Hours . . . Days . . . Weeks . . . Months . . . Years . . . Seems like some Six Sigma projects drag on forever. But the question here is not how long does it take to complete a project because that really depends on the project scope. The real question is what unnecessarily extends project cycle time. Being the Six Sigma zealot that I am, I decided to get some data and found that for my situation, the top four drivers of extended project cycle time include:

  • Data Availability: The type of data needed is either not readily available, is available but not reliable or will require several weeks or months to collect.
  • Implementation Barriers: This includes the time it takes to get the organization bought into the proposed change as well as having resources to implement the proposed change.
  • Project Management Issues: Project due dates and phase gate expectations are not clearly defined and scope creep is not kept at bay.
  • Team Member Availability: Everyone’s schedules are busy and getting the right folks together in one room at a certain time for a team meeting sometimes takes weeks.

It is important to note that the top four items noted above may not be the top four project cycle time drivers in your organization. To find out why (or maybe I should say what is driving your “Y”) you will need to collect data of your own. Other important factors such as project linkage to company objectives, level of Six Sigma buy-in and Black Belt leadership skills are just a few of the other key inputs that need to be considered. A good fishbone and C&E Matrix can help you shape the development of a survey to capture information for your situation. Narrowing the scope or at least being able to segment projects worked by full-time versus part-time resources will provide more clarity related to drivers (other than too much other stuff to do).

Identifying the drivers of extended project cycle time for your organization is time well spent and can help address the perception that “Six Sigma” takes too long to solve problems. And, the next time someone asks you, “Where have all the hours gone?” you won’t have tossing ’em a song because you have data. (When will they ever learn?)

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