Design thinking, lean (six sigma), lean start-up and scrum

More and more companies are using proven methodologies to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their operations. Four methodologies that are regularly used are design thinking, lean (six sigma), lean start-up and scrum. Anniek Neyt, operational excellence expert at HillFive, takes us through the four methods and explains how they can be applied. 

The methods design thinking, lean (six sigma), lean start-up and scrum all focus on performance improvement within a company’s organisation and processes. 

Lean is all about minimising waste and has its origins in the industrial sector. Scrum is a methodology within the world of agile, which originated in the software domain but is applied in all segments today. Design thinking became big in the innovation world within product engineering and is applied today in all kinds of innovation. 

 Each of the four methods has a different scope: 

Design thinking: Design thinking is the best method to solve complex problems in a user-friendly way and to find new innovative ideas from a different perspective. 

Lean (six sigma): Lean six sigma is a way to reduce waste in the process and is the best method to optimise existing processes. 

Lean start-up:With the lean start-up method, the aim is to develop valid business models by testing hypotheses and ideas. 

Scrum: Agile is a framework that ensures the rapid development of new products and features. Agile is best used to continuously develop products. 


When do you apply which method? 

Every method solves problems, but the question is: what kind of problem is it? Is it a quality/process-driven problem, then lean is highly suitable. Is it a development/efficiency-driven problem, then agile is a good framework to improve it. 

Is it a user problem, or do you want to solve the problem innovatively, then design thinking is the method. If you want to introduce a new concept, then use lean start-up to prevent the concept from failing. 


To get a better idea, some examples: 

If the customer demand is to reduce the amount of failed production, then lean can be used to optimise the process. Does a client often fail to meet its project goals because there are many different projects running and no overview? Then introduce an agile way of working. 


Does a client run into a complex problem where lean is already being used and a good agile way of working is in place, then design thinking is a suitable way of finding out the real problem and coming up with solutions for it. 


After all, there may then be an underlying problem going on that the users/implementers are running into in the process. If there is a new concept but the customer does not know how to make it succeed, the lean start-up’s business model canvas can be used. 


Where in a process does which method fit? 

Another way to explain the differences between the methods is to look at the development and thus the maturity of a product. Industries create products. Before they reach the market, these go through a process – from concept and business model, to a product produced in a process. 


In general, you can identify the most appropriate method for each stage. To develop a concept, you want to solve the right problem. To do this, you need knowledge of the user (design thinking).


In addition, by thinking outside the box as much as possible, you will develop ideas for products to solve this problem (design thinking). To make this concept concrete, you can use a business model canvas design (lean start-up tool). 

The chosen idea will then be worked out – starting from a ‘minimal viable product’ to a ‘final product’ (agile). This final product is implemented and a process is set up. To make this process as efficient as possible, lean is used. 

In summary, all methods have a different focus. So one method need not exclude the other. On the contrary, they can complement and succeed each other very well. 


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