While several factors can drive the success or failure of a Six Sigma project, experienced project managers cite resource planning or allocation of resources as the greatest driver of success for larger projects. All three types of resources – materials, technology and people – must be used effectively. In particular, human resource management plays a critical role in meeting project cost and cycle time objectives. This is true for Lean and Six Sigma DMAIC projects. However, the impact is more strongly felt when executing Design for Six Sigma (DFSS) projects, which typically have a larger scope and usually require more resources.

Project Effort Chart
Project Effort Chart

Resource Needs for DFSS Project

During a DFSS project the majority of the design work is performed in the early phases of the project. The focus shifts to deploying a quality product throughout the pilot/prototype effort and through the transition to production support. Figure 1 plots the project effort verses project timeline, reflecting the greater up-front resource requirement and the tapering off of this requirement as the project progresses toward implementation.

Following the DFSS effort curve for the IDOV methodology (Identify, Design, Optimize, Validate), , the resources required in the beginning are limited. Typically, the project manager and a select few core team members initiate the project. For example, say a company desires to build its own customer relationship management application to maintain all of its customer information. The information includes customer contacts and product information for purchases associated with each customer. The company may involve subject matter experts (SME) to collect data, map the existing product or service (if it exists), help scope the project or contribute technical assistance. In addition, the sales and marketing team may join the project team to provide an idea of what it requires as the user of the new application.

Resource Management Changes During Project

As the project matures through the Design phase, the need will arise for a larger number of resources. Designing a product or service will take the assistance of SMEs and possibly additional project managers to manage portions of the overall project. The ideal for design synthesis and evaluation is to create independent design teams dedicated to producing potential designs. Structuring the resource needs through this phase is critical. Decisions will focus on the need for full-time team members, SMEs and specialized resources such as technology experts.

During this phase of the project, the team will compare different technologies and explore the question of “build verses buy” for the infrastructure to support the new design. The potential need for outsourcing of product production also is an important topic at this point. Resource planning is a key element associated with these decisions, as the skills necessary are different for managing a supplier or a support contract versus supporting production internally.

Also, early in the Design phase, it is necessary to plan for any design materials or technical resources needed. This is important to a manufacturing project where limited materials can cause delays of days or even weeks in the project. In engineering and information technology projects, temporary materials or technology may provide a substitute to model the potential designs as simulations. Simulations are typically inexpensive to produce and usually require minimal resources. They are important to articulate a vision for the project for all team members, SMEs and stakeholders, allowing all new resources to become familiar with the project details as quickly as possible.

Optimizing Resources as Deployment Nears

As the project moves out of the Design phase and into the Optimize phase, the need for resources changes – both in number of resources and in the required skill sets. The Optimize phase includes piloting and prototyping the new product or service. Although many resources will move away from the project at this point, members of the original design team should remain attached to the project throughout the Optimize phase. In addition, the operational support team should become involved at this time. Waiting for product support involvement could introduce unnecessary delays in deploying the product or service, and deploying prior to their involvement, could negatively impact the customer.

During the Validation phase, a reduction in the number of team members is recommended as resource needs are very limited at this point. The team may consist of the original project initiator and maybe a subject matter expert. Key to this phase is validating that the product or service is meeting the customer’s needs and the specified requirements. Activities for the existing team include collecting data and ensuring the operational or production team is adequately prepared to support the product or service.

Conclusion: Success Depends on People

Resource planning can make or break a DFSS project. While there are any number of reasons that a project can fail, successful project execution often depends on adequate and timely management of human resources.

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