Six Sigma Project Guidelines in Plain English

Define the project

In this phase you will select a good project and describe it in detail. A good project is one that will have an impact on something important to the organization, requires the Six Sigma skill set, and has a good chance of succeeding. To determine this you need to link your project to the goals of your leadership; make sure the project isn’t too large to be manageable or too small to be meaningful; is authorized by an appropriate sponsor; and is well planned. You will form a team to work with you. (From this point on whenever the word “you” is used, it refers to your team.) To describe your project you will draw a picture of the process your project will address, identify the customers for your project and determine what they want from the project, and qualitatively determine what will drive the project’s results.
Validate the measurement system and get the baseline

In this phase you will make sure that you can measure the process and the project outcomes. You will operationally define the drivers by identifying how to measure them and you will gather data to determine the process baseline. The baseline is how the key project outcome metrics and drivers have performed in the past and are performing now. You will link the driver data to the outcomes to help you determine which drivers are likely to be the most important (this is called stratifying the data.) You will look at how well other organizations do on your project outcome measures and you will use this information to set goals for the outcomes.

Identify key levers (Xs) that drive outcomes

You will sharpen your focus by drawing a detailed picture of the process. Using the map and the information from the previous phase you will think about what causes the outcomes and the drivers to vary. You will convert your ideas into hypotheses that can be tested scientifically. You will collect data and analyze the data to test your hypotheses and to create mathematical models of cause and effect. You will use the models to determine which drivers need to change to achieve your goals for the outcomes. You will analyze the cost of changing the drivers.

Determine improvement strategy

Using the cost analysis and performance the models you will set goals for the drivers. You will come up with creative ways to achieve these goals and create plans for implementing these changes. You will look at how the plans could fail and take action to reduce the risk of failure. You will try your plan on a small scale to test your plan. For the risks that can’t be eliminated, you will develop contingency plans.

Make permanent improvements

You will create standard operating procedures for the new process and you will work with the process owner to implement the changes. You will create a set of measurements that the new owner will use to monitor the new process. You will hand the process over to the owner. Periodically you will check back with the owner to provide assistance and to confirm that the project’s goals continue to be met.

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Author: Thomas Pyzdek

Consultant, author, owner of The Pyzdek Institute