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Floundering teams – A source of failure for Six Sigma Projects

Floundering teams – A source of failure for six sigma projects… many can’t believe, but it’s true. Aptly ASQ has included this topic in their SSGB BoK.

The meaning of Floundering is to struggle or stagger clumsily as if confused. Floundering often results from a lack of clearly established goals, unclear tasks, discomfort with other team members, or due to overwhelming emotions.

Six Sigma projects often fail due to floundered teams.  Project sponsors and Six Sigma Green Belts have to address such issues quickly, but they themselves are victims. This amplifies the problem and makes it one of the biggest failure modes for Six Sigma projects. If you aren’t convinced, consider the following:

  • Usually six sigma projects are identified by senior leaders and Six Sigma Green Belt & team members are assigned. The strategic intent of the project may not be communicated to the team. They may just be aware of the project goal. This is the first and foremost source of floundering.  Sponsor, champion, Six Sigma Green Belt and teams may be on the same page, when it comes to the goal, but beyond that there would be complete disconnect.
  • Incorrectly scoped projects, often lead to incomplete or incompetent team composition and unreasonable goals.  Both these factors lead to poor decision making, delays & fear of producing poor results.
  • After all, when there is discomfort or no consensus among team members, it shows in their decisions, or their progression between tasks.
  • Unlike IT projects, Six Sigma projects aren’t full time project engagements. Contribution is voluntary. As a result, the Six Sigma Green Belt exercises very little control over the team members and their participation level.  This gives opportunities for negative team dynamics such as:
    • Misunderstanding between team members
    • Some team members bullying others
    • Blabbermouths taking center stage and hi-jacking the main agenda
    • Digressing and loosing focus
    • Some teams are well organized and show no sign of floundering till it comes to improve phase. Execution might force some team members to dissuade, often leading to conflict and floundering
    • The duration of the project and its scope itself can be major reasons for floundering. In today’s world of high attrition and frequent job rotations, longer the project duration, higher the risk of having new team members with different line of thought. There are also projects where the leader herself has changed.
    • Sometimes, there could be floundering towards the end of a project too. Usually associated with the confirmation of results and computation of financial benefits on the process CTQ.  Teams flounder when they are challenged by the financial approver on the real financial benefit.

Solutions

  • Well defined roles of each team member gives more clarity, upfront
  • Take up reasonable goals that enhances the confidence of team members rather than overwhelming them
  • Reaffirmation of the project objectives time and again
  • Regular (weekly) meeting of all team members to review the progress and assignment of work
  • Division of labor among team members rather than riding on team leaders efforts
  • Monthly presentation to sponsor on progress and course correction
  • If the Six Sigma Green Belt notices that some team members are stretched, she needs to act immediately. Speak to the concerned person, his supervisor or the project sponsor

We hope this resource Floundering teams – A source of failure for Six Sigma Projects will help manage your Six Sigma Green Belt projects effectively.

Risk Mitigation Strategies for FMEA in Six Sigma Project

FMEA is performed to refine a solution just before its implementation, or at the beginning of a project; to investigate if there is a possibility for any anomalies or risks arising during the process.  In simple words, FMEA is a plan to lessen or eradicate risks associated with the process or proposed solutions. It is not only applicable in a Six Sigma project, but also in any IT project management and general purpose risk analysis/risk management.

Any anomaly or element can be considered as risk depending on the severity of its impact, frequency of occurrence of its cause, or the incapability of the control system to detect a cause. A risk rating called Risk Priority Number (RPN) can be used as a yardstick to prioritize and proactively mitigate risks; and to create the required focus within the organization to deal with risks. It is calculated as the product of the severity of the effect, into the occurrence of the root cause, into the detection of root cause.

  • Severity is a rating that represents the seriousness of the effect(s) of the potential failure mode on customers or business – the more the severity, higher is the rating.
  • Occurrence is a rating that represents the likelihood or frequency of occurrence of a specific cause – the more often it occurs, higher is the rating.
  • Detection is a rating that represents the ability of the current control mechanism to detect or report occurrence of the cause – lower the ability to detect a cause, higher is the rating.

While the overall objective is to mitigate risks with high RPN, there can be multiple different strategies to do so. We can use 4 such strategies in the following order.

The 4 strategies for FMEA that can help you quickly reduce the overall risk rather than flounder.

Strategy 1 – Reduce the occurrence of cause

In a FMEA, consider all the high RPN items, and select the ones with high Occurrence rating. If the occurrence rating is high, then by reducing the frequency of occurrence of cause, you will reduce the number of times failure occurs. This is the most apt and best strategy to adapt as it directly addresses the core issue. However, situations may warrant you to consider other strategies.

Strategy 2 – Reduce impact of failure mode

In a FMEA, if we don’t have high occurrence ratings, then consider all the high RPN items and select the ones with high Severity rating. These are the ones that will create maximum negative impact on a customer, their business, and thus in fact on your business too.

By reducing the impact of the effect, you can show the immediate visible impact to customers. Particularly, if there have been escalations from customers, then this strategy will be best suited.

Strategy 3 – Improve the ability to detect risk

In a FMEA, when above strategies aren’t relevant, consider all the high RPN items, and select the ones with high Detection rating. Improving the detection mechanisms means that we have timely information to prevent the cause, or at least contingency, or mitigation.

Conventional risk planning usually focuses on this strategy as first priority.

Strategy 4 – Combination of all three strategies

If all three ratings are high & none of the above can be applied in isolation, then see if they can be combined & applied.

By following the above 4 strategies in a FMEA, we can systematically and quickly reduce risk in any process or solution in Six Sigma Project.