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Avery Point Group

Six Sigma

A Decoupling of Lean and Six Sigma?

Lean and Six Sigma study says demand for lean talent is more in demand

Published: Friday, February 17, 2012 - 15:02

(Avery Point Group: Alpharetta, GA) -- As the economy continues to heal, post-recession demand for continuous improvement talent persists strongly, according to the latest study of almost 7,100 recent Internet job postings reviewed by The Avery Point Group.

The executive search firm’s eighth annual study found that the combined demand for lean and Six Sigma talent has more than doubled, rising more than 103 percent over 2010 recessionary levels and 6 percent ahead of last year’s strong talent demand levels.

“This year’s study clearly illustrated there is strong ongoing demand for continuous improvement skills ahead of the broader economic recovery,” says Tim Noble, managing principal and partner of The Avery Point Group. “However, within that ongoing surge for continuous improvement talent we are beginning to see a very clear and accelerated trend in the demand for lean skills versus Six Sigma that may also indicate a decoupling of the two initiatives in relation to job requirements.”

Based on this year’s study, The Avery Point Group found that demand for lean talent has accelerated at its fastest year-over-year pace as the more desired skill set over Six Sigma. This year’s study showed that lean talent demand now exceeds Six Sigma by almost 68 percent, almost doubling its lead over last year’s results that showed only a 35-percent edge for lean over Six Sigma.

The study also found that job postings looking exclusively for Six Sigma talent, with no mention of lean in the job specification, dropped to 20 percent of the postings reviewed, the lowest level for those job postings in the study’s history. The 2012 study is an even further departure from The Avery Point Group’s 2005 inaugural lean and Six Sigma talent demand study that showed Six Sigma talent demand exceeding lean by more than 50 percent.

A deeper review of this year’s data shows that Six Sigma is also becoming less of an additional job requirement within lean job postings. In The Avery Point Group’s 2007 talent study, more than 50 percent of the lean jobs posted sought candidates that also had a Six Sigma skill set. Today, that requirement has dropped to less than 34 percent, its lowest level in the study’s eight-year history.

Does the continued downward trend for Six Sigma talent demand and its diminished emphasis within lean job postings signal a decoupling of lean and Six Sigma? “I don’t think that is entirely the case, at least not yet,” comments Noble. “I think it has more to do with companies shifting their priorities to where they feel they can get the best leverage with their continuous improvement initiatives and seeking the required talent to execute those initiatives.”

Noble points to several factors that may be driving these trends:
• Companies are continuing to balance out their continuous improvement talent stable with the addition of lean candidates vs. slightly more ubiquitous Six Sigma talent that may already be prevalent in their organization.
• Companies are becoming increasingly focused on hiring a purer lean skill set that they feel will be more accretive to their existing continuous improvement initiatives. Candidates with lean skills that are a lesser appendage to a more Six Sigma-centric skill set aren’t cutting it for many companies as they seek a stronger and more lean-centric skill set.
• Companies are 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.

Overall, the continued rise in talent demand for lean bodes well for candidates who possess those skills, as organizations seek them out as either a hedge against current economic uncertainty or as an enabler to leverage the emerging economic recovery. Noble concludes that candidates with legacy Six Sigma skills should be seeking out organizations like the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME)—which recently formed a partnership with the Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME), the American Society for Quality (ASQ), and the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business of Utah State University, which administrates the Shingo Prize for Operational Excellence—that offer both training and certification in lean as a way to burnish their skills, or perhaps seek career opportunities that will enable them to gain more on-the-job experience with lean.


About The Author

Avery Point Group’s picture

Avery Point Group

Headquartered in Alpharetta, GA The Avery Point Group is a global executive search and recruiting firm that assists companies in identifying, assessing, and recruiting mid-level management to senior executive talent. The firm leverages its principals’ decades of executive operations and staffing experience to provide the highest quality executive search services. It provides functional expertise and executive search focus in the areas of Six Sigma, lean, operational excellence, plant management, operations management, supply chain management, and finance. As executive recruiters, it services the manufacturing, distribution, and service-based companies.


Decoupling Lean Six Sigma

Your article is deeply flawed by your conclusion based on input from job ads.  Ignorance of proper tools does not signify a loss ar lack of interest in Lean Six Sigma.

Lean flounders for a methodology. I know Value Stream Mapping I teach it. I also know Detailed Process Mapping I teach it also.

The subject of continuous improvement is not solved with a single pill.. The original six sigma was flawed in that it did not contain the toolkit for solving velocity issues, Lean has always been lacking a formal problem solving methodology so while lean implementation  is intuitive and goes quickly the permananent results are usually lacking.

Allied Signal joind Lean and Six Sigma together to form the LEAN SIX Sigma formal program..I was a part of this joining.. I was thefirst employee to becoome certifed in both discipliines.

You know what LSS is much better. The DMAIC proces is the baseline and the toolkit contains both lean tools which are used when appropriate and Six Sigma tools also used when appropriate.

Most likely the lack of understanding of this process comes from the dilution of expertise proliferated by  the number of "Consultants" out there that have discredited both disciples.