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Shifting the Paradigm: Lean Six Sigma Project: Define Phase Objectives

October 23, 2012
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The following is an excerpt from the book Integrated Enterprise Excellence Volume III - Improvement Project Execution: A Management and Black Belt Guide for Going Beyond Lean Six Sigma and the Balanced Scorecard, Citius Publishing, 2008  
 
Previous blogs described a business management system and how projects can be selected that benefits the enterprise as a whole.  This blog begins a series which steps through various aspects of the Lean Six Sigma Define-Measure-Analyze-Improve-Control (DMAIC) roadmap for process improvement. 
 
The objective of the project define phase is to describe the Critical to Quality (CTQ)/business issue, the customer, and the involved core business process. During the define phase, a problem statement is formulated. Customer requirements are gathered, and a project charter is created, where the project scope is determined by the team with the support of management. Other activities during this phase include: definition of the 30,000-foot-level, metric (Six Sigma deployments could refer to this as a CTQ); identification of both internal and external customers; identification and definition of what is to be improved (e.g., defect or lead time); estimation of Cost of Doing Nothing Differently (CODND); development of high-level process map; initiation of a Supplier-Input-Process-Output-Customer (SIPOC). 
 
The success of a project depends also on communication. The project charter and periodic report-outs provide an effective means for communication so that there is no misunderstanding of the objectives and status of a project.  
 
The following list describes focus areas for the define phase of an IEE project:
 
Projects should be aligned with the improvement needs of its high-level value chain and business goals. Constraints and assumptions should be included.
A two to three sentence problem statement needs to focus on the symptoms and not the possible solution.  Customer and business impact information should be included along with current DPMO or other baseline information, data sources for problem analysis, and a CODND estimate. 
Example: Companies are dissatisfied with the customer service call wait time in our XYZ office. Our service records show an estimated median wait time of 80 seconds with 80% of wait times between 25-237 seconds.  Note: This example illustrates how a 30,000-foot-level operational metric within an IEE enterprise can pull project creation.  
Stakeholders (finance, managers, people who are working in the process, upstream/downstream departments, suppliers, and customers) need to agree to the usefulness of the project and its problem statement. 
The financial liaison person should work closely with the project leader and champion to create a cost benefit analysis for the project.  This could include expense reduction, revenue enhancements, loss avoidance, reduced costs, or other CODND benefits.
The project scope needs to be sized correctly and documented in a project charter format. All involved need to agree to the objectives, scope, boundaries, resources, project transition, and closure of the project charter. The details on this charter should be updated as the project proceeds through the overall IEE execution roadmap.  
Projects should be large enough to justify the investment of resources but small enough to ensure problem understanding and development of sustainable solutions. The scope should accurately define the bounds of the project so that project creep, a major cause for missed deadlines, is avoided.  
Example: Reduce the hold time of calls at the XYZ office with the intention of leveraging success to other call centers. 
Targeted improvement goals should be measurable. These goals should be tied to CODND benefits when appropriate. 
Example: Reduce the median call wait time to 40 seconds or less, yielding a $200,000 per year benefit at the XYZ office. 
Measurements should be described. If defects are the 30,000-foot-level metric, what constitutes a defect and how it will be tracked should be described. If lead time is the metric, the plans for lead time quantification and tracking should be described.  Note, some organizations may choose to report a sigma quality level metric; however, this is not recommended within an IEE implementation. 
The categories of a SIPOC should have been addressed, where the process portion of SIPOC is at high level, containing only 4-7 high-level steps. How the SIPOC aligns with the high-level supply chain map and its needs should be demonstrated along with the gap between voice of the process and voice of the customer.    
Team members should be selected by the champion and project leader (e.g., black belt) so that they provide different insights and skills (e.g., self-facilitation, technical/subject-matter expertise) needed for the successful completion of the project in a timely fashion. Names, roles, and amount of time for project dedication should be addressed for each team member. 
The champion needs to work with the project leader so that the project status is sufficiently documented within a corporate database that can be conveniently accessed by others

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