I (Kevin Clay) was teaching a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt course in Atlanta, Georgia and I had a good question about “Six Sigma Quick Wins” and how to define the term.

We teach that in each phase of the DMAIC we will find these “Quick Wins”. These wins are a great tool to sustain excitement and support for the Lean Six Sigma project! If I go four to six months until I show improvement, I’m likely to lose support. If I show sustained improvements in small (and sometimes large) wins throughout the life of the project, then the level of excitement (and consequently support) is sustained.

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The term “Quick Wins” is open to interpretation. I have sat on many teams that term every opportunity (some call problems) that they see in a process as a “Quick Win”. This is because it is innate in us to want to “solve the problem now” because we are sure that we have the solution and it doesn’t need to be analyzed further. What we may not have defined yet may be the interdependencies in the inputs in the process. My experience especially with new Six Sigma team that come from a Lean background is that determining significant inputs by analyzing metrics through multi-vari analysis and/or Design of Experiments (DOE) scares the “bejeezus” out of a lot of people! It is a lot easier to make a judgment call, point at what you think is the target and hope that you hit it.

But I digress. Defining “Quick Wins” was the question that was posed. How do I define what is considered a quick win? My definition is based in one sense on already accepted best practices that have been analyzed and risk managed. I find that in most of my Lean and Six Sigma projects that accepted standards are not controlled therefore they are not followed. They are effective improvements that do not need to be reinvented in our Lean and/or Six Sigma project. They just need to be controlled.

Another definition is a more loose definition. A quick win can be defined as any “common sense” fix. In this case we intimately understand how the “X” will affect the “Y”. This can be the “Slippery Slope” because the level of “common sense” is left up to interpretation. My control for this is to run a quick D-FMEA in order to risk manage even the “quick wins”.