Failure: Why do Great Six Sigma Project Teams Still Fail?

Six Sigma is defined by teamwork, which, in turn, influences the success of Six Sigma projects. However, even the most foolproof projects can collapse under their own weight if you aren’t careful. And what factor, more than any other, causes these project failures? The answer: Six Sigma project teams. If your team isn’t up to scratch, then it is sure to fail in its duties, causing total project failure. In today’s article, we look at how to recognize the warning signs of a bad project and avoid failure. Join us as we explore how even the best team can fail if you aren’t vigilant.

Common Causes of Six Sigma Team Failure

  • Premature Formation. When gathering your group members together, there should be a distinct focus on strong, accurate data. If data doesn’t drive you then you have no direction, and if you have no direction, then your team will likely start veering away from your objectives, sometimes without even realizing. The initiative is fine, and often beneficial, but when team members start tackling problems on their own, the group dynamic starts to fall apart. This will only cause further problems later. To avoid this, analyze your data beforehand (tools like Pareto charts are helpful here). Ensure your team has appropriate skills, like RCA, to suit the needs of the project.
  • Poor Handling of DMAIC. DMAIC is one of Six Sigma’s most useful and effective tools. Its first two stages, DEFINE, and MEASURE, can often cause Six Sigma teams to become lost trying to implement new measures. This can be especially difficult for inexperienced teams with little guidance (which is why strong leadership is important). But, truthfully, these first two stages aren’t entirely necessary. By skipping, and going straight to the ANALYZE stage, you can save time and spend it focusing on the important things. By the time it comes to use DMAIC, you’ll have all the data you need anyway, which is why refining your focus immediately, will allow you to make clearer decisions for improvement.
  • Unnecessary Training and Meetings. Your brain forgets up to 90% of what it learns within three days. If you don’t apply what you’ve learned, that is. Investing in extensive training long before it is going to be of use can often be a waste of time, not to mention costly, and will not benefit your Six Sigma team in the long run. Training on the job, throwing them in at the deep end, will allow your team to learn more effectively. Your time is precious – use it efficiently and effectively. The hundred plus hours of delay that occur between weekly team meetings is not only time wasted, but it also contradicts Lean principles of one-piece-flow and eliminating delay. Putting this time to better use, and having teams meet for between two and four hours will give them all the time they need to locate root causes, conceive countermeasures, and devise improvements.

Remember, Six Sigma is all about the team. Avoidable errors that are allowed to propagate by your team will make certain its failure. Don’t let this happen to you.

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