Saturday, October 20, 2018

Lean, Six Sigma and Project Management Together as one (Marriage made in heaven)

Lean is a way of reviewing processes to eliminate non-value adding activities.  Six Sigma reduces the variability in the process to provide a better quality outcome.  First you take out the non-value adding tasks.  You’re left with the things you have to do, but probably still an inefficient process.  Then you use Six Sigma to improve the efficiency.  The end process is now faster, cheaper, better quality and with reduced risk.  Every time you do something, there’s an opportunity to make it wrong;  If you do less, there’s less opportunity to make it wrong.
Process improvement on projects have certain pitfalls – and they are pretty much the same as other types of project.  You’ll come unstuck if you:
  • Don’t have a committed team or sponsor
  • Have a target of arbitrary headcount reduction.
  • Have poor input from the wrong people.
  • Spend too much time doing analysis and not enough time delivering change.
  • Send out mixed messages and have a poor communications plan.
  • Expect there to be a silver bullet which will solve all your problems.
  • Don’t plan.



While there are a number of boxes focused on the delivery of each methodology, the process that selected which group got which project consisted of three primary decision questions.
  1. “Does Project pass the risk assessment?” – All organizations, no matter their projects delivery structure, should have an established approach for the review of the risk associated for each proposed project. The review here is not to be confused with Business Risk Management, where the risks to the organization at large are identified, assessed and managed, but rather, should focus on the risks for the project itself. Issues like the level of project sponsor engagement, has the process owner been named, the complexity of the project scope and projects ability to meet the schedule and budget are issues that should be highlighted in this activity. If there are too many concerns, then it is prudent to send the project back to the requesting party for some additional preparation before it is acted upon by the organization.
  2. “Is the solution already known” – While this may seem like a simple question, it is often the hardest question for the business to handle. The reason for the difficulty is the subjectivity of the requested response. It is often the case, especially in an organization where Lean Six Sigma is in its infancy, where business leaders feel they know the right solution, but have done little if any analysis around the core problem. Many times this means the proposed solution will not address the true root causes, thus limiting or eliminating the potential for success. As an organization matures in the understanding and use of Lean Six Sigma, these types of discussions become less frequent, as leadership begin to recognize the value of executing a Lean Six Sigma style projects. However, the temptation to race to a solution will always be present, even in the most well developed LSS Programs. After all it is generally human nature to value action over analysis, but as the legendary UCLA coach John Wooden said “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”
  3. “Does project require multiple business groups or IS/IT resources?” - For those projects that are assigned to the left side of the chart, there is a further question to answer. It seeks to identify the complexity of the project, by understanding how many business groups will be involved in the effort or if there are IT/IS development requirements. This question reduces the PMO’s project queue by giving business units the chance to execute projects internally and not be constrained by often limited PMO resources. It is advisable to keep track of the department specific efforts for enterprise visibility purposes and to assist in holding baseline standards for business based project management processes. This approach will lower project cycle times for the smaller and medium sizes efforts in the business. The project filter can also include a project benefit/cost parameter to determine the needs for PMO involvement.
There will undoubtedly be unique decision criteria within every business as they begin to decide how the ‘Project’ (Lean Six Sigma and PMO) world pieces together. The challenge of finding the right fit for each project opportunity will always be there, but can be greatly aided with the use of a decision process flow as discussed above. A final piece of advice on this issues, the simpler the better. The less you can ask the business to decipher the Lean Six Sigma vs. PMO riddle, the more they can focus on finding the best opportunities to assign their resources to.

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