Does Lean Six Sigma Work at a Digital Tech Agency?

Using Lean and Six Sigma methodology in a manufacturing environment is practically required. The healthcare industry is a big fan. Applying it in a business services environment happens more frequently but it's still not status quo. Using Lean Six Sigma at a digital agency is practically unheard of,  which is why we wanted to try it! In November I had the pleasure of facilitating the Project Management team through a three day Lean Six Sigma Kaizen event that shaped and solidified who we are and where we want to be in the future.

There was a lot we wanted to accomplish, but only had three days to do it. To keep us focused we prioritized our wish list and wrote an event Charter that the entire team bought off on. We agreed that if the topic wasn't on the Charter and didn't directly help us achieve the goals of the offsite, it wasn't within the scope of the event and would be placed in the parking lot for future discussion. The teams commitment to the Charter directly correlated to the success of the event. This is a scrubbed version of the charter.

Image of the event charter outlining goals and scope of the event

One of the biggest things to discuss was the current state project management process. Using both Lean and Six Sigma techniques, the team was able to improve and streamline the project process and align it to the variety of projects that Metal Toad delivers. After going through a value/no-value exercise and a healthy dose of occasionally brutally honest discussion, we realized where the root cause of some recurring problems occurred and fixed those in the new future state process map. We determined what kind of documentation is needed at each step and which best practices and measurements would be used to assess success. The process map that was created is a visual representation of what the new project process will become and is easy to follow for new and existing employees alike.

In addition to the process mapping exercise, the team spent time reflecting on who we are. How does the Project Management team make Metal Toad what it is? Who are we to the other Toads? Who are we to Metal Toads clients? Collectively we created the vision statement "To Ensure Success" which embodies exactly what the project management team's role is here at Metal Toad, to ensure success.

So, can Lean Six Sigma techniques be used in the tech industry? Absolutely! When creatively facilitated with a willing team, the goodness that came out of this event will only make the Project Management department and Metal Toad as a whole, a stronger organization.

2 people sitting around a conference table with 1 person standing at the wall facilitating

Date posted: December 29, 2015


Hi Hayli,
I have an undergrad degree in social work and left the social service arena on a quest to learn about system improvement. I think Lean Six Sigma is a great tool that can be applied in many different areas and it was nice to read how you and your team applied it. I dabbled in courses to pursue a post-bacc. degree in industrial engineering and have recently switched gears to pursue an MBA in project management. In your opportunity statement, you described the challenges your team was facing. As a PM, how do you keep your team motivated?

Thank you for the thoughtful comment. Since completing this event, we've been able to update alot of the things that went stale over the months and that has helped reinvigorate the existing team and will certainly help new PMs as we bring them on. At the project level, we don't really struggle with a lack of motivation by the PMs, I think thats because Metal Toad works on alot of interesting and unique projects :)

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