The project charter is the first step and one of the most important parts of any Six Sigma project. The document provides an overview of the project and serves as an agreement between management and the Six Sigma team regarding the expected project outcome.

The charter is used to set the project direction and defines the measures of success. It includes a clear definition of accountability and team roles and responsibilities. Also, anticipated costs and financial benefits are included in the charter, establishing a plan for financial oversight throughout the project. The charter offers the project team a roadmap of the project boundaries and aligns the goals with critical business needs. It also includes a team charter to address points such as meeting frequency, time and day of the week, venue and code of conduct. This provides a contract of accountability for team members, leaders, sponsors and Champions. By approving the document, the project Champion and process owner commit to the project and agree to ensure that the organization assigns the appropriate resources.

A project charter consists of several parts, all vital to identifying project expectations and gaining approvals and commitments in support of the project goals. It is important to note that the charter does not describe solutions or how the team will implement them. Below is a detailed view of 11 elements in a typical charter, with what each element is for and what questions that element is expected to answer:

Business case discusses the business issue that is assigned to the project team. Provided by the project Champion or sponsor, the business case explains why there is a need for the organization to undertake the project and how it will support organizational objectives.

  • Why is the project worth doing?
  • Why is it important to customers?
  • Why is it important to the business?
  • Why is it important to employees?
  • Why is it important to do it now?
  • What are the consequences of not doing the project now?
  • How will the reduction of defects impact customers, the business and the employees?
  • How does it fit with the operational initiatives and targets?

Problem statement provides a more specific and focused description of the symptoms arising from the problem the team will address.

  • What are the critical-to-quality elements?
  • What is wrong?
  • Where does the problem exist?
  • How big is the problem?
  • When and where does the problem occur?
  • What is the impact of the problem?
  • Is the problem statement clear to all in the organization?
  • Is the problem statement long and therefore difficult to interpret?

Goal statement/specific objective describes results anticipated from the project. The goals state specific project targets to achieve the desired project purpose. The targets are stated as measurements.

  • What results are anticipated from this project?
  • Are the set goals realistic and specific?
  • Are the set goals measurable?
  • Are the set goals aggressive yet achievable?
  • Is it time bound?
  • Is it relevant?
  • What improvement is targeted?
  • How much improvement is required?
  • What defects are currently tracked on a continual basis?
  • Is the target identified?
  • Is the specification for each measure identified?
  • What is the impact on rolled throughput yield?
  • Is a stretch target established?
  • Are the key metrics (the primary and secondary metrics) identified?
  • What is the expected impact on cost of poor quality?
  • What is the expected impact on the capability index?
  • What is the expected impact on back order, costs, etc.?

 Project scope identifies boundaries for the project and describes the specific project scope.

  • Is the scope clear and attainable?
  • Can the project be completed in four to six months?
  • Has a process mapping technique been implemented to determine the project scope?
  • Is a clear objective determined?
  • Are the budgetary limits clarified and approved?
  • Who is the decision-making authority?
  • Is the team’s area of influence clarified?
  • Is the area outside of the team’s influence declared properly and clearly and understood by all?
  • How is the team going to focus its work?
  • What information is needed to identify the urgent issues?
  • What specific parts of the process will the project include?

Critical success factors clarify and document the limitations of the project and other factors affecting the team’s effort in completing the project successfully.

  • Has the team been given a sufficient time to complete the project?
  • Who is authorized to look into the financial constraints?
  • Who is responsible for sanctioning of resources?
  • Does the team have time for the project?
  • Does the team have capable and skilled manpower available to them?
  • Does the team have the support of IT infrastructure and free access to IT?
  • Who are the guide and coach for the team and for the project?
  • What are the team charter commitments (meeting schedules, venue, time, etc.)?
  • What is the contribution of the sponsor, Champion, etc.?
  • Who is responsible for clearing project roadblocks?
  • Does the team have freedom to implement the solution without the support of the Champion?
  • How much of operations’ time is expected for the Six Sigma project work on a weekly basis?
  • Can the team draw on other resources inside and outside the organization?
  • What is the authority given to the team to spend money for improvement activities?
  • Who is authorized to assist the team with finance issues?

Impact on stakeholders outlines which individuals inside and outside the organization can influence and are affected by the project, and which have a vested interest in the process and its outcome.

  • Who are the internal stakeholders?
  • Who are the external stakeholders?
  • How are the internal stakeholders affected?
  • How are the external stakeholders affected?
  • What do the internal/external stakeholders expect from the team?
  • How will the team communicate with the stakeholders?

Role of Champion provides a picture of how well the Champion serves as a strategist and facilitator for Six Sigma activities in the organization.

  • Was the Champion a part of the team in scripting the business case?
  • Was the charter signed off by the Champion?
  • Has the Champion set specific Six Sigma deliverables for team members?
  • Has the Champion deployed the right and best combination of people on the project?
  • Has the Champion ensured that the project has a clear line of sight to company strategies?
  • Does the Champion understand that one of their main responsibilities is the success of the project?

Role of team members outlines who the core and support members are who will implement the project.

  • Is the team a manageable size of four or five core members?
  • Who is the team leader?
  • Who is the project sponsor?
  • Are specialists who are available to assist the project identified?
  • Has the team identified the time slot per week to invest for data collection, meetings and other project activities?
  • Is the team ready to enter into a contract with management through the charter to carry out the project?
  • To whom is the team accountable?
  • Is a finance person involved?
  • Does the team have detailed knowledge of the target process?
  • What are the key responsibilities of individual team members?

Project milestones define time-bound clear milestones in the life of the project.

Project vision describes the organization’s vision for the improvements anticipated from the project.

  • Why is the project necessary?
  • What is expected from the project (e.g., understanding and utilizing DMAIC tools and techniques, arranging training programs, bringing about a Six Sigma culture in the organization, etc.)?
  • How will the organization measure project success?
  • What are the potential project failure points?

 Expected financial benefits describes all financial benefits including cost avoidance and actual budget impacts.

About the Author