I cannot over emphasize the importance of communication in Six Sigma process improvement projects. As Patrick Waddick stated in his project charter article, “a finely executed Black Belt project can suffer disappointing results if an efficient mechanism is not already in place to ensure that vital information is relayed to those members who need it.” Communication starts with the project charter and lives through project reviews, sometimes called milestone or tollgate reviews.
What is a Project Review
Project reviews are simply status checks. Project reviews serve to evaluate the project plan or status relative to the plan initially set forth by the team in the project charter. Timelines will be reviewed, proper Six Sigma tool use will be validated, and key progress deliverables will be monitored. Project reviews may be informal with the team leader or mentor, or formal milestone reviews with the team champion or sponsor. In either case, however, you as the team leader need to ensure that certain benefits are achieved from the project review.
The Benefits of Project Reviews
Many benefits exist for project reviews. You, as the project leader, are in control and you need to ensure that your needs are met during the project review. If they are met, it was a successful project review. What are your desired outcomes for your next project review? The list below should be helpful as you prepare for your next project review:
- Monitor Project Progress – Ensure that everyone on the team is focused on the goal and are working in concert. This could be an informal meeting with the team, or a formal milestone review requiring the quality manager and champion to sign-off before continuing.
- Provide Guidance – We all need a helping hand every once in a while. It takes confidence to ask for guidance and leadership to provide non-threatening guidance to teams.
- Align Activities – We often undertake multiple phase, multiple sub-team projects. Working together requires frequent and clear communication to align our activities to the common goal.
- Display Support – As a team leader or as a champion, visible support is often needed to motivate and energize the team.
- Knock Down Barriers – We’ve all been there. A person won’t provide data needed, a process functions in counter-productive ways to our needs, or resources aren’t available. Project reviews are useful for identifying roadblocks and barriers for sponsors and champions to remove.
- Sharing Best Practices – Bringing in subject matter experts or team leaders of other projects can often help your process improvement effort by sharing lessons-learned. There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel every project.
- Recognizing and Rewarding – Work hard and play hard. Don’t forget to recognize the successfully completed project and reward the team for their contributions.