Based on a review of 100’s of Six Sigma projects over the years here are the top 6 mistakes that are commonly made on Six Sigma projects. Feel free to share your thoughts on these issues and/or any other ideas you may have to address these issues.
Overall: Right Six Sigma project not selected Issue: A lot of Six Sigma projects are poorly selected. The most important projects for the business are not selected as Six Sigma projects. It is important that the selected projects excite the management, achieve a breakthrough level of performance and deliver significant benefits. The right Six Sigma project is crucial to get management support. Resolution: Ensure that the selected projects are in-line with management strategy and that you are addressing a problem that shows up as a problem area on management dashboards. Having a management committee prioritize and pick up projects could also help.
Define Phase: Lack of good problem definition Issue: Lot of projects have a vague problem definition and unclear scope. As a result, projects take longer to complete because of scope creep and lack of focus. As the popular saying goes “well begun is half done”, so also for Six Sigma projects clear problem definition is important. Resolution: Ensure that you use tools like problem definition tree and SIPOC to clearly define your problem. Your problem statement must be quantified, the goal statement should be SMART, and the scope statement should clearly highlight both in-scope and out-of-scope items.
Measure Phase: Not validating the measurement system Issue: A lot of Six Sigma projects take the measurement system for granted and assume that they have good data. Even on those projects that perform measurement systems analysis, the analysis is only cursorily done. Many a times, the problems get resolved when the measurement systems are fixed. As the popular saying goes “Garbage In-Garbage Out”, so also for Six Sigma projects if your data is of a poor quality, you will end up making poor decisions. Resolution: It is important that project teams really focus on doing the right measurement systems analysis on projects with the intent of uncovering issues & problems with the measured data.
Analyze Phase: Not validating the Root Cause with data Issue: Six Sigma has a lot of good tools for validating the root cause but often, projects lack the data to perform a proper root cause analysis. Even though data may be available for the primary metric, often data is lacking for a combination of primary metric and the root cause under consideration and as a result the root cause validation exercise is not very robust. The root causes end up being potential causes based on the expertise or experience of the project team. Resolution: Think about possible root causes and start the data collection for that as early in the project as possible. Budget enough time for data collection with adequate sample sizes. Instead of using historical data, consider using the more powerful designed experiments to validate the root causes.
Improve Phase: Lack of innovative solutions Issue: Just because we are working on a Six Sigma project, it does not mean that the solutions will be “out-of-the-box”. Several Six Sigma projects propose routine solutions to problems without investing the time and energy to come up with breakthrough solutions. Management and/or sponsors often wonder “I already knew this solution”, I am not sure what was the benefit of doing a Six Sigma project. Resolution: It is important that the project team utilize lateral thinking ideas to generate and deploy radical ideas to solve the business problems.
Control Phase: Lack of sustenance Issue: In the control phase, Six Sigma projects do not devote enough time and energy to ensure solution sustenance in the long-term. Solutions that depend on the “human” element will eventually get weaker over time. Without proper sustenance plans, the organization does not realize the full benefits of the Six Sigma project. Resolution: Six Sigma projects need to deploy solutions and/or control plans that are robust and will sustain the onslaught of time and will ensure sustenance of the solutions by design. Consider use of digital solutions and Poke-Yoke type solutions that don’t require constant monitoring.