Stephen Sondheim's lyrics to "Putting it Together" could have been applied to creating art as well as a Six Sigma project. "Bit by bit, part by part, sheet by sheet, chart by chart."
A Six Sigma project starts as an approach to solving a complex problem that is having a major impact on a process or resource. In the end, the project team seeks to achieve a practical solution that reduces variation and improves the efficiency of the process. The Six Sigma Black Belt leading the project is well versed in the Six Sigma DMAIC philosophy and application of the tools and techniques to support this methodology. Where an opportunity lies for maximizing the benefit of the methodology is in the delivery of the review of the project with the stakeholders. So much time goes into running the project that the preparation for the review and review details take a back seat. There are some instances where those reviewing the project aren't really sure what questions they should even be asking. Adequate reviews at each stage of the DMAIC process ensure that project is on target to meet its established goals is critical to effective stakeholder communication. An important part of the review is addressing certain questions and preparing certain deliverables, specific and appropriate to the DMAIC phase. Asking and answering the proper questions can support project success. Below are recommended questions by DMAIC phase:
Define Stage Relevant Questions:
- Who is the Customer?
- What data do you have to understand the customer requirements?
- What are the business reasons for completing this project?
- What key business output measure does this project impact?
- What is the problem being addressed?
- Who are the stakeholders that will be affected by this project?
- Has this or a similar problem been solved before?
- What is the goal for the project?
- Has the current state process map been validated?
Measure Stage Relevant Questions:
- Have any charter revisions been made?
- What key input, output, and process measures are critical to understanding the performance of the process?
- How well are we currently meeting critical customer's requirements?
- What are the definitions of defect, unit and opportunity that you will use to calculate process sigma levels?
- What is your data collection plan?
- What have you done to ensure the reliability and validity of the measurement process?
- What are the current process measures and goal for this project?
- Have you found any "quick win" improvements? If so, how were they implemented?
- Has the financial baseline from which benefits will be measured been established?
Analyze Stage Relevant Questions:
- Have any charter revisions been made?
- Which tools did you use to identify potential root causes?
- What are the root causes and how did you draw this conclusion?
- In what ways does the current process fail to meet critical customer requirements?
- Provide your detailed process map(s).
- What are the sources of variation in the process?
- Which of our process inputs has the greatest effect on the desired outcome?
- What is the opportunity represented by addressing the problem? What are the costs of current process performance?
- What are the anticipated impacts on customer satisfaction, retention, and loyalty?
- How can this potentially increase capacity?
- Has the financial representative been notified of significant changes in facts or assumptions?
Improve Stage Relevant Questions:
- What criteria did you use to evaluate potential solutions?
- How does the evaluation criteria tie into business strategy and project objectives?
- Show me your desired future state process map.
- How does the preferred solution address the root cause of the problem?
- Walk me through your cost/benefit analysis. What assumptions were made?
- Did you validate the cost/benefit analysis with a financial SME?
- Explain the compelling need for this change.
- Have you followed your communication plan to explain the change?
- Has the financial representative been notified of any significant changes in the projected financial opportunity?
Control Stage Relevant Questions:
- How was the solution validated on a small scale?
- Did you achieve the goals set out in the project charter?
- What is the implementation plan? What training is required?
- Will the implementation plan be monitored to ensure its success? Who is accountable?
- What controls are in place to assure the problem doesn't happen again?
- Is there a response plan in place for when the process measures indicate "out of control?"
- Who is the process owner? How will responsibility for continued monitoring and improvement be transferred to the owner?
- What barriers to change are remaining that will prevent institutionalization of the improvement?
- What did the team learn from the project?
- Can others benefit from these lessons? How can they be shared?
- What is the next problem that should be addressed in the process?
Hopefully, the proposed questions provide you with a starting point or guide to prepare and lead effective Six Sigma project reviews to ensure the project meets the targeted results.