Floundering - 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.


  • 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.


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