Tips to Improve Cycle Time in Six Sigma Projects..

six-sigma-cycle-time-improvementHave you ever been stuck in situation when your Six Sigma project is starting to extend beyond agreed-upon timelines? Is the Measure phase not yielding the desired outcome? Are there any emerging hurdles that may impair the smooth execution of Control plan? Did you face situations when toll-gate reviews need to be rescheduled frequently thereby slowing down execution of your Six Sigma project?
These scenarios will be familiar to many Six Sigma professionals. So it’s worth considering how to reduce cycle time while executing Six Sigma Projects.
Define: The project scope detailing customer and business impact must be subjected to a rigid scrutiny to avoid unforeseen pitfalls in the later phases. Another key factor is to reference alternate sources like existing process maps/flowcharts (ARIS/Visio etc.) to enable a faster connect and to save effort on understanding the process fundamentals.
Measure: Most process excellence professionals will agree that a majority of time is invested into the collation and interpretation of data. The tips below may serve as reference points while executing projects:
  • Leverage data from existing platforms and systems. For example you may lean on data extracted from Business Objects or data files stored internally within the business units
  • Avoid getting lost in the data. For example there could be situations when loads of similar data is secured from multiple platforms or systems. You may consider seeking inputs from the mentor or a process expert to proceed with the appropriate source of data, and thereby enable a robust process baseline
  • Exploit internal networks within the organization to get clarity on the data. For example many Business Process Outsourcing and Information Technology firms have invested in Analytics functions to mine data. You might consider spending some time with a resource in the Analytics team to understand unexplored perspectives on the data
  • Evaluate the data and apply the process excellence tools based on the respective data type (discreet/continuous). For example you may rely upon 2-Sample t-test when both X and Y are continuous while 1-Way ANOVA is used when X is discrete and Y is continuous

The old adage that “too much data analysis leads to paralysis” still holds true and could be minimized by defining a simple and neat visual outline (maybe a decision matrix) in this phase.

Analyze: Distinguish, in advance, the relevant scenarios for parametric and non-parametric tests. Moreover, a blend of the “right” cross-functional resources with “requisite knowledge” will enable a quick and meaningful discussion to arrive at the critical Xs.
Improve: A majority of projects tend to get stuck in this phase, and thereby promote anxiety amongst the team members (especially the Champion). Here’s where the problems tend to lie:
  • feeble change management
  • scant attention to benchmarking (evaluate outside-in perspectives, like automations or outsourcing)
  • poor execution of Implementation plan
  • sidelining Risk Management plan
  • loose strings in Cost/Benefit Analysis
  • absence of well-directed communication (WIFM-what’s in for me)
  • weak utilization of process simulation software for process modeling

Control: The adoption of new-age media tools is likely to aid faster completion of Six Sigma projects by fostering collaboration between stakeholders, champions, sponsors, project leaders and team members. For the benefit of project professionals, the tips below could be optimized in the project lifecycle:

  • create a single online repository (maybe SharePoint site) for the project (save effort on consolidating data from multiple resources)
  • leverage standard and digitized templates for data reporting (save effort on creating a new deck at regular intervals for toll gate reviews)
  • enable podcasts and blogs for project reviews and communication (save effort on numerous e-mails to communicate tasks and deliverables and thereby avoid potential communication gaps)
  • optimize cloud based solutions to store data (save effort on retrieval of data and facilitate easy access of information flow to team members when located in different centers)
  • create digitized project dashboards for displaying progress (save manual effort to update project boards).

The concept of cycle time/turnaround time is an all time favorite amongst process excellence professionals. Furthermore, a majority of organizations place immense importance on reducing project over-runs to avoid adverse impact on financials and business results. Therefore, a disciplined approach incorporating the guidelines mentioned above is likely to reverse the trend of extended tollgates and save inflated costs by enabling an efficient project life cycle.

The author is an IIM Calcutta alumni with 15 years of professional experience during which he has held many leadership roles in Fortune 500 companies. He is also a Black Belt in Six Sigma and now is on entrepreneurial spree.
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