A Brief History of Process Improvement Strategies
This page summarizes the variety of process improvement strategies I have seen come into use since the early 1980s. I think you can benefit from learning about, and experimenting with, all of them. I know that I have gained something from exploring each of them.
In general, it all began with Shewhart back in the 1920s. W. Edwards Deming picked up on his statistical process control work and taught it to the Japanese following World War II (no executives would listen to him in the United States). The success of the Toyota Production System (real lean process improvement) begat the Total Quality Movement in the United States in the early 1980s. TQM transitioned into re-engineering to lead off the nineties. Six sigma improvements systems were being refined by General Electric, Allied Signal, and Motorola, but certifications had yet to become mainstream.
At the start of the 21st century, consultants from the successful six sigma companies drove the creation and offering of a public six sigma certification. At the same time, lean process improvement strategies were emerging as options for use. By 2010, use of the two process improvement strategies had morphed into lean six sigma in many cases. I keep them separate here simply because one (six sigma) is really a measure of process quality. The other is a set of process improvement strategies.