek a better way of doing things.

Proof of Lean Six Sigma’s influence is evident in today’s hiring practices. A poll by GoLeanSixSigma highlights that hiring managers prefer a person who is “Green Belt Certified” – having substantial Lean Six Sigma skills – by an almost 80% margin. In an interview with the former head of Twitter, problem-solving emerged as the top skill sought by today’s most influential hiring managers.

Hiring Managers: If you had to choose between two similarly qualified candidates (work experience and education) except one candidate had a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt and the other didn’t, who would you prefer to hire?

In other words, problem-solving (especially via Lean Six Sigma) is an absolutely vital skill.

If problem-solving is a must-have skill and checklists are key to good outcomes, then combining the two makes sense.

DMAIC – Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve & Control – is the 5-Step model for Lean Six Sigma and there’s a set of required tollgates at the end of each phase. These tollgates outline what has to be done in order to move the problem-solving process forward.

Using the tollgates as an outline, we created a dynamic Process Street template that you

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