Implementing new technology may seem simple enough on the first day of meetings. But the nature of how technology works, the pace at which it progresses and the reliance on people to make it work changes the dynamic. Weeks into a new project, it is entirely possible to get bogged down with waste, poorly conceived processes, misinformation, and ambiguous roles and responsibilities. What’s the solution?
Our experience suggests that Lean Six Sigma helps to tackle many of these common pitfalls. Lean Six Sigma is a more refined Six Sigma methodology that utilises a well-devised, collaborative effort to improve performance and reduce waste.
Why the Need Exists
The original Six Sigma was conceived in 1980 by an engineer at Motorola. Bill Smith came up with the Six Sigma methodology in order to improve the quality of the output processes he observed on a daily basis. He also wanted to remove the causes of defects and minimise variability in the manufacturing process to ensure Motorola’s products were of the highest quality while being produced efficiently and cost-effectively.
What Smith observed at Motorola, prior to the implementation of Six Sigma, exists in many business environments today. It certainly exists in technology projects. As an illustration, here are just some of the more common problems that arise in technology projects:
- Ambiguous or missed requirements
- Too many assumptions
- Unclear roles and responsibilities
- Ill-defined processes
- Poorly defined project dependencies
- Poor change management
- Scope creep and unmanageable plans
- Ineffective support post go-live
- Unclear success criteria
The need for something different becomes quite clear when customer expectations are not met. Thus, the underlying principle of Lean Six Sigma is ‘Voice of the Customer’. And in this case, the customer is not always the person buying products or services. Anyone involved in working on a project is considered the customer to all others working on that project.
Train, Plan, Execute
The key to implementing Lean Six Sigma is to embed the core principles within your teams so that they can easily identify and eliminate waste and optimise performance. This mindset and empowerment can help drive technology projects in the right direction and avoid the commonly experienced challenges. Procuring Yellow Belt Lean Six Sigma training for your teams delivers a return on investment.
Planning is key here. The methodology places a huge emphasis on defining the project effectively before rushing to solutions. Project leaders should adopt the Lean Six Sigma strategy in the earliest stages of a new technology project to maximise the chances for success.
Then it is time to execute. A properly executed project:
- places a genuine focus on the Voice of the Customer to ensure that all project requirements are clearly understood before process design begin
- relies on evidence-based, data-driven management and decision-making with very low tolerance for making assumptions
- works under the Pareto 80/20 rule, which stipulates that 80% of the problems that arise occur in just 20% of a project’s activities to ensure focus
- utilises tools like Value Stream Mapping to identify waste and reduce it from processes
- utilises tools like the RACI chart to clearly define roles and responsibilities to avoid unnecessary confusion
- implements tools and methodologies to identify and mitigate errors and risks
- implements tools and methodologies to measure the success of the project
- establishes appropriate control mechanisms following implementation to ensure that the gains are sustained
Tying everything together in an effective Lean Six Sigma strategy is communication. Moreover, the most effective communications are those that are simple, fact-based, and straightforward. Projects are the most efficient and waste-free when team members communicate clearly with each other and their clients.
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