Michael George’s “Lean and Six Sigma for Service”1, a very useful refresher on many of the key concepts of Lean and Six Sigma, as well as a helpful perspective on the challenges and opportunities for applying the tools and methodologies in non-manufacturing environments.

Just as in manufacturing, Lean and Six Sigma in services and R&D will help us to address:

  1. Customer focus
  2. Reduction or elimination of defects and wasted time, effort and money
  3. Improving speed
  4. Reducing complexity
  5. All levels of organisations and processes

The value stream.jpg

Processes in a service or R&D environment, other than those required for legal, regulatory or safety reasons are much less visible than in manufacturing.  And yet once a discussion is opened on these, it’s likely that many variations on carrying out the same piece of work, and the opportunities and benefits of identifying and implementing best practices will be discovered.

There is a tradition in these environments of people valuing and being rewarded for their individual and creative problem solving approach, and a fear that standardized ways of doing things might threaten that.   However, any form of standardization that can be introduced in the steps involved to deliver services to customers (whether internal or external), will cut down on the time and effort needed for routine activities, speed them up, and free people up to devote their time and expertise to being creative, innovative and contributing more value to customers.

The lack of (meaningful) data around service delivery and service and R&D process performance can be a real challenge.  Our experience is that it is both possible to collect this data, and to demonstrate tangible savings of 20% of time or resources as a result of applying Lean and Six Sigma.

(These notes are taken from Lean and Six Sigma in R&D and Service Delivery)


  1. Lean and Six Sigma in Service, by Michael L George, McGraw-Hill, 2003
  2. Illustration from "The Effective Team's Operational Excellence Workbook", by Elisabeth Goodman, RiverRhee Publishing, 2015.  This book forms the basis of RiverRhee's introductory course on applying Lean and Six Sigma in R&D and in service delivery.  It offers a step-by-step guide for how to do this.  

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