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Category: Project Digest

Nov. 06, 2011

Permalink 11:48:00 pm, by Michael, 436 words   English (US) latin1
Categories: Project Digest

1.3 Project-Charter

The purpose of a project charter is to provide vital information about a project in a quick and easy to comprehend manner.  Project charters are typically used to communicate scope, purpose, cost, timeline, risks and much more.  Charters can also act as the vehicle to get approval and/or gain "buy-in" for projects or initiatives.

For our project (project digest), we have completed our own charter for two reasons.  1.) To document and organize "Project Digest" and 2.) So that you can observe a few uses of the charter template and witness for yourself how to document different aspects of a project in a concise and consolidated manner.  Below is an image of our charter and a quick overview of few key elements of any project charter.

Project Digest Charter

Key Elements of  A Project Charter

  • Title: All projects need a title or name.  People should be able to reference the work so that others understand the body of work being discussed or addressed.  Project titles should be simple and should capture the essence of the projects purpose or scope.
  • Leadership: Effective projects have well defined leaders, champions and other clearly defined roles.  Unlike our charter example, you should clearly define Champions, Stakeholders, Advisors, Project Leads etc.
  • Purpose: Good charters have specific goals and can clearly state the current state.   You should always have these two components (and their subcomponents) to declare your purpose:
    • Business Case - Describes why the project is important to the business
    • Problem Statement - Declares the problem (current state), the goal, the gap to goal and timeline of closing the gap
      • Primary Metric - Describes the most important measure of success for the project.  It should quantify the the problem statement (baseline, goal & gap).
      • Secondary metric - Describes that which you don't want to sacrafice in obtaining primary metric improvements.
  • Other Important Charter features:
    • Scope
    • Risks
    • Constraints
    • Dependencies
    • Timeline
    • Team (approvers, stakeholders, SME's etc.)

At this point if you have reviewed our charter image, you should have a clear understanding of Project Digest's baseline, goal, gap, timeline etc.  You also have viewed a practical example of the application of a project charter to a live initiative.  If you would like to get our Excel based Project Charter Template or our template in MS Word so that you can use them to apply to your own project, you can download either one for free from our online store.

Next we'll start thinking about our existing process and how we might seek to understand the process, it's inefficiencies and opportunities.  We'll start by using process mapping as a means to help "scope" our project parameters, identify low hanging fruit and much more..

Oct. 23, 2011

Permalink 10:06:00 am, by Michael, 537 words   English (US) latin1
Categories: Project Digest

0.0 Getting Started

Before we get started with Project Digest there are a few things we need to cover so that visitors like you can understand how to navigate the posts & archives and have context into the "business case" and problem we're trying to solve.  We'll start with navigation.

Navigating Project Digest:

You'll notice that this post is titled 0.0 Getting Started.  The reason for the numeric prefix is so that you can sequentially follow our progress and visitors who start following at a later date in the project can back track logically and get the full step by step approach.  Another reason for the numeric prefix is to tie the project work to our curriculum.  Our objective is to relate every "project Digest post" to the Black Belt Body of Knowledge (BOK).  By doing so, you will see posts with prefixes of 1.1 or 1.3 or 4.2 etc.  The leading number indicates the project phase (1. Define, 2. Measure, 3. Analyze, 4. Improve, 5. Control).  The second number will indicate the subcategory that the post is related within that phase (e.g. our next post will be 1.3 Project Charter which connects the charter to our curriculum outline 1.3.2 Business Case & Charter.) See our Black Belt BOK for a complete outline of the Six Sigma Black Belt curriculum.

Project Digest Business Case:


Six Sigma Digest is a recent online start-up that has only been open for business since 8/21/2011.  In the year leading up to our opening we made significant  investments of time and finances in order to establish our business plan, curriculum, website, learning management system etc.  Our marketing budget is low and we need to fully leverage as many effective online and virtual sales channels as possible.  The trick is figuring out which channels and avenues provide the best ROI and most impact to our business growth.  This is primarily what project digest is all about...then we decided, if we're going to do it, why not share it - so here we are!

Primary Metric:

The primary metric for this project is going to be "Visitors".  Visitors will be defined as the number of unique visitors to our website on a weekly basis.  We will also share this traffic throughout the project at various intervals (hourly, daily, weekly, monthly etc.) depending on the needs required for testing and analysis.

Disclaimer: For those of you out there that will insist our primary metric is wrong, we understand!  In truth sales should be our priamry metric but we're a little uncomfortable sharing that information freely.  Sooooo we're using "Visitors" as the next best and most logical metric.


The following image is a run chart of weekly traffic over a 43 week period ending 10/22/2011.  You'll notice that its trending, we'll show you how to deal with trending and de-seasonalizing data later.  For now, this is our "starting" point".

primary metric baseline

Project Goal:

The goal of this project is to get our website traffic up to 3,500 visitors per week by the end of the year 2012.

Now that you have some basic background information we can begin writing our project charter which will capture everything shared here in a very logical, organized and directed manner.  The project charter will be the document that helps us prepare for our project and communicate its purpose and direction.

Oct. 15, 2011

Permalink 10:18:00 pm, by Michael, 783 words   English (US) latin1
Categories: Project Digest, On Six Sigma


In my last article I explained that Six Sigma is simply a goal, a goal to be 99.99967% good.  Hopefully I have expressed in words (probably too many) that it's really nothing more than that, a goal.  Now, I want to share with you the process that is prescribed and necessary to follow in order to achieve this goal.  The process is referred to as D.M.A.I.C. and it's part of the Six Sigma methodology.

The Six Sigma methodology is DMAIC which is an acronym that refers to the 5 phases of a Six Sigma project.  These phases each have specific objectives that are characterized by their one word name...Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control.   Each phase has a predefined set of deliverables and tools that should be used to achieve the deliverables.  If followed, the Six Sigma methodology works, I've personally lead, coached, sponsored or championed enough projects to know, the methodology does work.

So what are the deliverables and tools?  You'll get to know them quite well if you continue to follow this blog but you will truly learn them if you apply them yourself.  Here's a breakdown of each phase and the goals & tools:

Define Phase Goals

The goal of Define is to establish the projects foundation. This is arguably the most important aspect of any Six Sigma project. All successful projects start with a current state challenge or problem that can be articulated in a quantifiable manner. Additionally, it is not enough to just know the problem; you'll also determine the goal.

Once problems and goals are identified and quantified the rest of the define phase will be about valuation, team, scope, project planning, time line, stakeholders, VOC/ VOB etc.

Define Phase Tools

  • Project Charter
    • Problem Statement
    • Business Case
    • Objective
    • High level time line
    • Project Scope
    • Project Team
  • Stakeholder Assessment
  • Pareto Charts
  • VOC/VOB & CTQ's
  • High Level Process Map

Measure Phase Goals

The goal of the Measure phase is to gather baseline information about your process or product. Throughout the measure phase you will seek to achieve a few important objectives:

  • Gather All possible x's
  • Analyze your measurement system & Data Collection Requirements
  • Validate Assumptions
  • Validate Improvement Goals
  • Determine COPQ
  • Refine Process Understanding
  • Determine Process Capability
  • Process Stability

Measure Phase Tools

  • Any Appropriate Tool from Previous Phase
  • Process Maps, Value Stream Mapping
  • Failure Modes & Effects Analysis (FMEA)
  • Cause & Effect Diagram
  • XY Matrix
  • Basic Control Charts
  • Six Sigma Statistics
    • Basic Statistics
    • Descriptive Statistics
    • Normal Distributions
    • Graphical Analysis
  • Measurement Systems Analysis
    • Variable Gage R&R
    • Attribute Gage R&R
    • Gage Linearity & Accuracy
    • Gage Stability
  • Process Capability (Cpk, Ppk) & Sigma
  • Data collection plan

Analyze Phase Goals

The Analyze phase is all about establishing verified drivers. In the Six Sigma methodology, Analyze uses statistics and higher order analytics to discover the fact-based relationship between the your process performance and the x's (in other words, what are the root causes or drivers of your improvement effort). Ultimately, you must establish a hypothesis for your improvement solutions.

  • Establish Transfer Function Y=f(x)
  • Validated List of Critical X's & Impacts
  • Beta Improvement Plan (e.g. Pilot Plan)

Analyze Phase Tools

  • Any Appropriate Tool from Previous Phase
  • Hypothesis Testing
  • Simple Linear Regression
  • Multiple Regression

Improve Phase Goals

The goal of the Improve phase is guessed it! "make the improvement". Improve is about designing, testing and implementing your solution. To this point you have defined the problem and objective of the project, brainstormed possible x's, analyzed and verified critical x's and now it's time to make it real!

  • Statistically Proven Results from Active Study/Pilot
  • Improvement/Implementation Plan
  • Updated Stakeholder Assessment
  • Revised Business Case with Investment ROI
  • Risk Assessment/Updated FMEA
  • New Process Capability & Sigma

Improve Phase Tools

  • Any Appropriate Tool from Previous Phase
  • Design of Experiment (DOE)
  • Implementation Plan
  • Change Plan
  • Communication Plan

Control Phase Goals

The last of the 5 core phases of the Six Sigma methodology is the Control phase. The goal of Control is establish automated and managed mechanisms to maintain and sustain your improvement. A successful control plan also establishes a reaction & mitigation plan as well as an accountability structure.

Control Phase Tools:

  • Control Plan
  • Training Plans
  • Poka-Yoke and/or Audit Plans
  • Translation Plan - How can this be translated to others

Below is an image that captures the Six Sigma methodology and all five phases of DMAIC.  It highlights each phase, its goal and the deliverables.

six sigma methodology

Now that you have a reasonable understanding of "what is six sigma" and the Six Sigma methodology (DMAIC).  It's time for us to start following the process and begin executing our Six Sigma project.  We'll start with a project charter which will force us to define a few things and document our project.  Join me and we'll walk through the DMAIC methodology together.

Permalink 12:28:00 am, by Michael, 815 words   English (US) latin1
Categories: Project Digest, On Six Sigma

What is Sigma

There's no better place to start our Six Sigma project than to explain a bit about "what is sigma" and then more specifically what is Six Sigma.  Did you know that the global search volume for the key word "Six Sigma" is 1,000,000/month!  That’s one million people searching the term Six Sigma every month.  A fair volume of interested folks but that’s not the really interesting part, the really interesting part is that there are 11,000,000 searches for the term "what is sigma" and another million who search for the term "what is six sigma".

It's safe to say that millions of people wonder what six sigma is, maybe it's because very few people can explain it simply and do it justice at the same time.  Honestly, I struggle with it myself but I'll give it a whirl despite the fact that it's like trying to nail a cube of Jell-O to a tree!

Six Sigma is simply a goal, to perform an operation successfully 99.99967% of the time.

Imagine ONE MILLION attempts and

  • missing only 3.4 putts
  • missing only 3.4 foul shots
  • missing only 3.4 field goals

That would be exceptional...and in fact, that would be Six Sigma.  Yes, that's the craze! and companies aspire to achieve ever increasing levels of production efficiency and quality every day.  They use automation, process standards, secondary and tertiary systems and other variation reduction techniques that create instances all over the globe where Six Sigma is already achieved.  To add some perspective, it's a lofty goal but it's also achievable in many industries.

The airline industry is one such industry.  Over the past 25 years the commercial airline industry has operated at 6.61 Sigma in terms of fatal incidents.  6.61 Sigma is a fatal incident rate of 0.0000163% or 0.163 incidents per million flights.  But what if the industry only operated at a 99% success rate (about 3.83 sigma)?  That would mean over 5,200 fatal incidents per month!  Yes, you're reading that correctly, there were an average 523,466 commercial domestic flights per month for the past 25 years and at a 99% success rate, 1% or 5,235 of them would result in a fatal incident every month.    But that's not our reality.  When lives are on the line, we ensure safety measures yield adequate risk tolerances by using error proofing, automation, secondary systems and in some cases tertiary systems.  These expensive countermeasures result in a transportation method that is one of the safest available.  In turn, we have an industry that demonstrates that Six Sigma is achievable.

Now you’re probably wondering what about the "sigma" part and why six?   Well, sigma is just a term used by statisticians to refer to variation.  You'll hear this often as you follow along with me, variation is the enemy.  Take for example your favorite pair of jeans.  They are probably your favorite mostly because at some point they fit so perfectly that you fell in love with them.  But, how many times did you try on the same size jeans in the same brand and they all fit differently?  That's the variation in production processes that Six Sigma intends to eliminate.  How nice would it be to know that you could buy the same brand of jeans in the same size and get the same fit every time?  Yeah i know!

Most processes have specification limits or targets to meet.  Your jeans for example might have a waist circumference labeled 34 inches but the production process that cut them might have specification limits to stay within e.g. 33.85 - 34.15 inches.  Sigma refers to the number of standard deviations between the process average and those specification limits.  If the production process can be precise enough to cut the jeans on average at 34.01 inches with a standard deviation of 0.04 inches then it is likely that they would stay within the specification limits 99.99967% of the time or Six Sigma.  The image below depicts a process operating at 6 sigma.  Notice there is plenty of room for the process to shift around still not product defects.

On the other hand, the cut can average 34.00 on the nose with a higher or wider standard deviation which means that the cutting process may render cuts outside of the predefined specification limits ("out of spec").  Out of spec conditions are defects and we want to avoid them.  See the image below depicting a process operating at approximately 4.25 sigma.  The red "tails" of the distribution are outside of the specification limits indicating defective products.

So there you have it, the longest answer to a simple question you never wanted to hear!  and this is just the beginning :-).  Lets back up and rewind a little before we move on, please remember this...

Six Sigma is just the goal.

There is something else very important that you're going to learn on the heels of this simple but important concept.  It's that there is a proven and well-structured method you can use to achieve Six Sigma.  The method is D.M.A.I.C and we'll learn that next.

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