Ensure Your Lean Six Sigma Project is Successful by Scoping It Properly

Posted by on May 27, 2019 in Lean Six Sigma, Project Scoping | 0 comments

Slide1Many Lean Six Sigma projects fail and flounder due to not scoping the project properly.  Sometimes teams try to take on too much and the project drags on forever.  Other times, scope creep enters and additional opportunities are explored causing delay and frustration.  The ultimate goal is for Lean Six Sigma teams to be successful and that means getting the project scope right!  Here is a list of the most common reasons why projects are not scoped correctly.

  1. Project boundaries not well defined
  2. Allowing scope creep to enter
  3. Unclear problem statement and objectives
  4. Failure to observe contrasts

Let’s discuss each of these areas in more detail.

Project boundaries not well defined

The boundaries of the project refer specifically to what the team is expected to work on and what is it is not to work on and avoid.  The boundaries begin by determining what triggers the process — what causes it to initiate.  Is it a phone call, an email, a customer coming in the door, a request to purchase material or hire a new employee, etc.?  The scope will include all the activities in the process until it ends or is complete.

Let’s take an example of hiring a new employee.  The process may begin by a manager identifying the need and submitting a request to hire a new employee.  The hiring process would include all the steps from the point of receipt of the manager’s request to the day the new employee arrives for their first day of work.  Since this is a very large process, it’s important that the improvement project focus on a certain aspect of the hiring process such as:

  • Advertising for job
  • Application process
  • Application review
  • Interview process
  • Candidate selection process
  • Job offer process
  • On-boarding new employees

Each of these subprocesses has their own starting and ending boundaries and is worthy of an improvement project on their own.  Don’t fall into the trap of trying to fix the entire hiring process in one project because it will take you forever.  Instead, improve one subprocess at a time and make each subprocess their own project.

Allowing Scope Creep to Enter

Scope creep usually occurs when the team identifies other opportunities when improving the process.  Let’s use our hiring process where we’re focusing on the interview process and we identify issues in the application process.  Rather than try to fix the application process, it is best we identify and document the opportunity and either have another project team tackle it or save it for our next project.  This will keep us focused on what we’re trying to improve and ensure our project stays on track for completion.

Unclear Problem Statement and Objectives

Problem statements and objectives must be clear and specific!  Having a clear problem statement and objectives helps the project team focus, sets the expectation and makes the scope of the project clear.  I try to use the “SMART” criteria, i.e., Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time Bound.  Let’s use reducing scrap as an example:

  • Specific:  Reduction of scrap in extrusion process, currently at 5%, to 2.5% by end of the 4th quarter.
  • Measurable:
    • Overall scrap currently at 5%
    • Pareto of the 5 machines in extrusion shows 2 machines with scrap over 8%
  • Attainable:
    • Focus on one of the 2 worst machines
    • Develop best practices to reduce scrap
    • Develop standard work and read across to all machines
    • Develop error-proofing to minimize scrap and read across to all machines
  • Relevant:  Improving the efficiency and reducing scrap in the extrusion process is key to the organization’s strategic direction for the business
  • Time Bound:  Must reduce scrap by the end of 4th quarter

Failure to Observe Contrasts

Here is an example where a project team was given the task of reducing account receivables.  The organization had a huge account receivables problem spread over thirteen major customers.  The team decided to look at all thirteen customers instead of choosing the worst customer.  This resulted in delays, confusion, and frustration.  Focusing on the worst customer would have allowed the team to determine what was not working and then find solutions to reduce the problem.  These solutions could then be leveraged and read-across to the other customers.

Projects that are properly scoped will allow your team to focus and complete the project in a timely manner.

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