Project Design and Management

The Role of Projects in Lean Six Sigma Value Transfer

One of the things that separates successful process improvement people from ineffective ones, is their ability to sponsor and manage projects. Although there is no substitute for knowledge of the Lean and Six Sigma principles, methods and tools acquired in training, stranded knowledge is of little value to the enterprise.We have helped hundreds of organizations-small, medium and large-convert knowledge to value through projects.

So the value of Lean and Six Sigma is derived primarily through projects. Yet organizations often struggle with the project question. We address the project question in a larger context. First, we’ll concede that determining the right projects at different points in an organization’s adoption path is not easy, no more so than at the very beginning of the journey. Indeed, the Lean Six Sigma journey often starts with a conviction, which in turn generates a question, then alternative training/project pathways.

What do we mean by “Conviction”? After doing her research, which may take the form of reading and conferring with colleagues in peer organizations, an executive may come to the conclusion that either Lean, Six Sigma or both, need to be adopted in her organization at some level, and that to delay doing so will incur opportunity costs. So that’s the conviction. It invariably leads to a question; three actually:

  1. at what proficiency level should we start (White, Yellow, Green, Black Belt),
  2. whom should we train?
  3. which processes should we apply to and in which departments, units or divisions?

We’ll address each question in turn.

Which Proficiency Level?

Although we train thousands of people at the Yellow and White belt levels, and they act as invaluable project team resources and front-line champions, the Green Belt should be viewed as the entry Lean Six Sigma training and certification level for initial adopter organization.

An EZSigma Group certified Green Belt is the first practitioner level designation. That means that our graduates are capable of rating, ranking, defining, chartering, resourcing, leading and closing out projects of moderate complexity. That’s a big job, but when we say they can do it, our brand depends on it.

At least some of their training has been in the classroom; yours, if it’s an on-site engagement, or ours, if students have registered in one of our Open Enrolment programs. The training is challenging, but engaging. Before candidates are certified, they have written a challenging exam. They have also successfully completed a project that has produced verifiable results. In other words, they are project-ready; ready to take on other projects for you and your organization.

Whom should we Train?

We will address this question with an actual case study. Before their initial consultations with us, the senior leaders of a prominentcity had reached the conviction that both Lean and Six Sigma were the methodologies that they should be adopting and that the Green Belt was their desired proficiency level.They further felt that the heads of ten departments should nominate one or two candidates for training and downstream certification.  They then asked us for guidance to select the candidates for a first class of 20 trainees.

In response, we developed a screening profile, which helpedthem to arrive at the final list of 20, while engaging the nominated individuals themselves in the early definition of their projects. Before the engagement even started, therefore, the city had (a) its list of candidates, (b) the projects they would be working on when they finished their training, and (c) sign off by their department heads, for their participation and for their projects and estimated resourcing requirements at the same time.

We like to refer to this scenario as “hittingtraining running,”because the training curriculum incorporated time allocations for early project chartering.

Which Projects First?

Our training already features modules that are dedicated not only to project management skills development, but to project screening and ranking criteria and setting the pre-conditions for project success.Coming back to our mini case, though, we also proposed a hard constraintto our client, that since these were certification projects having a maximum duration, projects could not cross departmental boundaries andthe training candidates, all managers, had to have sufficient spans of control to make them happen within their respective authorities.

Each of the ten projects pursued after this process of selection and chartering has been a successful LeanSix Sigma proof of concept in its own right, and a material contributor to service and cost performance in its respective department.

Which ProjectsNext?

With its first step in the journey now being such an acknowledged success story, this organization is now contemplating its first cross-enterprise projects and selecting the Black Belt training and certification candidates it is going to assign to lead them.

Other organizations ask us to lead their first complex projects, while resourcing them with their advanced proficiency training candidates to fulfil some of their project practicum requirements for certification.

Taking the First Step

If you think that Lean and/or Six Sigma are right for your organization, and have an interest in exploring options, call us at any time. Some of our services may be eligible for government grants.