We talked about the need for Lean Six Sigma project selection in detail in the earlier articles, in this one we’ll cover the criteria for selection and the in the following article, we’ll move on to talk about the tools used for selection and how to engage the stakeholders in the process.
I have found that while leaders agree on the need for project selection, their views on the criteria is quite divergent. Most of them see this as a process to sway the process in favor of their priorities and interests.
There is nothing wrong in doing so, as long as the process is not biased.
Through this article, we draw consensus on the criteria and its relevance to the whole process.
The real good news is that the criteria for getting the project selection right are not too complicated.
What does project selection countdown look it? We’re going to start with the least of the top 5 criteria and find our way to the top most criteria.
Here you go:
Not all the projects will be successful in any company. Hence, while selecting the project, most project leaders consider the contingencies which might come up and use that as a yardstick to select the project. Sponsors want their project leaders to be successful equally as projects leaders’ desire success. Well, sounds like a good approach. But doesn’t this approach make it very orthodox? Unlike other implementation projects in technology, improvement projects are bound to have ups and downs; and it is quite natural that not all projects achieve their goals. That is what continuous improvement is all about.
Thus choosing to play it safe isn’t the best criteria to select projects, though unfortunately, it is very popular criteria in use. That is why Probability of Success is the last in our countdown list! One of the organizations flips these criteria to select the project which has failed in the past or have a low probability of success as Black Belt project. That is certainly a best practice to emulate.
Is data readily available for the project? If not, can it be easily gathered? While most project leaders and sponsors know that rarely will all the data needed for a project is waiting around to be analyzed. But they use the availability of data criteria to select projects because the unreasonable expenditure of time, resources and effort can be avoided. Yes, data is needed for analysis. But making it a criterion reduces the scope Continuous Improvement deployment.
Improvement projects are expected to venture into unchartered territories of the process and present root cause and opportunities. Getting people to measure something that is not being reported till now, in it is a feat. Having vanilla project can hardly be a criterion for project selection. That is why the availability of data comes second last in our countdown!
Any project implemented, is implemented with an intention to gain any kind of tangible or say monetary benefits. But along with monetary benefits, there are other benefits like customer satisfaction, increased efficiency, total company involvement; increases workspace and much more. While it is absolutely apt to select projects which have savings to the organization, it is misleading to make saving potential a primal purpose of projects. I have seen many times, project leaders come up with simple ideas or improvements with a huge saving potential to the organization, but virtually no complexity involved. Such projects hardly qualify for Black Belt projects.
They best serve as Just Do It project. Giving undue importance to saving potential in project selection also sends the wrong message across the organization. That is why I not really excited about having this as a top item in the countdown. That’s why Saving Potential is only Number 5 in our countdown.
There is always a perfect timing to initiate a project. Relevance is contextual. By apt timing, I mean both the time to commence, and the closure as per plan. An important project has to close on time. It has to be first of all, planned to close on time. It has to be scoped to close on time. That is why Apt Time is No.4 in our countdown.
I don’t know if this has to do with the culture. Most organizations, if not all, end up with a laundry list of projects because everything seems to be Business or Customer priority. Even the biggest and richest of the organizations have limited resources. Either resource is depleted, busy elsewhere or simply not committed to deliver. The best person is often leading many projects, making everything he/she does venerable to failure. Project selection is about de-selection and not selected. Ruthlessly put ideas into a parking list for which right resources are not available; and if it is so important that it has to be executed now, then pull the right resource into this project rather than sharing.
While I have largely kept this point around manpower, it equally applies to money & time. I say with conviction that organizations that ensure that the leader of the Lean Six Sigma project is a dedicated resource, either full time or handling only one project even if it means he is part time on it are surely successful. This is why Availability of Resource is No.3 on our countdown!
Ask yourself “will the results of the project bring any difference in the life of the customer? Will it improve the perception of the customers about the quality of your product or services?” Quite often this answer to this question is yes. Unfortunately, it’s motherhood in apple pie question. So insist on quantifying the impact.
If you can pin a number to the impact, then go ahead. And if you’re not able to do so, then there’s no point in wasting your time on the project. Consider Voice of the Customer in your organization as a starting point. Why don’t you start with complaints and alleviate customer pain? Thus Customer Impact is Number 2 in the countdown.
Selection of projects is based on the need or priority of the business. Project leaders need to understand that the tail can’t wag the dog. Often, people package their ideas into a project and fuel it as an organizational priority. Scanning of the external and internal environment will give first-hand insight on what is the organizational priority, NOW? Go for it. Well, that may put you out of your comfort zone, competency or expertise, but remember that’s what the organization needs.
Without a real need, do you think any leader would offer sponsorship to your project or will it at all help anyone – NO.? That is why Business Priority is Number 1 in our countdown.
Project Selection and implementation of Lean Six Sigma is easy and at the same time should be handled delicately by keeping all the above aspects in mind otherwise it might turn into a big disaster. An effective diagnostic study is required before selecting projects and with the undivided involvement of the top management are pre-requisites for project selection.