One of the most important decisions to make for any Lean or Six Sigma project is determining what are the most appropriate problems to attack. Two of the most common strategies or approaches to determine project targets are:
- A top down approach that is closely tied to business strategy and customer requirements. The main pitfall with this approach can be that it is easy to make the project too broad in scope for it to be completed in a reasonable time frame. Most Six Sigma projects are expected to be completed in 3-6 months.
- A bottom-up approach where Black Belts or other Six Sigma professionals choose projects that they believe are well-suited for the capabilities of the team. The main drawback to this approach can be that projects may tend to be less closely tied to strategic concerns, which may cause them to get less support and visibility from upper management.
A blend or hybrid of these approaches may also be used and may work well in certain organizational settings or situations. Once a suitable project is selected, an action plan and project charter will be created to help define the project scope, project goals and project participants.
When you have chosen your proposed improvement project, stop to ask yourself the following questions to ensure you are on the right track:
- Do I have data which supports this idea as the best possible solution?
- How will I know if this solution has solved the problem?
- What are the costs or risks in implementing this solution?
Your honest answers to the above three questions, will let you know if you are headed in the right direction or if you need to return to your data and repeat the DMAIC process again.