How to Run a Lean Event Using Six Sigma

Events are actually a collection of many processes that culminate in the total activity of the day, night or even week. And one of the best ways to get a grip on processes — increasing quality, reducing errors and curtailing costs without impacting customer experience — is by approaching process management with Six Sigma tools.

What Is Lean Six Sigma?

A combination of two process improvement methodologies, Lean Six Sigma is an approach that includes the waste-reduction philosophy of Lean with the defect-reduction and problem-solving method of Six Sigma.

While both methods are fairly complex and include a wide range of tools and skills used to manage processes and projects, the high-level goals are Lean Six Sigma are to:

  • Reduce waste in a process (overspending, overwork, rework, excess inventory, etc.)

  • Remove opportunities for error

  • Increase value to the customer

The result of well-executed Lean Six Sigma initiatives tend to include increased profits, reduced costs, higher efficiencies and even better morale because jobs are easier to perform and goals more likely to be reached.

How to Use Six Sigma Methods to Run an Event

Six Sigma often employs a DMAIC approach to process improvement. That stands for Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve and Control. While you can definitely apply all five phases to event management — particularly if you run the same or similar events repeatedly and want to continue improving on them each time — this article will discuss some tools from various phases that can be used to run a lean event.

Begin With a SIPOC

A SIPOC diagram is a great way to get a visual understanding of the elements involved in an event. Using one to help define the event before you start detailed planning can ensure you don't miss important details and that you fully understand the scale and need of the event.

Check out iSixSigma's in-depth explanation of how to create a SIPOC. For an event, you might use the columns to list:

  • The suppliers, or vendors, for your event

  • The inputs — everything you need for the event, including location, advertising, food, chairs, tables, decor, entertainment, etc.

  • A high-level overview of the process for planning the event

  • The outputs — the purpose or goal of the event, which might include things like fundraising, generating leads, providing awards or raising awareness

  • The customers, which could include those being invited as well as the client hosting the event

Use a value-added flow chart to reduce costs and drive efficiency

Once you know all the major players and components of the event, you'll probably want to come up with a plan for execution. It's easy when dealing with so many moving parts and processes to lose site of overall scope, which can lead to too much fluff in your event.

One Lean Six Sigma tool you can use to keep costs down while ensuring the event is well-received is Value-Added Flow Chart. UC Davis provides some detailed instructions for creating one.

The purpose of a Value-Added Flow Chart is to discover portions of a process that don't add value to the customer. Creating one can help you understand what you may be doing that doesn't add value for the participants or host of the event; Lean philosophy says to remove non-value added time or processes whenever possible.

Tips for Cutting Muda

Finally, Lean Six Sigma calls for analyzing all the processes related to your event to see if there is any Muda, or waste. The seven types of waste are:

  • Transport — when you move something that you don't have to

  • Inventory — when you have too much of something at a given point in the process

  • Motion — movements made by machine or man that aren't necessary

  • Waiting — waste that occurs when one process (or person) is waiting on another

  • Overproduction — making too many of a thing

  • Over-processing — putting more time into something than is valued by the customer

  • Defects — errors that cause rework or low customer satisfaction

By looking at your event with these things in mind, you can find options for streamlining that don't impact customer satisfaction. For example, are you moving things to various staging areas when they can be transported straight to their final location? Are you over-ordering food? Did you put effort into decor that is over what the client values?

Before you can apply these types of principles, you do have to fully understand the needs of each event. EventOPS software lets you keep track of requirements and event details so you can manage every process better.