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How do I Recover from a Project Failure?

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  • #50906

    anon
    Participant

    Hi,
    I have been involved with a failing 6 Sigma project for a few months now. The individuals on the team were taking some training together and we decided to do a project along with it. Unfortunately we did not have much support or experience and made a lot of mistakes that in hindsight could have been avoided or mitigated. Part of the team ended up using the project to take up time and have no intention of using 6 sigma anymore. The other part of the team (me included) want to continue to use 6 sigma tools and hope to start up another project that will end in success.
    Unfortunately, management has decided that it may not be worth pursuing 6 sigma at all based on the performance of the team and the (lack of) results of the poject. I understand that perspective and we would continue to do process improvement work, but I want 6 Sigma to succeed here or at least give it another chance. Any advice on how to convince the company? Or would you recommend just using the tools on my own or with a few coworkers?
    Thanks!

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    #175595

    Vallee
    Participant

    Anon,It depends:1. What were your lessons learned? Project, process, and team wise2. What can you deliver once completed (minus cost loss already)?3. Are you willing volunteer time initially to show your commitment?4. Who can you convince that your management trusts? They can be your voice. 5. Are there other six sigma experts in the company that can mentor you?If you would like to discuss offline e-mail me at [email protected]. I have beat my head against the wall in the past initially too but that doesn’t mean to give up. HF Chris Vallee

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    #175611

    corndogggydog
    Participant

    Anon,
    I’ve been in your shoes and giving up is not the answer. Chris was right, one of the most important points he made was “lessons learned”. When you took your six sigma training remember the key principle was the Contiuous Improvement Circle. Just because a project does not give you the results you wanted, does not mean six sigma didn’t work. You have already identified mistakes were made and that can be a starting platform to continue the cycle for improvement.
    Are you following the DMAIC approach?
    If so, where was most of your time spent?
    In the first cycle of the project were you able to collect data that you can apply to the next CI cycle?
    Was your project too convoluted? (meaning; could the project be broken down into smaller categories that would allow the team to focus in one category at a time to yield better results?)
    Remember the lessons of the Big 3 automakers. It took a major spanking from the Japaneese automakers in the 1980’s for them to realize that it ONLY costs them millions of dollars to save them billions. And the end result was American Automakers build better cars now because of Six Sigma.
    Your biggest hurdle is Management. Again, Chis was right in discussion points 2-5.
    Try looking at a project failure as an OPPORTUNITY. Sounds like a great time to step up to the plate and demonstrate leadership and teamwork skills. And YES, the answer to one of your questions is; teamwork is usually the best route to take in Six Sigma.
    In closing, I’m not certain of your level of training. Based on what you discussed in your message thread, I can only guess that you and your team are new to the principles of Six Sigma. If I may, I’d like to suggest a book that may help tremendously. SIX SIGMA for Dummies is a great book from White Belt to Black Belt it is usefull. The book gives great insight to the principles of Six Sigma without confounding the definitions and applications. Black Belts can take a lesson from this book as well.

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    #175612

    Vallee
    Participant

    Corndoggydog,
    I must confess that I have not read six sigma for dummies; however, I believe that the poster’s problem is beyond that now.  Anon stated that the team has attended six sigma training (no comment on the caliber without knowledge). In most posts, including Anon’s, there seems to be an issue with project management and strategic alignment skills. This comes from training tied to these areas or mentoring.  Anything less will result in failure.
    This ties into training without application and guidance. Still gets me when people ask for a project because they need one to sign up for training. That’s like asking a novice to tell the difference between Mad Dog and Jack Daniels.. couldn’t think of any fnacy wines.
    HF Chris Vallee
     
     

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    #175613

    corndogggydog
    Participant

    Chris,
    I agree with you with respect to the posters problem being project management. However, the book “Six Sigma for Dummies” is a perfect tool for a basic re-alignment.
    I did make an assumption that may have appeared presumptuous. However, let me explain my assumtion. Based on the fact that management did not see value in Six Sigma and did not want to pursue further projects MAY indicate that the company is new to the philosophy. That being the case the same assumption can be made for the level of training obtained and the number of team members that do not see value in Six Sigma after one failed project. So, you and I both know that as a novice,  until you apply Six Sigma, you really can not see it’s value based on some training. I was trying to encourage Anon by pointing out that one failure is not a reason to quit, because the value of Six Sigma is demonstrated best after several revolutions of Demming’s continous improvement cycle.
    And YES, I agree about the Mad Dog Vs. JD example……or better yet Kesslers Vs. Crown Royal. I do think that a novice asking for a project is a good thing. Everyone that embraces the Six Sigma philosopy needs to start their experience and application somewhere. I believe that a project failure should be re-defined as opportunity for improvement.
    The Six Sigma for Dummies book is worth reading. I consider myself at Green Belt level. I will be taking the GBC in December through ASQ and bought the book so I can give a less technical response to recruiters while trying to change careers. I’ve been hitting roadblocks with recruiters. For example, saying I have no APQP experience, where my resume contains extensive knowledge of all phases of APQP. However, my field did not call it that. Kinda like the difference between QS9000 and TS16949.  SS for Dummies is not a studyguide for certification, it does give great insight into the application of Six Sigma for both qualitative and quantitave data collection and analysis. And primes example for more than one industry. It’s less than $20 at Amazon. Worth it.
    Maybe I need to write a posting for advice on obtaining a QA job and getting through the HR and recruiter obsticle course/screening process.

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    #175614

    Vallee
    Participant

    You may find that you have more in common with Anon than you may think. While encouraging Anon not to quit which is the right thing to do, you may find yourself in the same position. So I have to ask you what you feel your role as a Green Belt would be when applying for a new job? What do you think you would be expected to do by yourself? Why do you think companies are asking for more experience?
    Please don’t take me wrong, because you have the right attitude and should be able to apply your previous experience in some of the gaps that GBC training misses. The problem is that you need to understand the role you want to jump into and make sure you can fill that role. This will help you with your job search. 
    HF Chris Vallee
     
     

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    #175617

    corndogggydog
    Participant

    Again I agree, we are in a similar position. The construction of your questions is quite perplexing and is giving me alot of insight. My answer is simply:
    1) the easy question. Why are companies asking for more experience? Because they can. Consider the current job market and little explanation is needed. If a pool of qualified people is now full then obviously it is easier to pick the most desireable. This was my first realization. My resume needs work.
    2) my role as green belt will vary drastically from company to company. I would hope that this role would make use of  my skills with respect to MSA , process characterization, capability studies, equipment tier startup, transferring processes from R & D to manufacturing, process ownership, DOE, developing OCAP’s, 8D,QS900(TS19649), FMEA, SPC etc. etc. etc.
    3) expected to do by myself????? Good one. Some things that come to mind basic project management, team building, QFD etc…..Again this is different with each company. Some job postings I’ve seen, GB is merely data collection or QA tech and some expect much more leadership.
    I must stop now and apologize to Anon. I did not mean to steal this thread away to a one on one with another responder. I also underestimated your BOK level. Reading through other threads in this forum I see you have much more than SOME training. Your question just reminded me about a discussion I had with my brother the other day and sounded so close to your question. One exception, he has SOME training and his company is a six sigma virgin, so to speak. The similarities were so close I forgot the addage of the wise ol owl.
    The biggest learning curve I’ve ever had in my life is searching for a job in the current market. My resume DID not exclaim my project management and leadership skills while running my own business. An eight year gap home remodeling and engineering is a tough obsticle. I find again inadequacies in my resume. It seems that most of the available jobs are posted through recruiting companies like Volt and Aerotek.  Aside from changing my job titile from owner/operator small business in home remodeling to Residential Reconstructive Engineer. The biggest hurdle is getting past the recruiters that are mostly not qualified to tell me I’m not qualified.
    Litterally I have had a recruiter tell me that although I have QS9000 experience, it does not apply in any way to TS19649. The job posting said “QS9000/TS19649”.  He didn’t know they are one in the same with only a few modifications?????????????????????????
    Here’s another good one. One recruiter in Colorado said I didn’t have enough six sigma qualifications when the posting only said it was desireable. They were looking for construction experience and could help with a Six Sigma program.(Mobile home manufacturing). I explained my ten years of manufacturing/engineering experience with one companies that pioneered six sigma (starts with a batwing shaped like M) and the fact I can build a house from the ground up with my bare hands as well as manage subs to do the entire job(project mgt.) While speaking with this recruiter I realized this was the same person that little over ten years ago was begging me to go and interview with semi-conductor companies in Co. Springs for positions that required much more experience. Market Driven to say the least.
    I have more Chris and it only gets more humorous. I do see that this thread is turning to a book so I say farewell.  Maybe I should have pursued a degree in oragami. Have you noticed over the past few years the complexity of the packaging for the goods we buy.
    PS….addage of wise ol owl. (for those interested)
    A wise ol’ Owl sat in an Oak                                                               
    The more he saw, the less he spoke.
    The less he spoke, the more he heard
    Why can’t we all be like that WISE OL’ BIRD
     
    Dang I talk too much!
     

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    #175618

    Vallee
    Participant

    If you have managed a construction project the right way you have a lot more scheduling experience then many… take advantage of it.  Keep in mind that a GB (in my opinion) is a support function not a lead function… not expected to run the larger projects.  Look at this way, if you were hiring a GB, knowing what you have learned so far in GB training, could he/she run a project in your construction business from the get go? The answer should be no. If you are having a hard sell with the recruiter, then how difficult will it be for you to sell improvement to management?
    As far as apologizing to Anon for the tangent discussion, don’t. This discussion applies to his situation as well as any. Once again this is just my opinion from my experience and you know what they say about opinions. With that said, pay attention to posters like Mike Carnell, Darth, Stan, Btdt, Vinnie, Hee bee gee bee, Robert Butler just to mention a few.. Stevo too. Also to a search for Green Belt and Black Belt roles from previous posts.
    Feel free to contact me at [email protected]. to discuss more offline or use the forum.  I teach root cause analysis for System Improvements and facilitate incident investigations now but still use six sigma everday and help others when I can. 

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    #175619

    Vallee
    Participant

    https://www.isixsigma.com/forum/showmessage.asp?messageID=146166
    Corndoggydog,
    I hate when I put the post in the wrong place. Click here for my last response.
    HF Chris Vallee

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    #175627

    Mike Darrish
    Participant

    Be careful about trying to do Six Sigma bottom up. Six Sigma is a wonderful way to improve processes, but requires top management support. Management sponsors have to be trained so that they lead the effort and they need to pick the initial projects within the company’s strategic plan. They also need to drive commitment down through the ranks so that everyone understands how important it is to participate.Project teams are usually cross-functional, so they require support, resources and the willingness to change in multiple organizations. If senior management doesn’t buy into the initiative, lower level managers and individual contributors typically don’t see what’s in it for them. The usual fear of change emerges and it becomes very difficult to get anything accomplished. The lessons learned here are that Six Sigma is a strategic initiative, requiring executive support. Your experiment in bottom up Six Sigma supports the accepted teachings of how to do Six Sigma top down. That’s a positive spin that you can put on this project experience.Your senior management may want to read Strategic Six Sigma, by Smith and Blakeslee, who are ex PWC Consultants. It talks to the point of top down Six Sigma and why do it that way. You can do some improvement work yourself, using the classic basic quality tools, but you will most likely need to keep the scope of your efforts highly localized. If you want to show improvement in your own area and don’t need anyone else to contribute, you may be able to show modest success to turn attitudes around, but that is not the recommended approach. Also, consider doing Lean-style improvements using 5S and eliminating some of the seven forms of waste. Lean project are typically simpler, shorter than Six Sigma projects and are typically used at the lower Sigma process levels to get fast results.Good luck to you and your company.

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    #175640

    Mike Carnell
    Participant

    anon,
    Assuming your description is accurate Six Sigma did not fail but your ability to create a functioning team did failed (remember the forming, storming, norming, performing). It seems pretty short sighted on the part of your Leadership Team to stop the use of Six Sigma for a single failure (you may want to take this as an indicator they don’t have a firm grip on what data tells them). First they have one data point and that data point doesn’t tell them anything about SS. Second when you do this “we only want to stick our toe in the water” type deployment the rest of the organization sees this signal from Leadership “WE DON’T THINK THIS IS GOING TO WORK.” When they send that message you get that distancing behavior that says they don’t want to be close when it blows up.
    You and the other part of the team could run a project on your own but your probability of success is low without some level of management support. You might want to find a Process Owner level person that will support you and give that a shot. Where you will run into a problem is if someone on the Leadership Team takes a public position that “SS doesn’t work here” (generally followed by – because we are different) or if they say “we aren’t doing it” that is a difficult thing to turn around. Try to remember the last time you saw one of them come out with a statement that said they made a poor decision so they were changing their mind.
    You don’t normally see a project “fail” because no matter what happens you learn something about the process. It isn’t all that uncommon to see them come out differently than expected. Normally there isn’t such a knee jerk reaction associated with it. Even with the best of efforts and great belts attaching them to a disfunctional team can kill the project.
    Just my opinion.
    Good Luck

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