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Projects are the core of every Six Sigma initiative. Identifying the right projects, having skilled people on board, and providing a proper environment for project execution determines whether the intended process and business results can be achieved and whether Six Sigma will be perceived as a powerful approach to contribute to business success.
A relatively simple 10-point checklist can be used for ongoing project evaluation at specific milestones as well as part of the lessons learned exercise after project completion. Anticipating potential project failures also can help drive an effective project selection.
While it is not crucial that every project has a strategic dimension, it is important that the majority of the projects impact one or more of the business’s high-level metrics and goals (which are often called Big Ys or KPIs). While not every project will result in a dramatic change of performance, completing a number of projects should have a visible impact that is recognized across the entire business. Maintaining a focus on the strategic drivers of the business is important to ensure that the leadership remains engaged in the concept of continuous inprovement.
Applying the tools and concepts included in the Six Sigma framework correctly while following a logical thought process is a critical success factor of the overall initiative. While a project might be successful without using any of the tools correctly, over time the correct application of the tools as part of a systematic and logical problem-solving process yields superior results.
The degree to which the sponsor is actively engaged in the project is a leading indicator of success for the project. The sponsor’s role is to help scope the project and guide the team through the process to ensure business results.
While the Black Belts and Green Belts are expected to lead the team, they need to actively engage the team members to achieve buy-in as well as transfer skills and knowledge of the Six Sigma process.
Engaging the entire organization in the Six Sigma process is a crucial element of overall success. Each team has a responsibility to ensure that the key stakeholders are aware of the project. Executing an effective communication plan is a key element of the overall project plan and responsibility of every team member.
The ultimate test for each project is whether it delivered the business results and customer impact it was chartered to achieve. While the real impact cannot always be exactly determined at the start of the project, the project has to deliver against the goals defined in the project charter.
Completing projects in a timely manner is a leading indicator for the success of the deployment. Short project durations help demonstrate the power of the approach to a broad audience as well as help energize the team. Long durations often indicate a loss of interest from key team members or loss of active sponsor engagement as well as an inability of the team leader to prioritize.
Transitioning ownership for the performance of the improved process is crucial to ensure that the project gains are sustained and the new methods are actually being used. A successful team engages the process owner early on in the project and ensures that they buys into the team’s findings. Once the project is complete, the process owner is expected to manage the new process using the control systems designed by the team.
Oftentimes, the impressive improvements attained over the course of a project cannot be sustained in the long run due to a failure to manage change effectively. Successful projects result in improvements that can be sustained in the long run.
Projects are often scoped so that they can be completed within a relatively short period of time which in turn leads to concentrating on one specific aspect of the overall issue. While this approach is prudent it also suggests that once the initial project is completed there is often a significant opportunity to replicate the results in other areas. An effective team realized the potential for replication and ensures that a proper plan is in place to replicate the results.