How to complete your Six Sigma project quickly!

You want to know how to complete your Six Sigma project quickly. As deployment leaders of Lean and Six Sigma, my colleagues and I have witnessed that about 65% of Six Sigma projects fail to complete. We have also found that Lean Kaizen (3 to 5 day) projects have a greater rate of completion than Six Sigma projects. The question we had was “why?”

Six Sigma Project

In most cases, when a Six Sigma project fails it is because of scoping issues and weak infrastructures. But there was a deeper issue. Even in organizations with a strong foundation for both Lean and Six Sigma, there was still a delta between the completion rates for Six Sigma projects and Lean projects.

The answer to our question was “lack of focus.” The format for most Six Sigma projects does not promote what we call “hyper-focus” on the problem. Let’s discuss the difference in formats for a typical Lean project and a typical Six Sigma project.

A Lean Kaizen event is normally a 3 to 5 day event focused on the “problem.” A misconception about Lean Kaizen events is that they only take place in the 3 to 5 day event. A well facilitated Kaizen actually starts well before the 3 to 5 day event (this is called Day 0) and may take 30 to 90 days after the event (following the “30 Day Plan”). The difference in Lean events from the typical Six Sigma project is the 3 to 5 days of “Hyper-Focus.”

A Six Sigma project normally takes 3 to 6 months to complete. The project team consisting of Change Agents (Green/Black Belts) meet twice a week for 1 to 2 hours to discuss project progression. As with most meetings, people come unprepared or with their attention focused on other things. Tasks are pushed off to the next meeting. The Change Agents and SME’s are only focused on the problem for short intervals throughout the week.

We have found that the typical Six Sigma format lacks a certain span of time for the team to be “hyper focused” on the problem. We then asked the question, “can a Six Sigma project fit into the Kaizen format?” The answer was “Yes!”

This led us to developing the Lean and Six Sigma Jumpstart Event which is a “hyper-focused” event that encompasses both Lean and Six Sigma. This is not the same exact format as a Lean Kaizen event, but it follows the same basic premise. The Six Sigma Jumpstart basic format is below:

Day 0 (Zero) – Starts four weeks prior to the event.

  • This is to start the Define Phase of Lean and Six Sigma
    • Complete Project Charter
    •  Develop initial Multi-Vari Sheet(s)
    •  Collect data for Baseline Capability Analysis
    •  Secure resources needed for the event
    •  Complete the SIPOC (if possible)

Session #1 of the Lean and Six Sigma 5 Day Jumpstart – Day 1 – 2 ½ – This is the first 2.5 days of the 5 day event (Normally Monday 8am – Wednesday 12pm)

  •  This is to complete the Define Phase and to start the Measure and Analyze Phase
    •  Complete the SIPOC with the SME’s
    •  Complete the Value Stream Map (if needed)
    •  Employ other Lean tools if needed (Spaghetti Map, QFD, etc.)
    •  Perform MSA’s
    •  Perform Initial Capability Analysis
    •  Complete the Process Map with the SME’s
    •  Complete the Variables Map, C&E Matrix and FMEA
    •  Perform Multi Vari Analysis, Hypothesis Testing and other statistical tools to determine the KPIV’s
    •  Project Plan for Session #2 of the Lean and Six Sigma Jumpstart

Four week intermission between Session #1 and Session #2

  •  Complete any Quick Wins
  •  Gather and Analyze further data if needed
  •  Perform MSA’s on updated measurements
  •  Develop pilot test for the improvement

Session #2 of the Lean and Six Sigma 5 Day Jumpstart – Day 2 ½ – 5 – This is the first 2.5 days of the 5 day event (Normally Monday 8am – Wednesday 12pm)

  •  Complete DFMEA (Risk Management of the Improvement)
  •  Complete the improvements that are applicable within the 5 week timeframe
  •  Collect data from the improved process
  •  Perform updated Capability Analysis
  •  Develop the “30 Day Plan”
  •  Develop the Stakeholder Report Out
  •  The team gives the Report Out to the Stakeholders on the Last hour of the event (normally 11pm-12pm on Wednesday)

My colleagues and I use this format with groups of 3-5 Lean and Six Sigma Practitioners or Potential Lean and Six Sigma Green Belts (students). The two 2 ½ day sessions allow my colleagues and I to work with two groups (Group #1 on Monday 8am – Wednesday 12pm and Group #2 on Wednesday 1pm – Friday 5pm).

These Jumpstart Sessions can be very successful if performed correctly under a strong infrastructure. The hyper focused time on the opportunity does not allow for teams to get distracted. The Stakeholder Report out with Bosses, VP’s, Colleagues and other Peers is a motivator to maintain focus on the opportunity.

If you would like a more detailed agenda for the Lean and Six Sigma Jumpstart Event, please email Kevin Clay at If you have any questions about the event, Contact Us.

Have you had experience with Lean and/or Six Sigma Projects that stalled indefinitely? What was the reason?