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A leadership maturity model for implementing Six Sigma in academic institutions – using case studies to build theory

Stephen Graham Anthony (School of Business and Languages, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, UK)
Jiju Antony (School of Business and Languages, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, UK)

International Journal of Lean Six Sigma

ISSN: 2040-4166

Article publication date: 18 January 2021

Issue publication date: 16 July 2021




The purpose of this paper is to present a maturity model for academic leadership teams to benchmark their ability to deliver a culture of continuous improvement through the use of Lean Six Sigma. Teams will also be able to use this model to develop strategic action plans to improve the culture of continuous improvement within their institution. In addition, this paper explains the journey the authors have taken in creating this model by using a mixture of literature review, questionnaires and case studies to build the model and the use of test cases to refine and improve the model.


This paper uses a structured approach, focussing first on assessing the state of UK Lean Six Sigma (LSS) implementation and the, through the use of the case study method, the authors have designed a maturity model based on the classic capability maturity matrix approach. The final model has then been tested to refine the model into an improved version.


Key findings from interviewing the academic institutions that make up this paper highlight the current best practice in the UK and how far they still have to travel to become truly continuous improving organisations.

Research limitations/implications

This paper is limited to only focussing on UK institutions in the design and development of the maturity model. Future research should benchmark UK institutions more formally with international universities from North America and the Far East.

Practical implications

This paper present a final maturity model which can be used by academic leadership teams to both map their maturity at delivering continuous improvement projects and to act as an action plan to move the culture towards a quality-based, continuously improving institution.


To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this is the first such model to be produced focussing on the leadership and sustainability of deploying LSS in academic institutions.



Special thanks to the continuous improvement teams of the seven UK institutions interviewed, their openness and honesty combined with their own drive and commitment to their institutions has been especially rewarding to witness.


Anthony, S.G. and Antony, J. (2021), "A leadership maturity model for implementing Six Sigma in academic institutions – using case studies to build theory", International Journal of Lean Six Sigma, Vol. 12 No. 3, pp. 675-692.



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