After going through the classes and other educational experiences to get six sigma certified (at any belt level) most people want to jump right in and start working on a six sigma project (or two). Companies, of course, are also very interested in implementing these types of projects, after all, that is why the company invested in the six sigma classes and education for their employees in the first place.
Rather than jumping right in, however, it is important to take a brief step back and look at some of the most important requirements for a six sigma project. Using these 8 concepts properly will help ensure you are able to successfully implement the principles used in six sigma. Many of these requirements are covered in the six sigma classes themselves, but now that it is time to put it into real world practice, it is good to take another look.
1. Focus on the Customer
The first thing to do when listing different project ideas is to remind everyone that these projects need to be customer focused. It is often tempting for people to try to find a high profile project that they believe the management teams will love. While this can be good, it is better to find a project that will benefit the customers in the most dramatic way. Even if it doesn’t seem as public or high profile as another option, in the long run it will be more beneficial to both the company and the individual’s six sigma experience to choose to focus on the customer.
Knowing how to focus on the customer isn’t always as easy as people might expect. It isn’t always a direct impact to customers that needs attention. Looking at projects that may help speed production along will benefit customers in the amount of time they have to wait for order. Eliminating almost any kind of waste will reduce costs, which can benefit customers through lower prices. Finding out where the customer’s needs are, and working to address them, is a great way to choose a project.
2. Seek the Involvement of Senior Management
One of the key requirements of any six sigma success is to get one or more members of senior management to become engaged with the project. This doesn’t simply mean that they have to sign off on it, or give their approval. They need to actually be directly involved with the project at nearly every stage. This could be in the form of providing advice or input, arranging meetings with other department heads, or just about anything else.
While senior management members are busy, they should always be willing to take some time to focus on the active six sigma projects in their company. Companies that truly care about the success of these projects will take the time to have senior management involved.
3. Follow the Six Sigma Mentoring Guidelines
The six sigma program has ongoing training and mentorships built right in. The entry level green belt individuals, for example, should always be teamed up with more experienced black belt six sigma members. The more experienced members should be spending the majority of their time mentoring newer individuals. Someone with years of six sigma experience should be able to mentor multiple projects at a time, allowing green or black belt individuals to take the majority of the responsibility, and only providing guidance along the way.
4. Take the Time for Analysis
Analyzing the problem that a specific project is going to address is essential for six sigma success. It is often easy to identify problems by their symptoms, but it can be more difficult to get to the root cause of the issue. Taking the time to really dig down into an issue before making any decisions regarding how the project will proceed will help ensure a projects success.
5. Become Experts with the Value Streams Affected by the Project
Once you’ve chosen the project you want to work on, you need to take the time to become experts with the value streams affected by the project. This will often mean bringing in people to your six sigma project who can be the subject matter experts on that particular area. If you don’t understand how the project will affect other areas, you shouldn’t be moving forward.
6. Hold the Team Accountable
All six sigma projects should be brought up in performance evaluations. If you are heading up a six sigma project, speak with your manager about making that project a significant portion of your annual review. If you are a manager, and your team is performing these types of projects, make sure everyone knows that the way the project goes will account for a large part of their appraisal.
7. Select Your Team Based on Facts not Favorites
When working on big projects, most people are tempted to choose the people for their team based on who they get along with the best. While it can be important to have a good working relationship with the team, it is far more important to ensure you have the most effective team possible. Picking people based on the knowledge or types of skills they bring to the table is going to lead to the project’s success much more often than choosing a team based on who you prefer working with.
8. Celebrate Successes
Any company that wants to promote six sigma projects, and get more people on board, will need to celebrate the successes of all projects. When a project has ended, consider holding some sort of event. This can be an event to announce the results of the project to the rest of the company, or just something for the six sigma team. However the success is celebrated, make sure everyone involved gets credit for their part in the project.