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Kanban vs Six Sigma

Both Kanban vs Six Sigma are well-known methodologies that are utilised in project management and the enhancement of processes. Comparing and contrasting two things is a common practise when attempting to determine which of two options is superior for a given undertaking or organisation, despite the fact that each option has its own set of distinctive qualities and advantages.

Kanban is a pull-based system that is often used in manufacturing and software development. It is designed to help teams visualize the flow of work and identify bottlenecks in order to optimize the process. Kanban boards are often used to display the status of work items and track progress. The main goal of Kanban is to improve the flow of work and reduce waste.

For Six Sigma, it is a methodology that is driven by data and is frequently used in the manufacturing industry, healthcare industry, and the service industry. Its purpose is to enhance quality by locating and removing any flaws that may occur during the production process. To accomplish this objective, Six Sigma makes use of a wide variety of tools and strategies, including statistical process control, design of experiments, and process mapping, among others.

Similarities between Kanban vs Lean Six Sigma

Both Kanban vs Lean Six Sigma are examples of lean methodologies for project management. They are both concerned with creating a workflow that is more efficient, making the most out of the resources they have, and identifying and solving problems as quickly as possible.

Kanban accomplishes this by providing a visual representation of the workflow and making use of a Kanban board that is populated with Kanban cards. The board offers a more comprehensive perspective on the overall work and the advancement made. This makes it easier for the team to identify any bottlenecks or other obstacles that might have a negative impact on the workflow. Therefore, it is necessary to find solutions to the issues that slow progress. Kanban also encourages making changes in small increments based on data from the real world. Next, ensure that you are monitoring the process (improvements) before implementing any new changes.

On the other hand, Lean Six Sigma makes use of data in conjunction with statistical analysis in order to identify issues and flaws. It intends to cut down on and do away with variations and tasks that are repetitive, and with that, get rid of waste. Its goals are to simplify and standardise procedures, cut costs, and enhance the quality of work. The most crucial action to do is to create ongoing process improvements through a deeper understanding of client needs.

At their most basic level, both strategies aim to boost production, which is the same objective for both Kanban vs Sig Sigma.

Both approaches’ guiding principles handle nearly the same problems and recommend corresponding steps and responses. The fundamental distinction is that Lean Six Sigma depends on statistical data and analysis, whereas Kanban uses visualisation as its primary tool for identifying and removing issues. Kanban is both process-oriented and places a strong emphasis on the (working) team. Lean Six Sigma is also methodical and customer-focused.

Combining Kanban practices with Lean Six Sigma

Whether your company uses Kanban, Lean Six Sigma, or an entirely different approach to project management that assists you in getting things done, layering Kanban and Lean Six Sigma on top of it is a fairly straightforward process. Both of these methodologies are designed in such a way that it is simple to combine them with various other PM approaches in order to boost the overall productivity of your teams.

Set Calculated WIP Limits

The next step for both of these methodologies is to apply Six Sigma’s fine-tuning to Lean, as well as to set limits for the amount of work that is in progress on the Kanban board. Lean Six Sigma takes a statistical approach to reducing process waste, in contrast to Kanban, which relies on arbitrary estimations to establish limits. Combine the two methods in order to set WIP limits that are more accurate while still being reasonable for each column and swim lane.

Make Kanban Cards and Eliminate Waste

When you’ve finished putting together your visualisation board, you can then start adding Kanban cards to it. Create user stories and separate the work into individual tasks. However, you should take care not to include anything that the Six Sigma analysis deemed to be “waste.” Check to see that the process is portrayed correctly on your board. After that, place the cards in the appropriate column and give each one to the person who should have it.

Monitor Development and Implement Change

You are prepared to get started now that your procedure has been mapped out on the Kanban board in its entirety. Continue to use the benefits of the process and work visualisation as you go through your normal workflow in order to identify and eliminate any potential bottlenecks that may arise. Also make an effort to get rid of them before they cause a delay in the work or even completely halt it. In order to measure and keep track of progress, combine the information that is gathered from the Kanban boards, such as throughput, lead times, and cycle times, with the analysis tools that are provided by Lean Six Sigma, such as Kaizen, 5 Whys, and value stream mapping. The next step is to analyse the data in a way that makes it possible to draw conclusions about where and how the process flow can be improved, as well as where and how waste can be reduced.

Make a Lean Six Sigma visualisation

Both approaches recommend that you carry on with the process in its current state. And both approaches utilise a predetermined system that can produce the desired outcomes. This provides teams with a solid foundation on which to build a successful implementation.

The Kanban method recommends that you picture your process as being carried out on a Kanban Board, with the various stages being represented by separate columns. In a similar vein, the Lean Six Sigma methodology recommends that you begin with lean practises in order to streamline and reduce waste. If you want to combine and implement both methodologies at the same time, you can use Lean practises to create the columns and swim lanes on the Kanban board. These practises include sorting, organising, cleaning up, and standardising your workflow in order to make it more sustainable.

You have the option of using either DMAIC or DMADV when utilising Lean Six Sigma as your quality management system. In point of fact, the processes that they have already defined can serve as the foundation for your Kanban board. Where each individual step corresponds to a distinct column on the board. However, using DMAIC, which stands for “define, measure, analyse, implement, and control,” on already existing products and processes is a recommended best practise. In addition, make use of DFSS, which stands for “Design for Six Sigma,” whenever you are developing new processes and products. Alternatively, it was formerly known as DMADV, which stands for “Design, Measure, Analyze, Design, and Control.”

Why Does this Work?

Kanban vs Lean Six Sigma both build upon the principles of lean project management as their basis. As a result, it should come as no surprise that they have the same objective, which is to increase productivity by making better use of available resources and removing bottlenecks (waste). These different approaches, when used independently, each achieve very high levels of productivity. However, in many cases, utilising either one of the two methodologies is not sufficient, and it appears as though something is lacking. Something that can make processes more open, more efficient, and better organised are all desirable qualities. And one shouldn’t discount one’s instincts in this regard. Combining the elements that work best from two different strategies that have been tried and proven in the past is the key to achieving remarkable outcomes. It is much simpler and easier to comprehend when the entire process as well as the progression of tasks are visually represented using Kanban. In addition to this, it makes it much simpler to identify and eliminate any potential issues as well as waste. Because they have WIP limits in place for each stage, the team is unable to overwork themselves. As a result, they won’t engage in any pointless labour or produce an unnecessary surplus of inventory. It will be simpler to identify problems and find solutions to them. Because the workflow will be simplified, we will only perform the steps that are absolutely necessary. This will cut down on the amount of time spent waiting as well as travelling.

Throughout the entirety of the work, it is continuously monitored, measured, and analysed. And the group is able to implement changes that are both pertinent and gradual in order to solve problems and ultimately improve the process until it is perfect. Do you still have doubts about whether Kanban vs Lean Six Sigma really are a perfect match that will lead to increased productivity and an improved ability to manage projects? Why not experience the benefits for yourself by utilising our digital Kanban board and giving it a try? Through every step of the process, you can count on the assistance and direction of our team.

Principles of Kanban

All this talk of Kanban, let’s learn the principle of Kanban while you are here.

Start with your current workflow

Create your Kanban board based on the workflow that is currently being followed by your team after it has been mapped out. This is significant because Kanban should reflect the current state of affairs, not “how we want things to look.”

Make small, incremental changes

A company can alter its processes in one of two fundamental ways: either by completely revamping everything at once and instructing everyone on the new processes, or by making small changes on a consistent basis and allowing everyone to become accustomed to the modified process over time. The second option is the one that is encouraged by Kanban.

Respect your current method of operation.

This includes taking a look at the procedures, roles, and responsibilities that are currently in place… and refraining from making any immediate changes to them. When we switch to a new methodology, there is frequently the temptation to alter everything that could potentially be a source of annoyance. Instead, Kanban encourages us to operate under the presumption that the aforementioned things exist for a purpose and to make gradual adjustments as necessary.

Encourage everyone to take the lead

Any changes or improvements made to workflows should originate from the team that is actually carrying them out. There was not a single team leader or management present. Everyone is responsible for determining what the problems are and thinking of ways to fix them in order to improve the processes.


Sarandeska, I., & Ponomareff, D. (2019, March 26). Kanban and Lean Six Sigma: A Match Made in Project Management Heaven. Kanban Zone – Visual Collaboration for Lean and Agile Portfolio Project Management. Retrieved January 23, 2023, from https://kanbanzone.com/2019/kanban-and-lean-six-sigma-project-management/

Naomi, T. H., Hessing, T., & N. (2014, June 27). Kanban. Six Sigma Study Guide. Retrieved January 23, 2023, from https://sixsigmastudyguide.com/kanban/