Project Delays – And What to Do About Them

Author: Alberto Yáñez-Moreno, Ph.D.

Posted: March 2017

How long should a Lean Six Sigma project take? A common goal is 4 to 6 months. But what are belts reporting? In the fall of 2016, TMAC conducted an informal survey of several firms at our LSS Deployment Champion Symposium. One company with a mature LSS Program reported a median completion time of 5.7 months for Black Belts and 3.5 months for Green Belts. Other customers reported median times of 6 to 8 months for BBs and 3 to 9 months for GBs.  To be clear, these are median project times – some take less time and others more time.

At TMAC we occasionally hear of projects which take much longer to complete. A LSS Champion once told me ‘any time a project has a birthday’ [i.e., takes over a year to complete], it is a bad sign.’  Something must have gone very wrong for a project to take that long.

What are the negatives of longer LSS projects? The most obvious issue is that it takes longer to see results.  And while waiting on the solution all of the process problems (e.g., high waste, poor quality, customer complaints, low morale, etc.) continue to pile up. Additional negatives from long project timelines include:

  • Longer time required to gain ‘buy-in’
  • Scope and/or goals more likely to change
  • Team members and/or sponsor more likely to change
  • Team more likely to lose momentum or interest
  • Customer or business requirements more likely to change
  • Market conditions more likely to change
  • Business strategy more likely to change

There are multiple reasons why a project can be prolonged.  In the table below we share some of the most common reasons for project delays – and ways to address those issues. The overarching theme is that management must provide appropriate resources and support for belts to be successful. And by management we mean the Project Sponsor (person managing the process requiring improvement), Champion (individual responsible for managing LSS Program), and Steering Committee (group of managers responsible for selecting LSS projects).

More about Alberto Yáñez-Moreno, Ph.D.:

Alberto is a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt with over 39 years of experience of working in a wide variety of industries from aerospace to healthcare to government, and with small firms up to Fortune 500 companies. Although he has taught dozens of LSS classes he is especially skilled at coaching Green Belts, Black Belts, and managers. Before joining TMAC he worked at George Group, the first firm to integrate Lean and Six Sigma. Alberto has a PhD in Mechanical Engineering.


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