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Lean at UT Health Science Center

Lean 6 Sigma is a methodology in which teams, small groups, or individuals collaborate to improve a process by reducing waste, eliminating motion, avoiding over-production, and standardizing practices while improving the quality of the process and its outputs.

This results in a culture change - a journey in which an area discovers easier and better ways to do things and visits those ideas periodically to ensure continuous improvement.


Process Catalog

You may have heard about process maps, but have you seen one? Visit our college and departmental process maps in the new Process Catalog - we may already have one that interacts with your processes! (NetID login required)

Lean Projects - Where Do They Come From?

Have you ever:

  • thought of a better way to do something at work but weren't quite sure how to approach your manager with the idea?
  • experienced difficulties somewhere on campus and thought, “I wish that had been easier?”
  • had someone dissatisfied with a departmental experience that shouldn’t be so complicated?
  • wondered why you keep doing something just because that's the way it's always been done?
  • found yourself with a pile of papers on your desk that just keep getting taller?

Give us your suggestions!  Every submission might not become a project, but  submissions are reviewed and kept confidential.  All projects are developed with the intention of helping the university run smoothly and efficiently.  And, even if it doesn't turn into a project, we can still meet to help work out the kinks of a process.

Continuous improvement is a win-win for all!

Phases of Lean 6 Sigma

Something isn't working the way it should. 

Before you can solve your problem, you must define it.  The Define Phase is spent:

  • developing your problem and goal statement
  • identifying all of your customers
  • creating a map of your current process
  • Listening to your customers (Voice of Customer)

Tools which may be used during the Define Phase:

  • Project Charter
  • Business Process Mapping
  • Voice of the Customer (VOC)
  • CTQ (critical-to-quality) Tree Diagram
  • Stakeholder Analysis

Now that you've defined the problem, you need to quantify it. What does the customer care about? In order to judge improvement, you need a baseline of data.  The Measure Phase is spent:

  • determining how the current process performs
  • creating a plan to collect reliable data
  • gathering the baseline data

Tools which may be used during the Measure Phase:

  • Data collection plan
  • Operational definitions
  • PERT chart
  • Pareto chart
  • Swimlane map
  • Time value analysis
  • Prioritization matrix
  • Run charts
  • Control charts
  • Baseline Sigma levels

You've defined your problem. You've gathered your data. Now it is time to analyze it.  What is the cause of the problem? The Analyze Phase is spent:

  • examining the process
  • understanding the data
  • graphically displaying the data
  • looking for the root cause of the problem
  • verifying the cause of problems

Tools which may be used during the Analyze Phase: 

  • Value stream map
  • Root cause analysis
  • 5 Whys
  • Brainstorming
  • Affinity diagrams
  • Histograms
  • Pareto charts
  • Fishbone diagram

This is the moment you've been waiting for - you know what the problem is and have identified some causes.  Now it's time to improve the process.  The Improve Phase is spent:

  • Brainstorming solutions
  • Prioritizing and selecting practical solutions
  • Selecting the best solution
  • Process mapping the new process
  • Piloting the new process
  • Implementing the solutions
  • Measuring the improvement

Tools which may be used during the Improve Phase: 

  • Brainstorming
  • Change management
  • Benchmarking
  • 5S/6S
  • To-Be process map and swimlane
  • Pilot checklist/testing
  • Action plan
  • Communication plan
  • Prioritization matrix

The hardest part is over, but you still have to monitor the process and make sure it doesn't become a problem again. The Control Phase is spent:

  • Ensuring the process is managed and monitored
  • Documenting improved process
  • Applying improvements  to other areas
  • Sharing and celebrating your success
  • Continuously improving the process

Tools which may be used during the Control Phase:

  • Control plan
  • Dashboards
  • Control charts
  • Monitoring and response plan
  • Finalized business process maps
  • Standardized process
  • Training plans and programs
  • Process Sigma levels

Now comes the time to show off your success!  A designated member of the team will present a short review of the project to our sponsor or Dr. Ken Brown, champions, stakeholders, team members, and others involved in the project. 

The review also includes refreshments, certificates, and team photos.

You've worked hard to help better your work process and UTHSC as a whole, so celebrate your victory.

You are now a lean practitioner!

Share your story with colleagues and put your new knowledge to use by helping them improve their processes. 

If anyone in your office is interested in attending training, have them contact us via our request form or by contacting Lisa Hall ( or 901.448.8434).


May 7, 2024