By David Hampton
It’s striking how much effort people go to in selecting Lean Six Sigma projects. Study your process capability… Derive projects from your strategic priorities … Find out what frustrates customers the most. They are all very good approaches, but sometimes we are in danger of over-analysing to the point where we are precisely wrong instead of roughly right.
Most people familiar with Lean Six Sigma have come across the expression E=QxA, where E is the effectiveness of a project, Q is the quality of its execution and A is the Acceptance of the implementation. The point is, of course, that you can have the best technical solution in the world, but it won’t be worth much if no-one accepts it. Why is it, I wonder, that this only ever seems to be applied to executing projects, and not to selecting them in the first place?
It doesn’t matter how sophisticated your project selection methodology is, you won’t get very far with it if there isn’t full support for the effort it requires, the priorities that are selected and the necessary choices that have to be made about what not to work on. In the early days of a deployment – the first year or two, say – building acceptance of the value of spending time fixing processes (instead of doing ‘real work’) is a major challenge, and we need to give people some early rewards to encourage them. That means picking projects that fix major irritations – high rework, obvious waste, frustrated employees – whether or not they are really the top priority strategically.
With enough of these under your belt, you can sell Lean Six Sigma much more effectively, and create enthusiasts out of the people affected. And this doesn’t require any sophistication in project selection at all – just basic brainstorming and prioritization.
So perhaps when it comes to project selection in the early days, the best thing the experts can do is get out of the way.