I have had the fortune to serve twice on the ASQ’s International Team Excellence Awards judging panel. It’s not the entries that I want to talk about, but the experience of serving on the panel.

The details of the competition and the criteria are posted on the ASQ website, www.asq.org. When I volunteered to serve as a judge, I was looking for a professional development opportunity -and to be honest, to try to understand the criteria fully in case we ever wanted to submit a team ourselves.

Thecriteria are very clearly spelled out – and during breaks inour judges’ training session, I started to think about our own teams. My organization has done quite a few Lean Rapid Improvement Events and Six Sigma projects. And the very first criteria had me questioning whether we couldn’t improve the quality of our own teams by using the criteria as guidelines – not rules to slavishly follow, but issues to check as we moved forward with our future teams.

1. Explain the methods used to choose the project.

a. Describe the types of data and quality tools used to select the project, and why they were used.

b. Explain the reasons why the project was selected.

c. Describe the involvement of potential stakeholders in project selection.

In the past, we didn’t involve our stakeholders in project selection. Now, you may be laughing because you have ALWAYS involved your stakeholders, but when we started we just picked the topics that people complained about the most. As we have moved from a project-based approach to a philosophy of Lean Six Sigma in operations, we have gotten better at this, but it was definitely something we had to learn to do!

So in addition to finding outhow to use the criteria to judge the team entries, Itook home a new appreciation for just how many areas we need to focus on to ensure a good team experience, as well as a good project outcome.

I encourage team leaders to check the criteria, if they haven’t already, to see whether some of the items could be helpful in guiding your next project endeavor.

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