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A review and comparison of six sigma and the lean organisations

Tony Bendell (Centre of Quality Excellence, The University of Leicester, Leicester, UK)

The TQM Magazine

ISSN: 0954-478X

Article publication date: 1 May 2006



The purpose of the paper is to review and compare six sigma and the lean organisation approaches to process improvement. The basis for combination and compatibility is evaluated and a holistic approach proposed.


The examination is based on the author's extensive practical consulting and training experience with diverse six sigma, lean and business process improvement programmes in numerous companies across Europe and worldwide, as well as theoretical development of his previous published work.


The paper contends that the current literature on the compatibility and combination of six sigma and lean is limited and disappointing when examined for a common model, theoretical compatibility or mutual content or method, but that they can be effectively combined into one system.

Research limitations/implications

The study is experience‐based and not supported by a specific‐quantitative investigation.

Practical implications

Companies pursuing six sigma and lean implementation programmes need to carefully examine how the proposed initiatives relate to each other and other initiatives before fully committing, or at least to review the programme, to enable sensible programme design and management.


This paper focuses on six sigma and lean programmes in practice, rather than the theoretical basis or motivationally based argument.



Bendell, T. (2006), "A review and comparison of six sigma and the lean organisations", The TQM Magazine, Vol. 18 No. 3, pp. 255-262.



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Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited