So Which Is It?

Are you responsible for training your team?  I do a lot of training and coaching in my role as a Lean Six Sigma consultant.  You have surely noticed that the choice of terminology can lead to confusion which is why this Lower Price Hill banner came to mind recently.  What do you think this banner is communicating?

Is it the low end of Price Hill or the hill where you go to get low prices?

That may seem like a silly question, but it illustrates a principle that good trainers need to follow.  Always speak in terms that the target audience will understand.  A life-long resident of Cincinnati would recognize this banner and quickly understand that it’s referring to one of the three neighborhoods comprising Price Hill.  Someone who has never been to Cincinnati probably has never heard of Lower Price Hill and would have to draw their own conclusions.

While this is a simple example, there are plenty of Lean terms that are confusing.  Terms like Muri, Muda, Gemba, Ishikawa, Deming Cycle, Shewart Cycle, PDCA, DMAIC, and others can be confusing and even intimidating.  You may need to introduce and define the terminology.  You may even need to avoid the confusion initially by speaking in terms of the principles and avoid the lexicon.

Lean Leaders bring their teams along at a pace they can handle and speak in terms they can understand.


You can read about Ishikawa, Deming Cycle, PDCA, DMAIC and other Lean Six Sigma terminology throughout this blog.

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About Christian Paulsen

Christian Paulsen is an Executive Consultant with 20 years of Lean Manufacturing. Chris adds value to organizations by driving process improvement and bottom line savings. Chris intends to help others by sharing the lessons learned after a quarter century of operational leadership, marriage, parenting, and even longer as a Cubs fan. Your comments on this blog are welcome. You can also connect with Chris via LinnkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook in the right sidebar. Chris welcomes your comments. Christian's professional services are available by contacting him through LinkedIn (right side bar)
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2 Responses to So Which Is It?

  1. Mark Welch says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more on these points, Christian. Especially about avoiding the Japanese words, but for me I don’t avoid them only early in the process – I avoid them nearly entirely. I only use them if the present company is using them (primarily manufacturing leansters I know). My experience, at least in healthcare, is that they alienate and confuse more than they lead to common understanding. To be more blunt, I often see them as gimmickery used to impress folks. I suppose a couple of questions would be, “What purpose do they serve? To what degree do they enhance understanding?”

    • Great to hear from you, Mark. Those are great questions to ask. They could be applied to the application of not only the terminology but of the tools too. Thanks for sharing your insight.

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