Iris Gregoriou
December 21, 2018

Lean Six Sigma and Process Automation : Does a Bot need a Lean Process?

Iris Gregoriou has written an article on her interpretation of the Global State of Operational Excellence Survey Report - Critical Challenges & Future Trends - 2018/2019.  Click here to download the full Survey Report 2018/19.  

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With nearly 1000 respondents, 37 insightful questions, detailed analysis & insights from 40 industry thought leaders, and the BTOES Insights executive team, this 130 page report is recognised as the most comprehensive study of critical challenges and future trends within Operational Excellence, and is considered a key resource for the industry. Areas covered include:

  • The Critical Operational Excellence Challenges faced by executives.

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  • Analysis of key themes, including Cultural Transformation, Customer Delight, Sustaining an Operational Excellence program, Need for end-to-end Business Transformation, Keeping up with new technologies/impact of digitalization and Leadership Buy-in & Understanding.


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Lean Six Sigma and Process Automation : Does a Bot need a Lean Process?

Challenge: Age of Digital Disruption and 'Keeping up' with New Technologies. Click here to read the full Survey Report 2018/19. 

Brief: Lean Six Sigma and Operational Excellence practitioners cannot succeed by working in a vacuum. Digitization and automation are critical parts of any process evaluation or improvement today – and vice versa.


“Everything changes and nothing stands still.”

– Heraclitus.


The world of operational excellence cannot continue along the same old path. Like everything else, it must continue to evolve alongside technological advances and changes to the business ecosystem.




More simply put: what impact does the digital age have on those who practice Lean and Six Sigma methodologies?

In a world where “Agile” methodologies can move projects along quickly and process ‘bots’ can be brought online every few months, the concept of mapping and evaluating a process and making incremental improvements can feel archaic and slow. Naturally, there are circumstances in which that is still the right thing to do. But for those of us who specialize in process optimization, it feels as though we will be left behind if we do not adjust our methodologies. We must make it possible to work faster while incorporating digitization and automation into the suite of solutions.

Lean Six Sigma and Process Automation : Does a Bot need a Lean Process?

This integration may be more natural in the manufacturing world, where the production equipment itself drives automation. But what about corporate processes? What about financial reporting teams, or people entering data to create new customer accounts? This is not about designing target-state processes to align with a massive new enterprise system. This is about using automation and digitization on a smaller scale, to solve the very problems Lean Six Sigma projects often look to define.




How is this to be addressed?

Each organization uses operational excellence methodologies in a different way; each organization may or may not be automating processes. The question is, can the two really operate independently? Are the optimization teams equipped to work together? If two different teams are executing process excellence and digitization in your organization, are they connected to each other?


There are several ways to approach this fundamental question of structure and methodology. What is the main mandate: are these teams part of a larger corporate transformation, or do they serve the business optimizing day-to-day processes? If there are two separate teams – one for process improvement/optimization, and one for digitization & automation – are they connected to each other? Do they share project lists, select/prioritize work the same way, and join each other’s project teams? The concepts of designing an optimal process and determining which portions of that process should be digitized or automated have become impossible to separate. Organizations need to be planful about what that operating model looks like.




So, how do we move forward in this digital age?

Driving improvements using Lean or Six Sigma methodologies is no longer enough on its own. Process experts must understand the value of automation tools and be able to evaluate each opportunity. At the very least they must have a close connection to the digitization team and a set method for the intake and prioritization of opportunities.


“Innovation is ... the act that endows resources with a new capacity to create wealth.” 

– Peter Drucker


Want to learn more? Download the full Report.
Lean Six Sigma and Process Automation : Does a Bot need a Lean Process?


About the Author 

Iris Gregoriou: Lean Six Sigma and Process Automation : Does a Bot need a Lean Process?Iris Gregoriou

Assistant Vice President, Head of Continuous Improvement, Investment Division, Manulife Financial Corporation

Strategic leader with twenty years of experience driving business transformation. Leader of specialized teams, focused on creating a new future for organizations via Lean and Six Sigma methodologies and new strategies aiming to optimize the customer experience and shareholder value.

Background combining Management Consulting (business process analysis and design) and Six Sigma (certified Black Belt), with 7 years of leading strategic business improvement and transformation. Check out her LinkedIn profile.

Strong leadership skills in environments of difficult or strategic change requiring teamwork and collaboration. Strong people leader and coach.


The issues in this article are just one of topic areas that are going to be discussed at the Business Transformation & Operational Excellence World Summit & Industry (BTOES19). March 18-22, 2019, Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando Resort®

BTOES is the industry’s biggest and best, senior-level, cross-industry gathering of Business Transformation & Operational Excellence industry leaders and senior executives.

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With over 150 speakers, over 100 sessions, 12 Keynotes, 9 Track Themes, 5 parallel tracks, 60+ track sessions, 50 roundtable discussions, 20 Interactive Workshops, 6 Thought Leader Panels, 5 Leaders Boardrooms, 5 co-located events, the Industry Awards Program, Site Visits, 20+ hours of social networking including 2 gala cocktail parties, dinners, numerous group activities, this is the ultimate event to benchmark, network and drive Operational Excellence to the next level.


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There is a strong focus on Cultural Transformation, Customer Delight, Sustaining an Operational Excellence program, Need for end-to-end Business Transformation, Keeping up with new technologies/impact of digitalization and Leadership Buy-in & Understanding. We dedicated two tracks to advanced technologies, such as AI, Machine Learning, RPA, Predictive Analytics, Blockchain, Cloud infrastructure etc.


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