Across all industries, there is one area of Six Sigma that can mean the difference between success and failure of deployment: project selection. Whether the method is used in manufacturing or service organizations, the future of a deployment is always influenced by the quality of project selection.
Project selection typically starts with generating ideas. The biggest challenge is to select the ideas that have the highest chance of becoming beneficial projects. To help in this process, practitioners can use an organized approach for narrowing down and moving forward with the ideas that can be best converted into projects.
Methodology for Idea Filtration
Once project ideas are collected, they need to be evaluated further to determine if they fit within the organization’s critical parameters. If the organization has made the decision to invest resources for going ahead with a project, any decision to cancel the project at a later stage is bound to create time and resource wastage. Hence, it is imperative to test ideas on critical parameters, and commit resources and time only to those projects that are certain to be completed.
To increase the chances of success, all ideas generated for projects need to be evaluated on four parameters:
- Linkage with organizational importance
- Feasibility of execution
- Organizational buy-in
- Organizational benefit
A questionnaire can be used to test how well ideas fit within the four parameters.
Linkage with Organizational Importance:
- Is the idea linked with the business objective and priorities of the organization?
- Is the idea linked with the process-specific pain?
- Is the idea linked with internal performance measures or a service-level agreement with a customer?
Feasibility of Execution:
- Is the solution to the problem already known?
- Is data available for understanding the current magnitude of the problem?
- Is a system available for capturing data?
- What is the repeatability of the process to which the idea is linked?
- Is the idea linked with multiple sub-processes?
- Does the process linked with the idea require client or customer approval before making any changes?
- Is the Champion interested in pursuing the idea as a project?
- Are suitable resources available for carrying out the idea as a project?
- What is the expected annual benefit from the project?
Each idea should be evaluated by taking it through the questions raised above. Once the team has collected answers to the questions, they can enter the information in Part B of the Six Sigma Project Idea Evaluator template (Table 1). Part A, which captures basic process information related to the ideas, should also be completed.
|Table 1: Six Sigma Project Idea Evaluator|
|Part||Category||Idea 1||Idea 2||Idea 3|
|A||Process Information||Strategic business unit|
|B||Organizational Importance||Is the idea linked with the business objectives of the organization?|
Is the idea linked with the process-specific pain?
Is the idea linked with internal performance measures or a SLA?
|B||Feasibility of Execution||Is the solution to the problem already known?|
Is data available for understanding the current magnitude of the problem?
Is a system available for capturing data?
What is the repeatability of the process that the idea is linked to?
Is the idea linked with multiple subprocesses?
Does the process linked with the idea require client approval before making any changes?
At least once a day
At least once a day
At least once a day
|B||Organizational Buy-in||Is the Champion interested in pursuing the idea as a project?|
Are suitable resources available for carrying out the idea as a project?
|B||Organizational Benefit||What is the expected annual benefit from the project?||$1,000 – $10,000||$10,000 – $100,000||$10,000 – $100,000|
Idea Selection Decision
Once both parts of the template are completed, team members can begin making project selection decisions. From the information collected, practitioners can determine project complexity and viability, key factors in making ultimate project decisions.
Project Complexity – Viability Decision Matrix
Identifying the complexity of a project helps in determining suitable resources needed to complete it. A matrix can aid in figuring out complexity (Figure 1).
|Figure 1: Complexity – Viability Decision Matrix|
Viability – High
Viability – Low
The logic for categorizing the ideas into the quadrants of matrix are:
- Any idea selected as a project must be related with either a business objective or a process-specific pain, or should be the part of a performance measure desired by the customer. An idea not linked to any of these has low viability.
- If the problem related to the idea has a known solution, it also has low viability.
- Data availability is an important part of Six Sigma projects. If data is not available and there is no system for capturing data, the project has high complexity because it will first require an effort to create a system for data capturing.
- Frequency of data capturing also affects the complexity of a project. If data is captured on a daily basis, it will be easier to reach a solution than it would if data is captured on a weekly or less frequent basis.
- A project must have buy-in from the Champion and process owners. Even the simplest and most feasible project cannot be successful if it lacks buy-in. Hence, a project with no buy-in has low viability.
Based on the information collected through the questionnaire and the categorical criteria, project ideas can be classified into the four matrix quadrants.
Quadrant 1: Low Complexity – High Viability
The ideas in this quadrant should be taken up as projects at the earliest opportunity.
Quadrant 2: High Complexity – High Viability
Ideas in this quadrant are doable but highly complex, primarily because data is not available for understanding the problem or there is no system of capturing data. However, expected benefits from these projects are higher.
Quadrant 3 and 4: Low/High Complexity – Low Viability
Ideas in these quadrants should not be considered as projects.
Advantages of the Idea Evaluator
This idea evaluation system is different from many other idea-filtration tools, which often use a maximum-score technique to narrow down ideas. This evaluator filters out ideas in a more conservative fashion. With a scoring system, an idea may fail one critical question, but because it has a good total score, may still be taken up as a project. The evaluator presented in this article instead flags ideas that fail critical questions, categorizing them as projects with low viability.