Q. - Harry, do you have any suggestions to help the project manager with scoping a project and getting the team working together right from the start of a project?
Project managers obviously face many issues when starting a project. Gaining appropriate sponsorship, acquiring necessary resources, and determining correct customer requirements are the kinds of issues that if not handled correctly can easily result in eventual project failure. Additionally, two important issues project managers face on just about every project have to do with determining the correct project scope and quickly getting the project team working together. Fortunately, there is an effective and often used Six Sigma tool which addresses those two very issues. Project managers can greatly benefit from using the “SIPOC” diagram at the start of every project
As mentioned in the “Ask Harry” column in the May, 2007 allPM.com newsletter, Six Sigma and Project Management are similar in that both disciplines utilize projects to manage and improve results. A Six Sigma practitioner generally works on projects which focus on improving processes; therefore, an understanding of the vital aspects or components of a process is essential for a process improvement project to be successful. A tool which helps the Six Sigma Manager better understand the process, thus helping him or her with project scoping, is the SIPOC diagram. SIPOC stands for Suppliers, Input, Process, Output, and Customer. SIPOC is an easy to use tool which not only helps a team focus but as an added benefit, gets team members working together as a team from the very beginning of a project.
The SIPOC diagram helps a team visualize the five key components of a process which, hopefully, will give them a more comprehensive appreciation for various areas that could very well impact the project if left unaddressed. A picture of a typical process SIPOC diagram is below.
Q. - Harry, how can I communicate the status and direction of my project more effectively and persuasively?
Are you one of the lucky ones that has worked on a really well run project before? A project that was smooth, made sense, and just seemed easy, most likely because the team leader or project manager was competent, perhaps even excellent. He or she knew what he was doing; he was calm, cool and collective. The guy probably had it together and instilled confidence in everyone associated with the project. On the other hand, who hasn’t had the misfortune of being associated with one of those projects that, in a word, was nothing less than “brutal?” The kind of project you knew was doomed from the very start. Many times it boils down to an ineffective or incompetent team lead. We’ve all been there. It’s fairly simple really. A good project manager can make even the most difficult project seem easy while a horrible project manager does more damage than good on even the simplest project. We all know the “Project Damager” type and we avoid him or her at all costs. No one wants to work with a project damager and no project manager wants that label. So what can help a project manager become more effective? What specific tool or technique can help a project manager continue his or her rise to a confident, experienced and “in control” team leader? There are obvious criteria to project management greatness: knowledge and expertise in the field of project management, an innate ability to motivate, inspire, and lead people, and having the confidence and unique ability to facilitate a group of stakeholders to a common objective. Perhaps the most important characteristic of any successful project manager is his or her ability to communicate effectively, to persuade others. Effective communication requires a clear and logical message that is believable and easy for the recipient to follow. Communicating effectively with data strengthens a project manager’s position, takes the emotion out of decision making, and helps move a project forward quickly and efficiently. I recommend a simple, yet surprisingly effective approach of communicating with data; the “triple threat” approach to status updates. In the game of basketball, when a player has the ball and is in athletic position (legs bent, ball off to one side) he or she is a “triple threat”. They can either shoot, dribble, or pass. This is a great position to be in and gives the offensive player the advantage. In much the same way, the triple threat approach to communicating gives the project manager the advantage of delivering a clear, fact based message.
Project Management & Six Sigma: Use Six Sigma Methods for Better Project Results By Harry Rever - ASQ Certified Six Sigma Black Belt and Quality Manager
Let me ask you a question right from the start. What is the ultimate purpose of a project? Think about it for a minute. Why does some business leader, some organization, want you to work on a project? It's simple really. Your efforts on any project you are managing should result in some kind of improvement for the business: reduced costs, increased sales, better productivity, less errors, reduced cycle time. The list goes on and on. You and your teams are doing a lot of work so an important aspect of the business gets better. Yet, so often, teams fail to realize improvement is their purpose. They get lost in the minutia and documentation of project management: scope documents, meeting minutes, action item lists, jeopardy logs, and meeting due dates. Or worse, teams often boast of tremendous improvement through such flimsy analysis that they risk losing total credibility with their clients, thus jeopardizing the hard work of the team. People simply miss the big picture: add value. The point is, if you, as a project manager, cannot effectively relate how what your team is doing results in some kind of business improvement, well, you are not doing a complete job as a project manager. More importantly, you could easily be viewed as not adding value to the organization. Is the perception of not adding value a risk you are willing to take in this time of uncertainty?
Is becoming a certified Six Sigma Black Belt something you should consider? Well, that depends, of course, on what kind of person you are and what you want to do with your career. The SSBB certainly isn’t for everyone. For most people, the PMP and/or the Six Sigma Green Belt certification are all they will ever want or need. As a matter of fact, I’d say having both PMP and SSGB certifications is an almost perfect situation for the vast majority of people. However, for those of you that are truly interested in taking process improvement to the next level, as well as influencing how decisions are made within a company, there isn’t anything better than becoming a Black Belt. Why is that? Well, it’s pretty simple really. Black Belts are highly trained in the art of improving results using lean concepts and advanced statistical analysis techniques. They have the added responsibility of influencing day-to-day business decisions. Black Belts are project managers, mentors, coaches, trainers, team leaders and, if utilized effectively, should be put in influential leadership positions reporting directly to the highest levels in an organization.
Ask Harry! The Fundamentals of Metrics Part 2: Considerations for "How" to Measure By Harry Rever, MBS, CSSBB, CQM, CQC, PMP
In the previous article, “Considerations of ‘What’ to Measure,” I discussed various type of metrics a project manager or business leader should consider tracking. Those metric categories included: Key Measures, Process Measures, Business Measures, Input Metrics, Output Metrics, Failure Costs, Appraisal Costs, and Preventive Costs.
The Practical Application of a DOE: The Fundamentals of Design of Experiments - Part III of III By Harry Rever, PMP - Director of Six Sigma, IIL
In part I of this DOE article series, I pointed out why it is so hard to improve results. Improvement ideas must overcome complex processes, variation, measurement system errors, bad ideas, as well as resistance by subject matter experts. The difference between “activity” and true improvement is a sustained process shift, hopefully with less variation, as shown below.
Variation is the enemy. It’s the enemy to quality. It’s the enemy to improvement. It’s the enemy to management. There is perhaps no more misunderstood concept in business today than the concept of variation. This misunderstanding is the root cause of knee-jerk reactions, over control, micromanagement, and tampering with results. Quite frankly, when management does not understand variation their decisions can, and usually do, make things worse. The ramifications are widespread and costly. Employees feel frustration for having to explain randomness or things completely out of their control. Customers have no idea what to expect. Customer facing employees have no confidence in what can be promised or delivered.
Elements and Components of a DOE: The Fundamentals of Design of Experiments Part II of III By Harry Rever, PMP – Director of Six Sigma, IIL
Let me go out on a limb here and make an assumption or two. Yes, I know, I probably shouldn’t do that but I’m going to anyway. I’m going to assume that most businesses are interested in improving key business and customer metrics. I’m also going to presume that it is a good thing if companies reduce variation (so results are more consistent) and achieve breakthrough performance (a sustained process shift) in those established key metrics.
Why It's So Hard to Improve Results: The Fundamentals of Design of Experiments By Harry Rever, PMP - Director of Six Sigma, IIL
This article is Part I of III,
Who knows how to improve results in your company? Does your boss? When your boss says to do this or that, or to implement these changes, do results get better? How do you know? Do project managers know how to improve results; is that part of their training? Many project managers, for example, believe that if they finish a project on time and within budget it is a successful project. Do you agree? What if the project finished on time and within budget but didn’t improve anything for the customer or for the business; is it successful?
- Ask Harry! Business Process Management: The Key to Strategic Project Alignment By Harry Rever, PMP - Director of Six Sigma, IIL
- Six Sigma Can Help Project Managers Improve Results By Harry Rever, CSSBB, CQM, CQC, PMP
- Ask Harry! The Fundamentals of Negotiation By Harry Rever, PMP - Director of Six Sigma, IIL
- Five Key Elements to Process Improvement Project Success By Harry Rever, PMP - Director of Six Sigma, IIL