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Using Six Sigma to create project team

Today I want to speak about designing and selecting a team to succeed a project. As you know, at the core of any team are individuals who “interact independently in order to accomplish mission goals”. Each individual brings characteristics that influence the ability of the team to reach its task-related goal, in addition to characteristics that can both enhance and detract from the team’s internal states and processes—in other words, characteristics that influence how the individuals will work together as a team. Team performance is dependent on the individual capabilities of team members and how those members interact with each other.

So, how Six Sigma can help us to have maximum results picking the right people for the task at hand? Basically, Six Sigma, invented by engineers at Motorola, is a methodology for examining every aspect of a project before it begins to ensure all goes well. Six Sigma also anticipates what changes or events may occur and how they will be resolved when they occur. But what about your people within that methodology? People are not computer models, nor should they be.

Everyone involved in Six Sigma is a leader (Champions, MBBs, Black Belts, Green Belts). To be successful select your top talent—your best performers—those persons that are capable of providing the needed leadership. Deploying Six Sigma is not an easy task; breakthrough improvement is the goal. For the longer-term you will want Six Sigma to be the driver of your improvement process. You want your senior managers to be skilled in using Six Sigma to help run your business. It is a serious mistake to place only technical specialists (engineers, statisticians, quality professionals, and so on) in key Six Sigma roles. Such major culture change requires persons experienced and skilled in leadership.

The role of the leadership team depends on the size of the company. In large companies there should be a leadership team at the corporate level as well as a leadership team for each of the business units and functions.

The unit leadership team (often called the Six Sigma Council) leads the overall effort within the unit. In the case of a manufacturing facility, the leadership team is typically the Plant Manager and selected members of his or her staff. In the case of the finance function the leadership team might be the CFO and selected members of his or her staff.

Each project has a Champion who serves as its business and political leader. Some organizations have used the term Champion to refer to the overall leader of the Six Sigma effort. The Project Champion is typically a member of the unit leadership team, has responsibility for the successful completion of projects, and is held accountable for the results of the projects. Key tasks for the Champion role are: facilitating the selection of the project; drafting the initial project charter; selecting the Black Belt and other resources; removing barriers to the successful completion of the project; and holding short weekly reviews with the Black Belt regarding the progress of the project.

But how to find our Champion?  Basically is a senior, with experience in project management with the following skills:

  • A technical leader in the area of the project
  • An analytical thinker—not afraid of numbers
  • Skilled in basic statistics
  • A team leader
  • Skilled in project management

 …and finally must be a positive thinker.

Even though the role of each team member in the project is different, they all need to be trained on the basic concepts of Six Sigma, for them to clearly understand the goal and work towards it.

The Team leader should identify the skills required, the roles that are mandatory and the time that they should spend on the project. Based on this, the list of people should be identified and shortlisted. Then the interest of the shortlisted persons and their supervisor’s consent should be officially sought.

Once the Team members are selected they should be briefed about their role and the expected contribution in terms of knowledge, skills, time required etc.

Any Team regardless of whether it is permanent or temporary, will undergo the following stages before they enter into a productive stage:

Forming: A stage where the team members (behave more like individuals and not as a team), try to understand the goal of the project in their perspective.

Storming: A stage where the team members discuss amongst each other: expressing their opinions, mostly disagreeing with one another.

Norming: The team tends to understand the need for teamwork, and the dependencies of each person’s contribution to the final outcome.

Performing: A stage when the team really starts to work towards the goal and be productive.

In the end the key to success of a Six Sigma Project lies in proper Team selection and management. So, Team Leader and the management should pay enough attention to manage the team and keep the team members motivated.