Literature Review Open Access

A Discussion of the Synergy and Divergence between Lean Six Sigma and Person-Centred Improvement Sciences

Seán Paul Teeling1, Jan Dewing2 and Deborah Baldie3
  • 1 UCD School of Nursing Midwifery and Health Systems, Ireland
  • 2 Queen Margaret University, United Kingdom
  • 3 NHS Tayside, United Kingdom
International Journal of Research in Nursing
Volume 11 No. 1, 2020, 10-23

DOI: https://doi.org/10.3844/ijrnsp.2020.10.23

Published On: 13 April 2020

How to Cite: Teeling, S. P., Dewing, J. & Baldie, D. (2020). A Discussion of the Synergy and Divergence between Lean Six Sigma and Person-Centred Improvement Sciences. International Journal of Research in Nursing, 11(1), 10-23. https://doi.org/10.3844/ijrnsp.2020.10.23

Abstract

Background: This paper discusses if and how the improvement sciences of Lean Six Sigma and person-centred approaches can be melded or blended in the health care context. The discussion highlights the relationship between each approach to improvement science in terms of their respective purposes, intentions and probable outcomes; positioning these as either synergies or divergences. Comparison of the key theoretical and methodological principles underpinning each approach to improvement is also considered and implications for future practice, policy and research are drawn out. The discussion is informed by part of the findings of a realist review of relevant literature. 

Conclusions: Lean Six Sigma as a process improvement methodology appeals to a wide range of stakeholders in healthcare internationally. Four key synergies and three key divergences between Lean Six Sigma and person-centred approaches were found. The discussion here highlights the need for further research into Lean Six Sigma implementation and its possible contribution to developing person-centred cultures.

Impact: Adoption of Lean Six Sigma in health care by stakeholder groups, external to nursing, has been taking place. At the same time there has been a loss of Lean’s original intention of respect for people in favour of a technical efficiency focus on reducing waste and variation. Our findings of four key synergies and three key divergences between both approaches indicate where synergies can be maximised and divergence narrowed to improve implementation and enhance methodological coherence. Researchers, policy makers and practitioners should be aware that use of Lean Six Sigma alone may have a limited impact on developing person-centred care and culture. Use of Lean combined with person-centred approaches may appeal to a wider range of stakeholders. Yet, their combined use and effectiveness has not as yet been evaluated.

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Keywords

  • Lean
  • Lean Six Sigma
  • Process Improvement
  • Personhood
  • Person-Centred Care
  • Person-Centred Cultures
  • Six Sigma
  • Kaizen