The Best Way to Ensure Your Lean Six Sigma Project Succeeds

Minitab Blog Editor 09 September, 2011

Companies invest a great deal of time, effort, and money in Lean Six Sigma programs. So if you're doing a project, the expectations are probably high: companies that have made this investment expect good projects to challenge expectations, make processes better, and improve profitability.

When you hear about projects that save companies like Motorola and General Electric millions of dollars, you might think Six Sigma is a guarantee of success. However, experienced Six Sigma team members tell a different story.

Companies invest a great deal into Six Sigma programs, and expectations for projects are high.So, how can you make sure your Lean Six Sigma project is a success? 

At Minitab, we wanted to see what factors contributed to making projects succeed or fail. So we surveyed nearly 200 Six Sigma practitioners at all skill levels from major companies across the U.S. They pointed to one factor as being the most important to success:

Choosing the Right Lean Six Sigma Project

The professionals told us, based on their first-hand experiences, that selecting the right project is the most critical key to success.

But what makes a potential project the right project?  We asked the professionals to tell us what makes a good project, and charted their responses in the graph below:

What Factors Make a Good Lean Six Sigma Project?

As you can see, they ranked a Six Sigma project's connection to the organization's bottom line as the most important factor in project selection. So analyzing financial information is an important step to take -- being able to communicate the potential impact on profits will reinforce your project's benefits.

Our respondents ranked a manageable scope as the second most important characteristic of a good project. A desire to achieve the kind of incredible gains that have garnered a lot publicity in the past can result in projects that are simply too large in scope to be manageable.

Many of the Master Black Belts we surveyed warned about projects with a scope equivalent to “boiling the ocean.” A good project needs to be large enough to make a significant impact, but still small enough to be manageable.

The third most important component in good project selection is choosing a project most likely to benefit from the DMAIC approach. In other words, a good project involves a measurable defect, or a process for which changes can be measured accurately.

A project may be important and beneficial, but may not meet the criteria to be a good Six Sigma project. And you may have dozens—even hundreds—of potential projects to choose from. A good way to narrow your options is to complete a Project Risk Assessment and Project Prioritization Matrix.

A Project Risk Assessment will help you determine whether a potential project can be brought to successful completion on time. Once you’ve established the level of risk, a Project Prioritization Matrix helps prioritize a project pipeline according to the criteria that are important to your organization. Both of these tools, and many others, are included in Companion by Minitab process improvement software, although you could also just use pencil and paper if you like. 

However you go about it, the quality practitioners we surveyed suggest that to succeed, you want to choose a manageable and measurable project which will return the greatest value to the company.

How do you select projects in your organization?