What makes a bad Lean Six Sigma project?

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A freshly-trained Green Belt will be keen to get started on their first project so they can practise (and maybe even show off) their new skills. Their manager will be keen to see them apply their knowledge, so they can get a return on the investment they just paid for. It’s at this stage that it can all go horribly wrong, for if the Belt is assigned (or allowed to choose) a poor project, they can fail to deliver the results that were expected. Their confidence will be dented, their credibility – and that of Lean Six Sigma within the company – will be undermined, and their organisation will not get the payback they expected on the training.

It would be much better if they and their sponsor could recognise a bad project before they fell into this trap. So how could they recognise the albatross project before it is hung round their neck as a warning to future Green Belts?

People don’t care about unimportant projects. Good projects will be aligned to the organisation’s strategy and goals, and will have clear, significant and measurable benefits. If your project has this, colleagues will be delighted when offered the opportunity to be a part of the project team; they will believe in the project and want to share in the success. If they react like there’s nothing they’d like to do less then there may be something wrong with your project.

A good project could be a bad LSS project.

One of the Lean wastes is doing more than is required by the customer. Lean Six Sigma is a structured method of process improvement which investigates a defined problem to find the unknown root cause(s) and then apply an as-yet-unidentified solution to that root cause. So if you already know what the solution is, get on with it; don’t overcomplicate the project by forcing it to fit a DMAIC model.

Lean Six Sigma uses data to drive decision-making. The Belt measures the process output before and after the project to prove they have made a tangible impact, and they gather data to establish the real root causes instead of relying on gut feel, emotion, opinion, or the answer the boss thought of. If the project goal is to improve employee morale but no-one has a clue how to measure it (or everyone does, but they all have a different definition), how will the team know when the goal has been met? If the project aims to reduce defects in a purchased raw material but doesn’t involve the supplier, how will the team collect data to identify root causes?

Projects fail when they try to tackle too much. That can be a scope that’s too big (a single Green Belt trying to reduce downtime across 10 European sites), or a goal that’s too ambitious given the current process performance . Or it can be because the project is at a strategic level, too high to be a single Lean Six Sigma project, and it needs to be broken down into several manageable projects. For instance, improve company profitability is a good corporate objective, but is effected by very many levers and business processes – any one of which could be an LSS project. Faced with these situations, team will not know where to begin, spend more time writing status reports than working on solutions, go round in circles, lose heart and, if there is any progress, it will be snail-like.

So if you want to dodge the bad-project bullet, here are some things you should look out for:

  • A project which is aligned to the strategy and goals of your business
  • Which has clear, significant and measurable benefits
  • Which doesn’t already know the root cause or solution to be implemented
  • Has measurable goals
  • Can generate data to support decision making
  • Has a manageable scope
  • Has realistic goals
  • Addresses a single problem

If you make sure your projects meet these criteria, your project will be much more likely to succeed. And if someone tries to give you a project that doesn’t, send them a link to this blog!

To get advise about the viability of your project, or to discuss your own ideas for Business Improvement get in touch with us now on 0800 066 3749 or email contact@100pceffective.com

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By | 2017-02-22T16:39:37+00:00 August 13th, 2015|Lean Six Sigma, Projects|0 Comments

About the Author:

Jules has been a Master Black Belt for over 15 years, specialising in chemicals and plastics. He uses his background to show how Lean Six Sigma can be used to achieve fantastic results for businesses in all industries.

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