Six Sigma has been with us for about 25 years and while embraced by many is not without controversy. "Lean" , however has few critics.
The essence of Lean is:
"Lean manufacturing or lean production, which is often known simply as "Lean", is a production practice that considers the expenditure of resources for any goal other than the creation of value for the end customer to be wasteful, and thus a target for elimination. Working from the perspective of the customer who consumes a product or service, "value" is defined as any action or process that a customer would be willing to pay for. Basically, lean is centered around creating more value with less work." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lean_manufacturing
I just returned from IPC's first Lean Sigma Conference. It was my privilege to be one of the folks who helped IPC's Dave Torp in organizing this event. I attended all of the workshops and sessions at the conference. To say that it was inspirational, was an understatement. The presenters were mostly people who have implemented lean with considerable success. They were passionate about its success and promise. Many of the presenters were from companies that have not only weathered the economic strong, but are prospering. One company has doubled in size in the past 18 months....to 400 or so, at the expense of their competitors who went out of business because they could not compete with a "Lean" company.
An interesting aspect of lean is that almost all of the companies practicing it, require their suppliers to be lean organizations too. The reason: lean works.
I see lean as a significant trend, embraced by management and workers alike. If you are not lean now, you must be soon!