Guidelines & Tips for Successful Lean Six Sigma Projects

Posted by on Oct 7, 2012 in Lean Six Sigma | 0 comments

The following are guidelines and tips that I have found over the years to aid in the deployment of a Lean Six Sigma initiative.  Lean Six Sigma is a management strategy and like any strategy needs to have the necessary resources and commitment allocated to make it successful.

Top Management
·      Develop and implement a steering committee to oversee the progress of your lean six sigma initiative.  This group should meet monthly to identify opportunities and weaknesses and make any corrections.
·      Select a deployment champion to lead the charge and be responsible for the initiative.  This person reports the monthly metrics, i.e., number of projects in progress, monthly savings, number of people certified, etc.  They can work with department managers to determine the number of MBB’s, BB’s, and GB’s needed to support the various areas.
·      Attend a 2 – 3 day overview of Lean Six Sigma to learn what it is all about and understand your role in the process.  Better yet, go through the GB and BB training to understand the tools and get certified.  This will convey to everyone that you’re serious about this initiative.
·      Make sure your middle managers understand the Lean Six Sigma process.  Have them take a 2 – 3 day overview so that they understand their responsibilities, know how to select projects and how to conduct a tollgate review.
·      Lean Six Sigma is a management strategy and must be managed to be successful.  This means following the process and giving the participants the time to work their projects, conduct tollgate reviews, etc.
·      Celebrate successful projects and recognize the team members.  Communicate these successes to the rest of the organization through your newsletters, bulletin boards, e-mails, etc.  Have a quarterly or semi-annual meeting to high-light outstanding projects.
·      Steer your organization toward having “process owners,” especially where processes involve different functional areas.  These are typically processes that are prone to waste and inefficiencies, i.e., process inputs and outputs not clearly defined and unclear handoffs between the various functions involved.  I often use the analogy that this needs to be as seemless as passing a baton in a 4 X 100 relay race where it is automatic and doesn’t require any thought.
·      Tie part of your executive’s compensation to their Lean Six Sigma project savings.
·      Give the MBB’s and BB’s the tools to be successful, i.e., laptops, Minitab software, etc.
Steering Committee
·      This committee should be comprised of top level personnel that come from the different functional areas.  They need to understand the Lean Six Sigma process and be able to guide the organization in its implementation.
·      Determine the level or organizational involvement.  How many BB’s in each area?  Number of MBB’s?  Full-time vs Part-time?  Etc.
·      Determine certification requirements.  How many projects before someone is a BB or MBB?
·      What training curriculum best suits your organization?  Initial focus should be more on the process and not the tools.  Make sure the participants have a firm understanding of the basics and the thought process.  Additional tools that are more sophisticated can be added latter.
·      Don’t overemphasize statistics.  You want to develop good problem solvers and project leaders that can improve processes and make them more efficient, not statistical analysts.
·      Keep your initial BB projects small in scope.  You want to make sure the candidates have a good understanding of the process and have a high likely- hood of success.
·      Meet monthly to discuss what’s going well and what needs improvement.  Review the metrics you’ve established.  Determine what metrics you’ll communicate to the organization.
·      Focus initially on developing the expertise to sustain the initiative.  Select your best and brightest to become BB’s and MBB’s.
·      Develop guidelines for how long a person will remain a BB or MBB.  Since these people are typically your “best and brightest,” look for opportunities to promote them to the next level.
·      Develop a project selection process so that projects support your organization’s goals and objectives.  Don’t let BB’s, MBB’s, and GB’s select their own projects.
Deployment Champion
·      This is a necessary and vital role, especially in medium to large organizations!  Organizations that elect not to fill this position lack consistency and cause functional areas to go off and create their own thing.
·      This person should learn as much as they can about how successful companies have deployed Lean Six Sigma, i.e., what works vs what doesn’t work.
·      The role of the deployment champion is to coordinate the Lean Six Sigma deployment.  This person has the responsibilities to:
o   Lead and guide the steering committee.
o   Along with the steering committee, establish the yearly goals and objectives.
o   Gather and communicate the monthly metrics.
o   Establish and lead an organizational network of MBB’s and BB’s to gather project information and monthly metrics from functional areas.
Establish and communicate the certification requirements.
o   Establish and maintain the training curriculum.
o   Establish, maintain, and communicate the training schedule for GB’s, BB’s, and MBB’s.
o   Establish the requirements for GB and BB projects, i.e., scope, team size, length of project, etc.
o   Establish and maintain project templates, training aids, report formats, etc. used throughout the organizations
o   Develop and maintain a repository for projects after they are completed.
o   Work with functional area champions and sponsors to identify project opportunities.
Project Sponsors & Champions
·      Sponsors and champions must constantly be on the lookout for good project opportunities.  What area or process has problems or needs improved?
·      Select project BB’s and team leaders that can get things done and aren’t afraid to make things happen.
·      Stay involved with your improvement team.  Make sure you understand where they are in the process.  Demand weekly updates by the team leader.  Attend team meetings.
·      Demand tollgate reviews at the end of each DMAIC phase.  Make sure you know what questions to ask the team or team leader.
·      Be on the look out for good BB or MBB candidates.  Is there someone in your organization that can benefit from these skills?  Is there someone that you would like to promote if they had these skills?
·      Periodically, ask the team leader if there are having any issues that you can help them with.  Are they having difficulty with a particular team member?  Is everyone participating and showing up for team meetings?  Is there another functional area that is not cooperating?
·      Make sure you work with the process owner to ensure a smooth handoff at the conclusion of an improvement project.
·      Promote the use of Lean Six Sigma within your functional area.  Share best practices with your BB’s and MBB’s.  What is working well?  What do you need to improve?
Selecting Projects
·      Balance your project selection based on solid criteria.  Look at the feasibility and impact to the organization.  Good project selection can be a key to early success.
·      Try to balance efficiency/cost cutting with externally-focused, customer value projects.  Putting all your energies into short-term savings reduces your chance of boosting customer satisfaction and loyalty.
·      Don’t choose too many projects.  Improvement needs nurturing by leaders, especially at the beginning.  It is tempting to overextend your resources and capabilities.
·      Don’t create “world hunger” projects.  Better to get a too small project done quickly than to have a too big project drag on for months.
·      Make sure to prepare for an effective handoff to the improvement team.  You can give them a good start by clearly defining the issues and objectives.

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