Instructor Insights

Instructor Insights pages are part of the OCW Educator initiative, which seeks to enhance the value of OCW for educators.

Course Overview

This page focuses on the course 16.660J Introduction to Lean Six Sigma Methods as it was taught by Professor Earll Murman, Dr. Hugh McManus, Professor Annalisa Weigel and Dr. Bo Madsen during January 2012.

This is an introductory course suitable for students with no prior background in the subject area. Content is heavily weighted towards Lean and lightly towards Six Sigma. Coverage is roughly equivalent to the Bronze level Lean Certification of the SME, AME, Shingo Institute and ASQ. Learner centric pedagogy equally balances active learning exercises with didactic lecture material.

Course Outcomes

Course Goals for Students

The learning objectives are structured to give the student a basis in Lean Six Sigma fundamentals that would prepare them for participation in lean improvement projects, entry level research, or advanced course work.

Possibilities for Further Study and Future Careers

Students completing the course have followed a variety of paths. They typically utilize the knowledge in summer jobs, internships, or entry-level employment in a wide range of fields. Some have chosen to pursue further graduate studies. Professionals typically employ the knowledge in their organization for process improvement, often with early results.


Instructor Insights

The course is lots of fun to teach, but is also an exhausting three day experience!

—Prof. Murman

Below, Professor Murman describes various aspects of how he teaches 16.660J Introduction to Lean Six Sigma Methods.

  • Considerable preparation was needed for assuring all the materials were available for the exercises and that logistical glitches were avoided. Given that the course was 8 hours a day for 3 days, there was little room for recovery from poor planning.
  • The biggest challenge was to teach material that is more practice than academic oriented. This was effectively overcome by the active learning exercises, plant tour, and guest lectures. Early versions of the modules that were mostly lecture oriented were not at all effective. The 50/50 balance of lecture and active learning emerged as an effective strategy.
  • This course had an unusual history as it was developed outside of MIT with a cohort of faculty from other universities and practitioners from industry, and then brought into MIT when it was well developed. This offering differs from the original 2008 offering deployed on OCW in that it includes a healthcare track. Although the instructors continue to hone the course, the 2012 version is mature.
  • Student learning was assessed using a structured self-assessment tool called VALUE or VALUE PIL (for the healthcare version), downloadable as part of the Session 1-1 materials. Completion of the self-assessment before and after taking the course was a requirement for receiving a passing grade. An abbreviated version of the self-assessment was administered in class at the start of each day, providing an opportunity for each student to see their day-by-day learning.

For more information, please see:

Candido, Jacqueline P., Earll M. Murman, and Hugh McManus. "Active Learning Strategies for Teaching Lean Thinking." (PDF) Proceedings of the 3rd International CDIO Conference, MIT, June 11-14, 2007.

McManus, Hugh L., Eric Rebentisch, Earll M. Muman, and Alexis Stanke. "Teaching lean thinking principles through hands-on simulations." (PDF) Proceedings of the 3rd International CDIO Conference, MIT, June 11-14, 2007.

Murman, Earll M., Hugh McManus, and Jacqueline P. Candido. "Enhancing Faculty Competency in Lean Thinking Bodies of Knowledge." (PDF) Proceedings of the 3rd International CDIO Conference, MIT, June 11-14, 2007.

Curriculum Information



Requirements Satisfied



Every IAP

Student Information


In 2012, 30 students took this course.

Breakdown by Year

Typically, the class is roughly half undergraduate and half graduate students. Undergraduates are usually sophomores to seniors and graduate students are usually Master’s degree level.

Breakdown by Major

Most MIT students are from the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the Engineering Systems Division. The 2012 class was unusual as about half the students were from the Harvard School of Public Health.

Typical Student Background

There were no particular prior experiences, skills or interests represented by the student cohort. Many of the students saw this course as good preparation for upcoming summer jobs or internships and wanted to add it to their resume. Some students saw the process oriented content as a nice balance to the math and science oriented content of their core subjects.

Enrollment Cap

Enrollment is capped at 30 students.


How Student Time Was Spent

This class met on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, for eight hours per day, during the third week of IAP 2012. Each day, the class included five to seven modules.

Course Schedule

1   Class meeting. VALUE or VALUE PIL self-assessment due. LEGO® enterprise simulations. Class meeting.  
2   Class meeting. Class meeting. Class meeting.  
3   Class meeting. LEGO® enterprise simulations. Guest lecturer.  
4   New Balance® plant tour. Class meeting. Class meeting.  
5   Class meeting. LEGO® enterprise simulations. Class meeting.  
6   Class meeting.   Class meeting.  
7       Guest lecturer.  
Displays the color used on the preceding table to indicate dates when class sessions sessions are held. Class session
Displays the color used on the preceding table to indicate dates when the New Balance® plant tour is held. New Balance® plant tour
Displays the color used on the preceding table to indicate dates when the guest lecturer session is held. Guest lecturer
Displays the color used on the preceding table to indicate dates when LEGO® enterprise simulations sessions are held. LEGO® enterprise simulations
Displays the symbol used on the preceding table to indicate dates when assignments are due. VALUE or VALUE PIL self-assessment due

Some highlights of the course are described below.

  • Students were organized by teams of 5-6 and sat together around a large table to facilitate numerous active learning exercises. This developed considerable camaraderie and opportunities for cross learning.
  • The class went on a tour of the New Balance® plant. The purpose of the tour was to give students an opportunity to see how fundamental principles introduced in the class were actually applied in the workplace. Some concepts or tools they had already seen in class were reinforced by workplace observations, while other concepts or tools were first observed in the workplace and later explained in class.
  • The class included LEGO® enterprise simulations, to give a practice field for applying concepts and tools, mimicking an actual work experience. Tools like 5S or concepts like bottlenecks are more effectively grasped when they are applied.
  • Guest lecturers discussed some of the real-world barriers or benefits from the perspective of a person who had been through the experience of applying the concepts and tools.
  • The purpose of the guest lecturers, the New Balance® plant tour, and the LEGO® simulations was to reinforce the didactic content with actual application.