Recently, I attended my first PMI UK Chapter Meeting. The topic was Lean Six Sigma Project Management: A Marriage Made in Heaven.
I don’t know what marriage has to do with it but the presenter, Ishai Pelman, PMP(r), Master Black Belt, and a senior managing consultant at Pcubed, clearly pointed out the similarities between the approaches. I had my Six Sigma training many years ago, but it all started to come back as Ishai spoke.
He said that value engineering is a holistic approach to strategic transformations of large organisations. “You ask customers where they want their future to be.”
Six Sigma and Lean principles;
A PMO provides project management structures and governance.
This last point is what’s missing in traditional Six Sigma or Lean methodologies.
Lean is a method of reviewing processes and eliminating non-value-adding activities. Six Sigma reduces variability to deliver a better quality result. Ishai explained that when you combine the two, you can achieve a higher quality result quicker. First, you eliminate the non-value-adding tasks. Then you can focus on the important tasks, but it’s still inefficient. Six Sigma is a way to increase efficiency. This makes the process faster, more cost-effective, higher quality, and less risk. He said, “Every time you do anything, there’s an chance to make it wrong.” “If you do more, there’s less chance to make it wrong.”
Ishai explained that there are certain pitfalls in process improvement projects, and they are almost the same as other types. If you don’t:
You don’t have a sponsor or a team committed to your cause.
Set a goal of reducing the headcount arbitrary.
Poor input from the wrong people.
Spend too much time analysing and not enough on delivering change.
Do not send mixed messages or have poor communication plans.
Expect to find a solution to all your problems.
His discussion on why you shouldn’t cut heads was fascinating to me. He suggested that people should be moved around rather than fired. The stronger manager should have more employees, while the weaker one should have fewer. Optimizing the process often means moving people around and not getting rid of them all.
I switched off during the explanation of Six Sigma because my feet were hurting from wearing ridiculous shoes all day, and then having to walk from a tube stop that was farther away than I expected.
I hadn’t considered the role of project management in Six Sigma process improvement projects. Before I learned the Six Sigma approach, I was a PRINCE2(r), and project management professional. Six Sigma projects were what I did when I was running them. However, they were projects. I didn’t realize that Six Sigma people might be having difficulty implementing change. The method doesn’t really cover how to do it. It helps you understand the problem. I can recall spending hours learning Minitab and then getting excited when I saw the statistical results of my tests. They are useful in their own right, but not very useful for ‘doing’ the improvement.
Ishai explained that Six Sigma practitioners often struggle with the ‘doing’. He said that it was difficult for Six Sigma practitioners to translate an idea into practice. Six Sigma and Lean don’t have the answers to managing complexity. Projects managed using these toolkits are often done in PowerPoint or on spreadsheets. Adding professional project management to the equation gives the change an extra chance of success. It also provides a governance framework that is not available in other approaches. If you want to be able to manage projects effectively, you will need to have a solid understanding of project management.