Home FAQs Project Questions

How much time should a project take?

Some people say that a project should take about eight months, but we find that this is entirely dependent on the type of project that you choose. We recommend that you look for a project with a scope that lends itself to completion in less than a year, though for seasonal issues, this may be extended.

In regards to team member time commitment, keep in mind that you and your team will have a lot to understand and learn about the process you are working on. We usually recommend that a team spend more time meeting per week up front in the Define, Measure, and Analyze phases. The Improve and Control phases tend to lend themselves to more work outside of the formal meeting times, so these meeting times usually decrease.

What support do I need to be successful with my project?

The success of project depends on many factors. First is support and commitment to the DMAIC process from the manager(s) in the area(s) affected by the project. Second, you need to build a cross-functional team representing the various interests that come into contact with the area affected by the project.

From there, your success is most dependent on how well you can help the team be effective at working together and following the DMAIC process.  To help you with this, our training has a section devoted to Effective Teaming and we include our manual on Effective Teaming with your purchase.

The technical tools will help you come up with the best solution most efficiently, but we have frequently had feedback from our Black Belts that they found the Effective Teaming section to be most critical to their success.

Do you need a project to start the course?

We HIGHLY recommend that you have the support to bring a project to completion before starting the course. Having a project as you work your way through the material will greatly aid you in seeing how the tools you are learning apply in real life situations. While we recommend that you have the support before beginning the course, you may wish to view the first instruction block (Week 1) before finalizing your project with your Champion. The discussions we have this week will help you with the "Define" phase of your project. Additionally,your instructors can help you in project selection.

Should you not have a project, it is still possible to take the course and earn a Certificate of Completion. However you will not receive a Black Belt Certification until you bring a project to successful completion. This can be done at a later date, but again, we strongly urge you to try to attain a project prior to Week 2's material. In certain rare instances, ROI may be able to procure a project for a Black Belt trainee to work.

How do I choose a project?

Ideally, you have a support infrastructure that takes input from Champions and selects and prioritizes potential projects and delivers these to Black Belts-in-training. Of course, this is not always the case, so here are a few thoughts to help you choose a good Black Belt project.
  • The project needs to have a major impact on your company. Projects that have minimal impact may be easier to achieve, but the benefit of the training is in solving problems that have been previously considered unsolvable. Maximize your return on your investment.
  • Make sure that you have sufficient support by area managers. If you are attempting to solve a problem that you haven't been able to solve before, you will have to do something different than what you have done before. Many people believe that doing what you do now, but more of it, will solve these problems. You will be asking them to go beyond that during the course of your team's work. Without strong management commitment to change, you will find that the closer you get to a solution, the higher the probability that the people in the area resist your team's efforts. It is best if the decision-makers in the area in which you are working have a financial interest in following the DMAIC methodology.
  • Make sure that there is a link between the project you choose and the business' strategic direction. This is part of making a "business case." In the absence of this linkage, it would be difficult, and perhaps inappropriate, to maintain interest in completing the project throughout the project lifetime.
  • Improving quality is not necessarily the best way to increase profit. Although improving product or service quality frequently results in bottom-line savings, there may be other ways to make bigger improvements to your bottom-line. Six Sigma is a business improvement initiative, not a quality improvement initiative. For example, you may find that eliminating a certain product or service results in a much larger contribution to profit than improving its quality.
  • Manufacturing is not always where the money is. Manufacturing has borne the brunt of improvement activities and cost-savings over the years because it is easy to quantify the savings. In many cases however, the non-manufacturing aspects of a business have not been examined and improved as a process. This is frequently where inefficiencies and waste occur, and since most businesses allocate these costs equally across all products and services, the opportunities for improvements are hidden and massive. Bob Galvin estimates that starting out by focusing solely on manufacturing at Motorola may have cost the company tens or hundreds of millions of dollars.
  • Customer satisfaction is not necessarily related to profit. People frequently think that businesses always need to improve the satisfaction of their customers. In reality, many businesses have gone out of business doing exactly that. Some customers do not contribute to profit, some product or service improvements incur costs but customers are not willing to pay any more for the improvement, and some customers tell you they want one thing when they really want another. These and many other reasons are why customer satisfaction improvement alone is not a reason to do a project. The project needs to be linked to improvements in profitability, or to the survival of the company.

Random Heresy

By the time you are reading this, you will have made your New Year’s resolutions, and I will have already broken mine. But I have an idea for a resolution that you might be interested in keeping, and one that could make your New Year happy and profitable. It is s...

News Flash

Six Sigma's lead instructor Steven Ouellette wrote an article with Dr. Jeffrey Luftig on "The Decline of Ethical Behavior in Business."



Six Sigma Online's lead instructor Steven Ouellette was profiled in the June 2008 issue of Quality Digest magazine. If you want to learn more about Steve's peculiar view of the world, as well as what he studied for a year in Europe, read the profile online.




Home FAQs Project Questions