Project Requirements

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    What are the requirements necessary for a project to be considered a Six Sigma project?  Is there a distinction between a S.S. project and a continuous improvement effort?  It seems that there can be an attempt on the part of certain people in organizations to attempt to push a project through a Six Sigma rollout that is actually their “pet project”.   This seems to be done because they see the opportunity to get resources and attention allocated to their pet project under the umberella of S.S.  Unfortunately, it may cause the project to fail because it doesn’t meet the criteria of a S.S. project.  Has anyone else found this to be the case?



    My company had this problem when they first rolled out Six Sigma “pet” projects.  At that time, we did not have a project selection process, everything was based on ‘gut’ feeling.  The senior management came up with some ‘problem’ areas.  There wasn’t any data to measure.  We did not know how much did the problem cost the company.  Also, participants (you may call them Green Belts) did not have the domain knowledge of the project. 



    We had to make a clear distinction and give a lot of pushback to what we now call implementation projects as opposed to Six Sigma projects.  Many of these I would define as ‘pet projects’ as well.  We had to make it clear that adding machine X to the line was not a Six Sigma project.  Doing a capacity analysis and determining if we were over/under our demand and making recommendations would be a SS project. 


    Ken Fredryk

    One method of selecting projects is to use distinct, pre-determined criteria to rate and rank projects based on what they will return to the organization, customer, strategic plan etc. Examples of appropriate criteria might include cost savings (usually $200K for a BB, $50K for a GB), increased productivity, customer satisfaction, reduced scrap, inventory reduction, defect reduction, probability of success (of the project), fit with the strategic plan initiative and so forth.These criteria scores are then ranked as in a C&E matrix and each project will have a resultant overall score that can be ranked and the highest scoring project is selected as resources become available. This takes the subjectivity out of the selection process.
    Project opportunities are also often discovered while doing value stream mapping where an issue must be resolved prior to truely leaning the process effectively. (If you have a lot of scrap or rework it’s tough to make the process lean.) 


    Six Sigma Saviour

    An interesting and important question you have.  Our Six Sigma team recently had a meeting to put in place a firm understanding of what a Six Sigma project entailed and some criteria to filter ideas through.  I think this is important, especially in firms (like ours) that has multiple improvement groups.  Here, we have manufacturing engineers charged with continuous improvement efforts, purchasing agents that have cost reduction goals and quality circles about to be implemented. Because of this, jurisdiction had to be set up – kind of like local cops and the FBI.  Off hand, our criteria for something being a Six Sigma project was:
    (1) Enhances at least one criteria on the company balanced scorecard
    (2) It is a solution-unknown problem. (not just a matter of fixing a machine or having a project leader to implement an idea)
    (3) It must have clearly definable metrics to monitor progress
    (4) It must have a financial impact of greater than $xx
    (5) Project must be completable within 3-6 months
    Im sure every company will come up with something a little different.
    And yes, we had a similar experience with “pet” projects.  When Six Sigma was started here, the MBB had a meeting with all department heads and come up with a wish-list of projects. We recently whittled these several hundred ideas down to just 14 projects based on the above criteria – most of the ideas were good thoughts, just not projects! They were mostly things departments wanted done (solution known) and needed a project manager to push them through to implementation.
    Hope this helps in some way!
    P.S. To me, CI and SS and considerably different beasts. If anyone wants to hear another rant on this, I will be happy to continue :)


    Brian Tilley

    Randman,My training taught me how to select and screen projects using numerical methods.  Using what I was taught, I developed a spreadsheet that test eight pass/fail criteria for the project.  The screener simply needs to answer Y or N.Once a project is “pre-screened” is is reviewed further and given a rating.  The rating is based on a number of “characteristics” that make up a successful project.  A steering team decides the weight of these characterisitcs and then a selection team reviews each prokject according to the rating criteria.  When done, each project is given a score that can be compared to other scores.  Helps to prioritize them.  Maybe even set a hurdle rate for projects.Thoughts On Project Selection Word Document Download



    My company uses MBF to determine project needs.  You first identify gaps in your Hoshin plan, and perform some light analysis on what those gaps consist of.  If after your 2nd level pareto, you still don’t know how to solve the problem (root cause), a decision is made on how to approach it (Six Sigma Project, Kaizen, etc.) depending on the scale of the problem driver.  This is a win-win situation as those ‘pet’ projects have an opportunity to become countermeasures and you’re not put in a position where you have to force it into DMAIC.
    That’s not to say that some DMAIC tools can’t be useful in executing projects where the solution is known.  VOC, Process Maps/SIPOC, C&E Matrix, FMEA, and SPC seem to be applicable no matter what the initiative.


    Jim Giguere

    I designed an elegant system for a semiconductor start-up fab. It incorporated the QS9000 required risk analysis part of the FMEA system (RPN) for a quantitative cost/benefit analysis and used that to evaluate corrective, preventive, and continuous improvement opportunities on a more level playing field.  I chose the FMEA system because we were implementing QS9000 and I did not want to re-invent, train, or support multiple risk analysis methods (however, the more I worked with FMEAs the more I liked them).
    In conjunction, the “Scrap” team became the “Corrective And Preventive Action” team (CAPA). This was a staff level team that could now quantitatively manage their resources, between competing projects. The RPN was used to rank opportunities, where low numbers could be managed on the floor and medium numbers by section managers. Large RPN’s were managed by the CAPA team, assuring the appropriate project leaders and Six Sigma resources were available.
    Finally, the FMEA’s methodology includes targets and follow-up evaluation for effectiveness, allowing for continuous improvement of the entire system. And FMEA’s are a fairly good place to store these decisions in a format that really helps during trouble-shooting and change management.
    I can’t tell you how it worked out because the factory was shutdown soon after implementation. It did go over well with management and the staff was excited to use it. I have some foils if there is any interest.


    Brian Tilley

    To all who have asked for a copy of my project selection spreadsheet:I have decided not to send it out in electronic form.  As an alternative, I have written a three page document which explains the thinking behind it and shows some clips of various sections.Believe me when I say the effort I put into the document will provide you with more benefit than just the spreadsheet itself.Thoughts On Project Selection Word Document DownloadI hope my “paper” can be discussed as I am interested in how others are managing project selection.Brian


    Mike Carnell

    I have my method for managing the project pipeline being published in Six Sigma Forum magazine for June. I would be interested in seeing your system as well.
    We use the Control/Technology matrix to classify projects as well. Most people treat projects as if they were all the same, which they are not. If you don’t stratify the projects it artificially inflates the variation around the time it takes to complete projects and makes it appear out of control. It is a process just like most other things.
    Rob Tripp will have an article posted on an IQPC website in a couple weeks that is similar. He uses the way projects impact to classify things (balance sheet, income statement, etc.). It seems to work well also.
    Good luck.


    Mike Smith

    We are a Professional Services Company. We use the following to help process owners develop a problem statement.
    Problem Statements need the following to be most understandable to those the problem is being described to AND for whomever will be working on the project.

    A problem statement should clearly and specifically state what is wrong—the effect of the unknown cause.
    Measures of the problem/effect should be available to estimate problem magnitude and to serve as a basis for evaluating improvements. (If there are no measures, they will have to be developed.)
    The problem statement includes a comparison of the actual state with the desired state, if possible.
    The “pain” of the problem’s effects on the customer is included.
    We also will need to articulate a business case for when the Project Selection Team evaluates projects to shortlist the ones with the highest priority and largest impact for approval by the Business Operating team.
    For the Business case we need to know:

    Why is the project worth doing? Will it grow revenue, help retain business, provide cost savings, or improve productivity? And
    Why is it important to do it now?
    What are the consequences of not doing the project?
    How much will the Company benefit from the project? What are the important indirect or direct bottom line impacts expected?

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