Does Apple use Lean Six Sigma?

As a self-acknowledged Lean Six Sigma nerd, I’m always exploring the ways in which different companies adopt the principles of Lean Six Sigma. With Apple taking the number 1 position for the most valuable brand of 2020 (Forbes list) hitting a brand value of $241 billion, I wanted to explore how this leading technology company applies the methodology first adopted by Motorola in 1986.

Voice of the Customer

Capturing the Voice of the Customer is one of the most common techniques used within the Define phase of the DMAIC framework (Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve, Control). Given the popularity of Apple products, it is clear that they have absolutely considered what their customers want and have been able to meet these expectations. However, Steve Jobs once said “you can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it to build, they’ll want something new”, which may suggest that the approach of capturing the Customers’ requirements and building a solution based on this is not applied at Apple.

So how exactly is Apple able to develop a product which not only meets but often exceeds Customer expectations? Jobs identified that asking the Customer what they wanted was simply not good enough, therefore he would have to know what his Customers’ requirements would be before they even knew it themselves. He was able to solve the Customer’s need completely by predicting it for them.

Streamlining products and eliminating waste

In knowing what their customer wants, Apple has been able to develop a streamlined product by eliminating tech that doesn’t add value. But removal of non-value adding activity doesn’t only apply to their products – Apple is believed to have an appetite for change and a culture of promoting innovation. If their business processes were not streamlined and contained non-value adding activity, teams would spend a significant amount of time completing inefficient processes and completing tasks that do not add value. This would require additional time, cost and energy thus leaving very little time for creativity and innovation. By ensuring their business processes are efficient, this gives teams the freedom and time to be more innovative and develop solutions that make the way they work even more efficient, essentially enabling a cycle of continuous improvement.

Information Efficiency

In a world where data has become more valuable than gold and oil, organisations need to be smart with how they use the data available to them, or in the case of Apple, how they make data available to their customers.

The Kano analysis identifies that customer needs are always changing, and this is especially important for organisations where there is a competitive market. A few years ago, Apple would have identified that to delight their customers, they would need to give them access to data that they would find valuable before they even asked for it. To achieve this, Apple would need to streamline their processes and remove as much waste as possible so that the information can be made available at the earliest convenience. They developed their products with this in mind and customers now have access to live information such as their location, the weather and local traffic.

Jump forward a few years to 2021, where arguably this is now a satisfier due to how familiar customers are with this experience – if competitors are not able to meet these customer expectations, the customer becomes dissatisfied with their product and sales are ultimately lost to a company which is able to continue to meet and exceed their expectations.

It is clear to see that there are many instances where Apple is likely to have applied the methodologies of Lean Six Sigma on their journey to success including Voice of the Customer, streamlining processes and removing waste, and Kano Analysis (to name a few). Suffice to say when it comes to innovation, technology and data efficiency, there are many lessons that other companies could learn from the tools that Apple applied. For further information on Lean Six Sigma or how our business solutions could help your organisation prosper please contact us!