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When Projects Go Bad: How to Spot Bad Six Sigma Practices

No matter how beneficial a Six Sigma project is going to be, there will always be some problems. The more challenging a project is, the more likely that poor Six Sigma practices will arise. This may be through cutting corners, lackadaisical teamwork, or eschewing Six Sigma practices altogether. There are many ways a project can go bad, but this article will illustrate what to look out for. Loose lips may sink ships, but lax Six Sigma can compromise a project just as much.

What Goes Wrong

A great deal of Six Sigma projects present inherent challenges from the beginning. However, consistent, effective teamwork is usually more than enough to resolve any problems faced. However, this isn’t always the case.

One reason a project turns bad is your team taking the wrong approach. Lean methodology, DMAIC, and Kaizen are all practices that work well under certain conditions in particular situations.

Just as in any occupation, using the wrong tool for the job will get you nowhere. For example, DMAIC, while a strategy that accomplishes project goals, is not suitable for administrative, business-related problems. DMAIC is designed to define, measure, analyze, improve, and control production processes. By utilizing it in the wrong situation, it can hinder the implementation of a solution.

Spotting the Warning Signs

It pays to be able to identify common warning signs that a Six Sigma project may be turning bad. Be on the lookout for any of these situations:

  • If the project manager or team leaders cannot clearly define the problem, this will lead to confusion and poor practices.
  • If you find that you are unable to glean relevant data with which to evaluate your process performance, as well as customer satisfaction rates, then you will effectively be “flying blind” as you start to implement Six Sigma. Six Sigma relies on teamwork, yes, but quantifiable data is just as important.
  • If an appropriate solution is already evident but the project leaders and/or company executives are reluctant to implement the solution, bad Six Sigma is likely to follow. This can be due to a variety of reasons, but will often lead to them commissioning a DMAIC project that places the burden on an outside party. While this may work in the short-term, the problem is likely to return in the future if company practices are not at optimum levels. By resolving this problem completely, and aligning the project with critical-few business priorities, you will need to change the entire company culture. Management practices will trickle down through the company and affect worker practices. Kaizen is an excellent method for resolving this sort of problem.
  • If the company is currently undergoing significant changes to its practices, the instability inherent here would prevent DMAIC from making any effective changes.
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