Lean, ISO and 6 Sigma all walk into a bar. Hilarity ensues.

The three titans of ISO, Lean, AND 6th Sigma have come together in an unholy amalgam of codification!

At last!


I have a 6th sense that call-centres will love ISO 18404

Long time fans of onion-related blogs will no doubt remember my very first post, the epoch making “Things I no longer believe in and no longer do-ISO9001“.  All about the very-nineties international standard for how to run a business. Can you quite believe.

Well those ISO bods haven’t let the opportunity slip to hop on board and misapply  another management passing fad approach, and have mushed together a bunch o’rules stating what IS and what ISN’T “lean” or LEAN as we like to capitalise it. And they’ve bundled in 6ick Sigma as a bolt-on extra. This is the new ISO management standard for LEAN & Ziggy Zigma, ISO18404.

They call it [drum roll]…

Quantitative methods in process improvement — Six Sigma — Competencies for key personnel and their organizations in relation to Six Sigma and Lean implementation

And it is YOURS for only 138 Swiss Franc! THAT’S £110  IN BREXIT MONEY! (price correct at time I worked it out on my phone).

If you are so disposed you can click here to see the contents, but it’ll not give much away.

The purpose behind the existence of this document is like with any ISO document, how can we be CONFIDENT that something is what it says it is? How can we be confident that a product is safe? In the UK you can look to see if there is a “kitemark” on it, that shows it has passed the British Standards Institute so it wont blow up. Or if its dynamite that it will.

So this 30 odd page manual will specify what LEAN Sickth Zigma is and give people confidence that companies certified with it are all LEAN and Zigz Zigmaey.


Think of any example in your workplace where some auditor/inspector is coming to inspect something,  anything.

Do you…

  1. Become really really great ; or …
  2. Gather all the documents to the nth sub-clause that show that you are really really great

It’s 2 isn’t it? This is defined in the ThinkPurpose maxim, Documents-я-Us

Whenever a quality is judged by inspecting the documenting of that quality, then the documenting of that quality becomes the actual quality itself.

For example, my kid goes to a school that has been judged “Outstanding” by Ofsted, at the exact same time he goes to the actual real school judged by me as “run of the mill“. It is the exact same school, same building and same staff and same pupils. But I don’t have the advantage of judging my kids school using documents, so I am not looking at the actual same thing as Ofsted.

Same as with any management system defined by ISO, whether it is ISO9001, the old “quality management system” standard, or ISO18404, the new LEAN and 6thThickma standard. Defining something in a document and then sending people in to inspect for it does NOT put that quality into an organisation. It puts documents into that organisation.

Now, I’m no fan of LEAN, no matter how heavily capitalised, but if you can’t inspect quality into a product, then you also can’t inspect LEAN or Slick Sigma into an organisation.


This entry was posted in all wrong, inspection, lean thinking, systems thinking and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Lean, ISO and 6 Sigma all walk into a bar. Hilarity ensues.

  1. Reblogged this on Systems Thinking Rebellion and commented:
    The usual good sense from think purpose


  2. Pingback: ISO ramps up its embrace, extend, and extinguish strategy | ISOwatch

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