Keys to a Successful LSS Project: Part 1 of 3: Project Selection

Author: Chris Meeks

Posted: April 2016

The process of selecting projects can sometimes seem daunting – especially when there are many problems which need to be solved.  Here are five guidelines compiled by TMAC staff through years of reviewing literally hundreds of Lean Six Sigma projects.

1. Strategic Alignment
Projects should be one that is of strategic importance to the organization.  In other words, Lean Six Sigma projects are not ‘Flavor of the Month’ projects.  The project should link directly to one or more of the annual company objectives.  Using this approach is key to establishing a belief that the LSS Program helps achieve a firm’s long-term goals. This ensures that upper management will support the project which leads us to…

2. Upper Management Buy-In
Projects should have upper management buy-in or else failure becomes a very likely outcome.  Anyone who has ever worked on a project without buy-in from upper management has surely experienced the frustration stemming from a lack of resources – and a lack of visibility.  Engaging with the Project Sponsor – and other stakeholders – during project selection can help to ensure management support.

3. Financial Impact
Most projects are deemed successful if they result in a significant financial impact.  That said, it’s important to remember that ‘significant’ is relative and affected by numerous factors such as the size of the organization, scope, type of process / service / product, and experience level of the Green or Black Belt.  TMAC uses the following rule of thumb for annual financial impact when picking new projects:  Green Belts projects ($25K to 75K) and Black Belt projects ($75K to 250K).

4. Root Cause and Solution Unknown
For traditional DMAIC projects both the root cause and solution should be unknown.  If the root cause and solution are already known, there is no need to deploy a structured problem-solving approach like the DMAIC process. This consideration is an important one to use in discussions with Project Sponsors who may have a solution already in mind when a project is chosen. NOTE: For other types of projects – such as a Kaizen event or a replication project – this is not a requirement. For those types of projects the solution is often partly known.

5. Timeframe and Scope
A common mistake of new Green Belts, Black Belts and Project Sponsors is to choose one that has a scope which is too large. Such projects tend to drag on over many months, frustrating GBs, BBs and project teams. As one LSS Champion told me years ago, “You never want projects to have a birthday.”  To maximize your chance of success work with the Sponsor to develop a project scope which is a small enough to be completed in a 3 to 6 month timeframe but big enough to still have a significant impact on the business process.


More about Chris Meeks:

Chris is a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt with over 15 years of experience. In addition to his experience teaching LSS Green Belt he has worked with dozens of firms on implementation of ISO 9000, ISO 14000, and AS 9100 management systems. Before joining TMAC Chris worked with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). At the TCEQ he partnered with over 70 firms throughout the state on pollution prevention, waste management cost reduction opportunities, environmental management systems and sustainability.

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