Lean Six Sigma and Project Management – triangles and (virtuous) circles


By Elisabeth Goodman and John Riddell

On 6th July, we held a very enjoyable second iteration of our APM workshop on this topic in Norwich, having run it previously in Stevenage in May.

As with the previous seminar, our audience ranged from people and organisations with very limited knowledge of Lean and Six Sigma, to those who had adopted it as a way of working.  So the challenge was, in 1 to 1 ½ hours, to give enough of an overview of Lean and Six Sigma for those who were new to the subject, without boring those with already a fair amount of expertise.

At the same time, our goal was to make the session as interactive as possible, with discussions and exercises that would enable people to actively reflect, learn from each other, and more importantly, consider if and how Lean and Six Sigma could assist them in their roles as Project Managers.

Our mapping of Lean and Six Sigma against the project triangle seemed to resonate with the delegates i.e. with Lean aiming to reduce time and cost, and Six Sigma aiming to increase quality.

We achieved an excellent level of discussion and interaction in both seminars, and here are some of the conclusions that the delegates came to.

There are many Lean and Six Sigma tools that people have already found to be useful and/or anticipate being useful.

Examples of tools highlighted during the discussion in Norwich were:

  • Kano (and Voice of the Customer)
  • Time value map
  • Use of historical data
  • Control charts
  • 5 Whys
  • Gemba
  • Poke Yoke
  • Pareto Analysis

Our audience in Stevenage listed more or less the whole gamut of Lean and Six Sigma tools!

Lean and Six Sigma can definitely enhance the delivery of projects.

Delegates were unanimous in this,.  One break-out group suggested that Lean and Six Sigma fits particularly well with the operations area of organisations, and that process improvement initiatives will lead to projects.

Delegates identified several ways for how Lean and Six Sigma could enhance the delivery of projects.

Using Lean and Six Sigma at the start of a project (during the concept and definition stages).

The Define, Measure and Analyse stages of the Lean Six Sigma DMAIC framework and associated tools can be very effective in identifying the problems which will lead to generating and/or justifying projects.

They help to define what the problems are and how to address them, and also to define the project brief.

Tools such as Pareto analysis help to identify the things that are important, and make sure that the biggest issues are tackled first.

Process analysis will help to eliminate waste before implementing new (e.g. IT) solutions.

The Lean Six Sigma tools and the data-based approach create greater confidence.

Delegates particularly liked the ability to use robust data collection techniques and tools such as force-field analysis to structure their thinking.

They also liked the ‘5 Whys’ for getting at the root causes of problems and surfacing clients’ real issues.  They also suggested using ‘5S’ to organise information (not just physical things)

The Improve stage of DMAIC can help with the implementation stage of projects

It can help with the definition of roles in a project, in particular in relation to sponsors and to ensure that the project is focusing on what is of value to the customer (this also happens at the Concept and Definition stages of projects), and relating that to the realization of benefits.

The Control stage of DMAIC (and Knowledge Management) can help with project close out

Many delegates were already familiar with the idea of capturing learnings at project close-out, but they liked the fuller ‘After Action Review’ (AAR) frame-work and the emphasis on considering who can learn from the lessons learnt.

They also liked how the various visual tools of Lean and Six Sigma could help with ‘highlight reporting’ in project management.

The Lean and Six Sigma and Project Management ‘virtuous’ circle may go on infinitely or break and re-start depending on the organisation.

Our presentation included a suggested overlay of the Lean and Six Sigma DMAIC structure over the project lifecycle.  Delegates pointed out that this may be the case in organisations such as Pharmaceutical R&D where projects are the regular way of working.  In other organisations, the DMAIC structure continues into the operational way of working once a project is completed, although it may in time spawn new projects.

Notes

  1. Elisabeth Goodman is Owner and Principal Consultant and John Riddell is Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting– a Business Consultancy that helps business teams to enhance team effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale.
  2. To see previous newsletters and blogs on subjects relating to Lean and Six Sigma, and Project Management see the RiverRhee Consulting newsletter, and Elisabeth Goodman’s blog site.
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3 responses to “Lean Six Sigma and Project Management – triangles and (virtuous) circles

  1. nice blog thanks for this great knowledge on six sigma

  2. Pingback: Developing your team in 2013. RiverRhee Consulting Newsletter, Jan – Feb 2013 | Newsletter

  3. Pingback: Facilitating operational excellence in and for business change projects | Elisabeth Goodman's Blog

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