New Opportunities for A New Decade of Lean and Six Sigma

Thank you to everyone who joined us for the 2021 Lean and Six Sigma Conference, New Opportunities for a New Decade. This event was an incredible success thanks to you!

For 20 years, the ASQ Lean and Six Sigma Conference has been the premier event for quality professionals to learn cutting-edge trends and practices, hear from industry leaders, and connect with their peers. At our 20th Lean and Six Sigma Conference (LSSC), we looked ahead to New Opportunities for a New Decade. ASQ created a unique approach to attendee engagement, and networking salons, virtual happy hours, and even a magic show meant attendees were able to get the quality LSSC experience attendees are used to. This year’s virtual format also enabled some quality professionals their first opportunity to attend LSSC, gave attendees the opportunities to take advantage of more than 60 on-demand sessions, and allowed participants to consume content on their own schedule – all while ensuring everyone’s safety.

We’ve pulled together some highlights and key learnings from the conference. If you couldn’t make this year’s event, don’t worry! LSSC recordings are available for purchase now until the end of March and watch our website, we announce our LSSC 2022 dates on Monday, March 8!

NextGen Day Header

Brand new this year, NextGen Day was created to energize emerging quality professionals and help them boost their careers while connecting them to experienced members who manage, mentor, and lead them.

The day began with “Your Best Decade: Skills, Traits and Strategies for Your Quality Career.” This panel discussion featured five lean and Six Sigma practitioners as well as a highly interactive Q&A, where panelists tackled questions about company culture, diversity, seeking mentorship, and more.

There were opportunities for emerging professionals to explore career pathing within the quality field. During the Lunch and Learn, Matt Mueleners expanded on the morning’s discussion panel and how to navigate unconscious bias to drive better decision making. In the Support and Innovation in Training session, attendees could also connect directly with the ASQ Education Team and Component Relations Team to find how to leverage additional training for their career growth, and discover which training best serves them. Professional development training, like Soft Skills To Go, was popular among attendees, along with supplementary lean and Six Sigma eLearning to help boost knowledge, like Lean Specialized Credentials.

Following the success of last years’ experience, the Six Sigma Forum hosted a virtual Escape Room where teams used Six Sigma concepts to solve riddles and escape the virtual room within an hour!  The day finished with a video tour of Cambridge Air sponsored by the Lean Enterprise Division. A group of staff members led the tour while sharing how they implemented a “2-second Lean.”


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Natalie Nixon is a global speaker, strategist, and President of Figure 8 Thinking, LLC. She joined LSSC for our first keynote speech, presenting “The Future of Work: The 4 Shifts Your Organization Must Make…Now!” It was fitting that Nixon delivered her keynote virtually. She began her presentation by explaining how the future of work will require us all to be more than just familiar with technology changes like virtual reality, big data, artificial intelligence, and robotics. Professionals must have a heightened creative capacity. Nixon guided attendees through the 4th industrial revolution, where cloud technology, automation, and cryptocurrency are all realities that must be worked with, not just reacted to. To do that, Nixon outlined the value of creativity in business, and the four shifts every organization must make to be nimble and adaptive.

Keynote Speaker Natalie Nixon and Mike Walsh
Natalie Nixon and Mike Walsh

Mike Walsh is an innovation and futurist speaker, author, and CEO of the global consultancy Tomorrow. He presented “The Algorithmic Leader” on Wednesday. Like Natalie Nixon, Walsh also started his presentation with an image of the future—a place with self-driving cars, platforms that anticipate our needs, and even robots performing complex surgeries. How can people thrive in this machine-driven future? Walsh presented tactics on how emerging leaders can upgrade their capabilities to succeed in an age of rapidly accelerating technology, as well as actionable insights on the ways companies can redesign their organizations and reinvent their decision-making to match the age of machine intelligence.


Header: Focus Areas
Header: Making the Most of Data Mining and Visualization

As the availability of data increases, being able to strategically collect, analyze, and visually represent data is more important than ever for quality practitioners. As one of four focus areas for the Lean and Six Sigma Conference, attendees were able to attend a mix of on-demand sessions and live presentations that explored how lean and Six Sigma methods can be used to gather, examine, and apply data.

In the live presentations “Good to Go: Using Process Modeling for Rapid Innovation” speaker Lars Maaseidvaag walked attendees through the benefits of process modeling to innovate with confidence and identify barriers like waste and bottlenecks early in the design phase. In the on-demand session “Root Cause Analysis in a Data Desert” presenter Jennifer Munson used examples of Kaizens she’d been presented with that had little quantifiable data. How can quality professionals make improvements in this “data desert”? Munson outlined simple steps on how to find and evaluate “non-quantifiable” data and get buy-in from stakeholders to make a Kaizen a success.


Focus Area: Lean and Six Sigma In a Continuous Improvement Culture

Quality professionals know that company culture has a huge impact on the success—or failure—of the pursuit of continuous improvement. This focus area provided attendees with on-demand sessions and live presentations that provided insight into how lean and Six Sigma elements can be infused into a company culture, and strategies to gain staff buy-in and participation.

The importance of interpersonal relationships to foster cultural improvement was a theme throughout these sessions, including in Richard F. Uphoff’s presentation “I’m Not Emotional…I’m a Quality Professional: Lean Emotional Intelligence for Leaders and Practitioners.” Uphoff didn’t need to remind attendees of the upheaval of the past year as he shared his experiences of how “work” and “life” have become closely merged for a lot of people because of the pandemic. In the workplace, this shifting emotional landscape affects individual employees, teams, and projects. This presentation aimed to help attendees understand their own emotional landscape and use the tenants of Emotional Intelligence to support the success of quality teams in lean organizations.

Dave Harry dove further into relationships in his on-demand session “Can’t We All Just Get Along Here? – Team Dynamics.” Lean and Six Sigma projects hinge on team dynamics, and dysfunctional teams can cause significant disruptions. Harry explained Tuckman’s model for group performance and the various stages so team leaders can recognize when teams are not progressing and prevent overall failure.


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This focus area combines the techniques of project management with the data and analysis benefits of lean and Six Sigma, providing attendees opportunities to optimize performance, customer satisfaction, and decision-making capabilities in their organizations. Sessions in this area highlight how quality organizations can benefit from applying lean and Six Sigma methodologies to ensure greater reliability via an evidence-based approach in a variety of project management scenarios.

Attendees for this focus area learned that defect isn’t a dirty word. In her presentation “Driving Quality Culture Change with DMAIC – Defect isn’t a Dirty Word,” Paula Evans explained how she used DMAIC and specifically defects to foster a transparent culture of quality in her organization. She showcased her data-collection tool and taught attendees’ key steps in getting leadership buy-in, including utilizing Voice of the Customer data.


Header: The Quality Trinity: Lean, Six Sigma, and Quality 4.0

Organizations are seeing rapid gains in access to data, computing power, and connectivity. Aligning the disruptive technologies of Quality 4.0 with problem-solving methodologies of lean and Six Sigma can further drive improvements in business intelligence, strategic initiatives, and product and service offerings. This area of focus gives insight into building an effective lean and Six Sigma framework to accommodate Quality 4.0 and allow for an enterprise’s data-driven transformation.

On Wednesday, March 3rd, participants attendedInfusing Data into DMAIC” presented by Scott Rutherford. The presentation began with Rutherford providing a history of operations research and management science techniques. This field of study has been around since WWII, but with the digital transformation in quality in the past 30 years, these tools are now more widely available and practical to use. Rutherford matched these tools to various phases of DMAIC, while providing specific examples of how they can be applied to help attendees implement these learnings in their organizations.

In the on-demand session, “A New Problem-Solving Strategy for Quality 4.0,” Carlos Escobar and Daniela Macias discussed how quality professionals, specifically those in manufacturing, can help position their companies to excel by implementing Quality 4.0 practices. Escobar and Macias explained how quality leaders lack the ability to communicate and create value from Quality 4.0 initiatives, leading to a lack of sustainable Quality 4.0 solutions. They introduced a Quality 4.0 initiative, Process Monitoring for Quality, while walking attendees through a 7-step problem solving strategy to analyze the likely success of the initiative. Attendees left with concrete problem-solving strategies to help ensure the success of their organization’s Quality 4.0 initiatives.


On Wednesday, prior to the closing keynote, The Six Sigma Forum Annual Award was presented to James Bossert by Scott C. Sterbenz, ASQ Six Sigma Forum Chair. Bossert is a Senior Performance Excellence Consultant at John Peter Smith Hospital, Fort Worth, Texas.

Thank you to all the quality professionals who joined us for the ASQ Lean and Six Sigma Conference 2021, and to the Technical Planning Committee, Six Sigma Forum, and Lean Enterprise Division for their support in making this event a success.



Thank you to all of our sponsors!

Lean and Six Sigma Conference Sponsors. ABBYY, MoreSteam, Ohio State University, QI Macros, SAS, Minitab, San Diego State University

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