Keys to a Successful LSS Project: Part 3 of 3: Project Support

Author: Alberto Yáñez-Moreno, Ph.D.

Posted: June 2016

Often companies that want to implement a LSS program – and experience the benefits  associated with it – think that by sending a couple of staff to Green or Black Belt training they are on their way to success.  Nothing can be further from the truth.

If belts do not have appropriate structure and support, they often experience a number of problems. At companies which provide poor support, the LSS projects tend to:

  • Take longer to complete – if they ever get finished
  • Require major changes in goals, scope, etc.
  • Require significant rework due to using wrong tools or methods
  • May be canceled outright
  • Do not achieve the goals established in the Define Phase

These issues lead to frustration on the part of the belts, their team members, project sponsors, and members of the management team. In a worse-case scenario a belt may become so frustrated that she leaves one company in an effort to work at a second company (I have seen this happen multiple times). In essence, Company A has paid for the belt’s training but Company B receives the benefits of that training.

Here are recommended guidelines in providing appropriate support for a successful LSS Program:

  1. Assign a LSS Deployment Champion – This individual is in charge of the LSS Program. This involves leading the LSS Program steering committee, overseeing the selection of improvement projects, and assigning projects to belts.  The Deployment Champion is also responsible for scheduling training of new belts, tracking active projects, and maintaining a repository of completed projects. In larger firms this is a full-time role.
  2. Train Sponsors and Champion – Individuals need to understand their roles and responsibilities. This includes their participation in gate reviews, project selection and prioritization, and preparation of draft Project Charters.
  3. Establish a LSS Steering Committee – The steering committee performs the critical activity of generating, prioritizing, and managing improvement projects. It also establishes policies and standards. The committee should meet periodically, at least quarterly and preferably monthly.
  4. Project Sponsor Engagement – In many ways the Project Sponsor is the most important person in the LSS process.  Often a person with P&L responsibility, the Sponsor provides resources to the belt and removes barriers to success. One way to ensure Sponsor engagement is to link their success as a manager to the project. This can be done through their annual performance plan and/or bonus structure.
  5. Provide Coaching – An experienced LSS BB or MBB should be assigned to each new GB or BB. The purpose of the coach is to guide the belt toward project success. In addition, effective coaching prevents rework. This is particularly important during the first project.  Good coaching greatly increases the chance for project success.
  6. Verify the Project Financial Impact – A member of the finance department should be appointed to check all project benefits. This ensures the financial impact claimed by a belt is legitimate. It also shows the clear linkage between LSS projects and company financial goals.
  7. Assign Specific Days for Gate Reviews – Most LSS belts have a hard time getting required gate review participants to attend.  Project sponsors and other key stakeholders need to block time in their schedule for gate reviews. Some firms even designate specific days of the month or week for gate reviews. Committing to a specific date ensures projects are completed in a timely manner.
  8. Provide Department Support for Larger Items – Make sure the LSS belt has department support for improvement projects that require larger items. Examples include any significant capital investment, extensive IT / engineering support, equipment maintenance / upgrades, or extensive tooling.  If not planned for these items may significantly delay a project. One tool to aid in managing such items is a risk assessment.
  9. Communicate the ‘Burning Platform’ – Senior management is responsible for creating a sense of urgency as to why the company needs to improve. This message needs to be shared with employees at all levels.  This can be accomplished through Town Hall meetings, periodic emails, one-on-one discussions with key stakeholders, or via web postings. This should be part of the LSS Program communication plan.

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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