Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Are Lean Enterprise System,TQM,Six Sigma,TOC, BPR and agile manufacturing inter-related?

Overview of “Towards An Integration Of The Lean Enterprise System, Total Quality Management, Six Sigma And Related EnterpriseProcess Improvement Methods”- MIT ESD Working Paper Series

The paper is about integration of the lean enterprise system, total quality management, six sigma, theory of constraints, agile manufacturing, and business process re-engineering and how, they, individually  have been introduced as universally applicable best methods to improve the performance of enterprise operations through continuous process improvement and systemic planned enterprise change.
It claims that despite certain differences among them, they potentially complement each other in important ways. The lean enterprise system, total quality management and six sigma, theory of constraints (TOC), agile manufacturing, and Business Process Re-engineering are tightly interconnected, with the lean enterprise system serving as the central organizing framework.
 The general approach adopted in this attached paper is that the differences among them are dwarfed by common elements and have their roots in manufacturing, focus almost exclusively on enterprise operations, and concentrate on process improvement. They collectively represent, basically a top-down directive strategy to the implementation of enterprise change.In recent years, lean enterprise practices and six sigma methods have been increasingly merged into a harmonized implementation “package” generally known as the lean six sigma (LSS) continuous process improvement (CPI) toolset.
However, having read through the paper, and on further research, I found an interesting article contradicting this. The attached article states that the listed methods really are competitive brands put out by consultants vying for clients in overlapping markets. And they are so different is scope and track record that they do not belong together in a list. The author feels that Bozdogan(the MIT paper) treats Lean, TQM, Six Sigma, etc., as if they were scientific theories, when in fact they are marketing brands, developed by consultants for commercial purposes.
Bozdogan labels all the approaches as “enterprise process improvement methods”, which is not entirely correct. The implementation of Lean, particularly outside of car making, requires you to abstract the principles behind the Toyota tools and select, adapt or develop new tools to apply these principles in a different context. Also, the term process improvement implies an exclusive focus on how things are done, or tactics, as opposed to what things are done, or strategy. And Lean is a business strategy, requiring leadership and participation from top management, not just a tactical tool.
The attached article goes to great lengths to point out a number of differences between the two and interestingly, elicited a not so friendly response from Bozdogan.
I would like to leave the question for you to answer-  Can these terms be clubbed under the same umbrella?

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