Consistent organization of arrows moving in the same direction surrounded by arrows moving in opposite directions

One of the most important tenets of both Lean and Six Sigma is a consistent approach to business. There’s a good reason for that. Consistently cutting waste, reducing defects and improving processes leads to businesses (and individuals) flourishing.

Successful people, including team leaders and business executives, consistently do what others do only on occasion. In the context of Lean Six Sigma, it means putting vital tools such as Fishbone Diagrams and the 5 Whys to use. When focusing on Six Sigma, it means following the steps detailed in DMAIC to reduce variance in operational processes and develop more consistency.

But what about the idea of consistency itself, which is at the core of Lean and Six Sigma methodology? Is it really that important to business success?

Why Consistency Is So Powerful in Business

Unlike one-hit wonders in music or the arts, success in business requires a strong commitment to consistency over the long run. History is littered with companies that failed in consistency, forcing consumers to look elsewhere for products and services they can depend on.

One of the most famous blunders in consistency came in the 1980s, when Coca-Cola executives, anxious over the increasing popularity of Pepsi (especially in taste tests), changed the formula and called it “New Coke.” Coca-Cola loyalists, who numbered in the millions, threatened to never use the product again, and New Coke was shelved – forever and as quickly as possible.

But most people have their own personal list of businesses that failed because of lack of consistency right in their own cities and even neighborhoods. Restaurants where customers can’t depend on consistent quality quickly hang “out of business” signs. Retailers who don’t consistently stock popular products will result in consumers finding another retailer who does. Professional services who aren’t consistently professional – from tax preparers to attorneys – will find themselves always having to search for clients.

Consumers want consistency. As company strategist Eric Holtzclaw wrote in Inc.: “Even the best business plans will fail without a dedication to consistency…In my experience, consistency is a must as you build and grow your business.”

The Practical Benefits of Consistency

On the professional social media site LinkedIn, financial services software company Kippa provides a list of practical ways that consistency boosts a business. They include supporting  business leaders in honing their brand and helping them better understand their consumers.

Focusing on consistency also eliminates uncertainty in customers. If uncertainty enters into a buying decision, especially on higher cost items, it is often a deal killer. Consumers want predictability. They want to know what to expect from a brand.

This is why the Toyota Camry, a model of consistency, ranks among the biggest selling cars in the world. It’s no wonder that many of the ideas in Lean originated with the Toyota Production System and innovators such as Shigeo Shingo. It also explains why it’s headline news when Toyota has a recall or experiences any issues with its products. Any variance from what the company has provided for decades is almost shocking.

Why Consistency Is Important For Business Operations

As practitioners of Lean Six Sigma can attest to, a focus on process improvement and consistency – both in company operations and the products created – leads to more efficient operations and, ultimately, a stronger bottom line.

Consistency also helps a business operation in other measurable, practical ways.

Allows for measurement: It’s impossible to determine if any change made to a company’s operations had led to improvement without practicing the change consistently. For example, a new marketing campaign should have a focused, consistent message. Only after gathering data over a period of time on the campaign can teams measure its level of success.

Improves employee productivity: With a consistent approach to both operations and communications with employees, business leaders can establish a culture where employees feel valued and understand how their efforts contribute to overall business success.

Attracts talent: As with the example of Toyota, or other consistent brands such as Apple, Google and Starbucks, consistency establishes a good reputation for a company. That reputation revolves around the idea that consumers know what they expect when they use a company’s products or services. This, in turn, makes the company a place where people wish to work.

Builds employee trust: If businesses are transparent as well as consistent about plans, it helps to establish trust with employers. Rather than trying a half dozen new ideas every year and then pulling them before they have a chance to make a difference, a consistent company plans ahead and follows through on that plan, giving employees trust that their employer will do as promised.

The consistency inherent in Lean Six Sigma methodology can help organizational leaders and employees gain the benefits of making smart plans based on data and staying consistent with their approach.