Common Definitions

The following are some common terms used in the area of Lean Six Sigma. We define them here so you understand them and can use them yourselves.

(In alphabetical order)

Black Belt - Trained Lean Six Sigma process improvement facilitator who brings a "tool belt" of unique process and project management tools to help a team improve their process effectiveness.

Bottleneck - A process step that doesn't produce at the same rate as other process steps. Typically, this is where work gets piled up and information and services can't be delivered in a timely manner.

Cycle Time - The total time it takes the service to be completed, from picking up the client's work to delivering a service to the client.

Gatekeeper - Person(s) who monitors work coming into the process and only releases it when it is appropriate to start. This is the key component to managing the front door and ensuring process effectiveness.

Internal Customer - Anyone involved in the process downstream from a certain process step. Often times internal customers are overlooked.

Lean - Concepts and tools applied to processes to increase efficiency and therefore the capacity of a process. Allows a process to achieve more throughput, or production over a period of time.

Manage the Front Door - A saying used to convey the need for an effective front end process to achieve ultimate process efficiency and quality. Often times this is overlooked or, worse, not considered valuable time. Invest time to save time.

Project Hopper (PH) - Report/file that stores all ideas or areas to apply process improvement. It uses a dynamic process and a unique rating system to identify key strategic projects that the firm should be commissioning. New project ideas come in and completed projects are crossed off. The PH is typically managed by an executive operations committee along with the Lean Six Sigma Black Belt.

Process Churning - An area of a process that includes several steps. Often times there are work loops where work sits and churns instead of working its way through.

Six Sigma - Concepts and tools applied to processes to improve quality and reduce variation. The focus is on implementing effective standardization, where appropriate, with the flexibility to maximize unique people talents.

Technology-Efficiency Curve - Firms experience a point of diminishing returns at a certain point when adding new technology without formally looking at their current processes. Fix the process before throwing technology at it.

Value-Add vs. Non-Value-Add - Included in cycle time is value-add time and non-value-add time. Value-add time is any time that is considered adding value to your customers - internally and externally. Non-value-add time is time that is wasted because it isn't adding value from an external or internal customer standpoint.

Visual Management - All tools and methods used to visually communicate cues during a process.

Voice of the Client - Understanding exactly what the client desires through listening and excellent communication techniques. Knowing what the client wants, when they want it and how they want it.

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