The Characteristics of Good Lean and Six Sigma Fit Projects

A Project Approach

Let’s first make a comment about projects because I’ve heard it said recently that a ‘project approach’ to business improvement is not the right way to go.

Firstly, any unique piece of work with a specified start and end point is a project as defined in the project management body of knowledge.

Secondly, process improvement works when incremental improvements [that add value] are made and then locked in. And that process is continually repeated.

So project work has always formed the backbone of any effective business improvement strategy.

Not All Projects Fit Lean and Six Sigma Approaches

Not all business improvement ideas [without known solutions] will be classified as Lean Six Sigma projects.

For example, a persistent problem might be resolved through simple brainstorming with a group of people.

However, the work will benefit from the use of some Lean and Six Sigma tools in identifying and choosing solutions.

For example, reducing the number of late creditor payments may be solved by using many of the facilitation and solution identification tools from the suite of Lean Six Sigma tools. However, if the team identified ‘compliance by suppliers with terms of payment’ as the main issue, the project is obviously not a perfect fit for the Lean or Six Sigma methodologies.

Opportunities such as ‘improve employee morale’ or ‘improve staff awareness of company performance’ or ‘increase the quality of induction training for new employees’ are also poor fits with Lean Six Sigma in its pure form.

However, work on those problems will benefit from the use of Lean Six Sigma tools and processes in finding solutions.

Characteristics Of Good Lean Six Sigma Fit Projects

We’ll group these characteristics as either must have, or should have characteristics.

Must haves are those characteristics for which you assess whether or not the project has them – a yes or no answer.

On the other hand, should haves are those characteristics that are desirable, and the more the characteristic is satisfied, the better.

These are the Must Haves

– The performance gap is connected to a process that actually exists (lean and six sigma were designed to fix existing processes)

– The process is repetitive (i.e. it’s been suggested that you need at least one full cycle per week in order that you can actually obtain sufficient data to analyse)

– The measure you are working to improve is a process performance metric generated directly from process data (e.g. cycle time, defect rates, inventory levels, down time, throughput or production etc), not an emotionally driven metric with a strong connection to opinions (e.g. satisfaction, retention and the like)

– Successful improvement would return a quantifiable benefit against relevant business performance measures (e.g. revenue, cost, capital, risk, inventory, safety, yield, throughput etc)

– The process will continue to be used for some period of time after improvement takes place (there is no point working on a process that is probably going to be replaced, a problem that arises in technology focused industries)

– A team of employees who work in the process can be formed to solve the problem

Final Comment

If you consistently apply these characteristics as criteria for project selection, the projects you select may well set you up to generate real quantifiable value for your company and yourself.

Source of Information

This article is drawn from Australia’s best selling PROCESS MASTERY WITH LEAN SIX SIGMA 2ND EDITION.

For more information Click Here where you’ll discover why this is one of the most important text books in the business improvement world today.

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