During my training sessions and coaching assignments, I often get asked the following question: “What do I have to do to avoid the failure of my Lean Six Sigma (LSS) project?” It is a smart and logical question that will always pop up in the mind of a six sigma practitioner. Now that team members have concluded the training and learned all the tricks and tools to start a project; they are eager to kick-start the project and start demonstrating the powerful methodology. And, more than anything else, they need to succeed! Below are my suggestions based on my personal experience and supported by literature published in this field.
Six Sigma is a powerful methodology that combines the uniqueness of project execution, teamwork, data and problem analysis, structured approach, and a mix of quantitive, qualitative and financial accountability.
There has been growing discussions and research focusing on LSS critical success factors (Coronado et al. 2002; Kumar 2007; Anwar et al. 2015; Albliwi & Antony 2014). Many researchers argue that the factors listed in the box below are critical to the success of LSS projects. These results have been deduced from empirical research and have been published in many reputable journals.
Linking LSS to business strategy
Linking LSS to customer
Linking LSS to HR rewards
Extending LSS to supply chain
LSS projects prioritization
LSS projects tracking and review
Project management skills
Tools and techniques
LSS financial accountability
Communication and awareness
Selection of staff for LSS
Resources to LSS team
Figure 1: Factors showing the primary four spheres of concern from a recent paper published by Anthony and Laureani (2016)
The areas in figure 1 are expanded and discussed below where I address six barriers that could either hinder project initiation or lead to failure at a later phase of the SS project. The research findings are in line with my observations based on my hands-on experience coaching over 250 projects in areas of quality, lean and six sigma.
Project management skills failure related factors:
Leadership and Top management support failure related factors:
Selection of top talented staff failure related factors:
Financial accountability failure related factors:
In addition to the above factors, the following factors may present challenges to the success of LSS: lack of data-based approach, No linkage to HR rewards, and poor project tracking and review
In conclusion, make sure you have the above factors in place before you start your Lean six sigma project. It is often said that failing to prepare is preparing to fail; so spend enough time making sure the above ingredients are available and discussed before jumping into your next LSS project.
Albliwi, S. & Antony, J., 2014. Critical failure factors of Lean Six Sigma: a systematic literature review. International Journal of Quality & Reliability Management Vol., 31(9), pp.1012–1030.
Anwar, F. et al., 2015. Critical success factors of Lean Six Sigma deployment: a current review. International Journal of Lean Six Sigma, 6(4), pp.339–348.
Coronado, R.R.B. et al., 2002. Critical success factors for the successful implementation of six sigma projects in organizations. The TQM Magazine, 14(2), pp.92–99.
Kumar, M., 2007. Critical success factors and hurdles to Six Sigma implementation: the case of a UK manufacturing SME. International Journal of Six Sigma and Competitive Advantage, 3(4), pp.333–351.
Laureani, A. & Antony, J., 2016. Leadership – a critical success factor for the effective implementation of Lean Six Sigma. Total Quality Management & Business Excellence, pp.1–22.
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