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Six Sigma In Project Management
Although these sectors have significant differences in challenges that they face, the common element is that they carry out projects and each project is unique in itself.
To understand the applications of Six Sigma in companies that carry out projects, let us take example of construction industry (as most people have some familiarity with this sector)
In construction industry, Six Sigma usage can be understood with following points.
1. Recurring problems exist at each stage of construction. When I say recurring, it means recurring for the company (may be -not for individual projects)
2. If you study a construction project, it comprises of large number of individual processes ranging from soil testing to landscaping to structural designs to foundations, superstructure, interiors and exteriors. There are a whole lot of purchase and logistic processes as well.
3. A good number of these processes are common to all projects. If processes were robust many of the individual problems would not occur at the first place. The remaining can be reduced.
4. The idea in Six Sigma is about making the processes robust ( so that the results are right the first time, every time)
5. Not all processes are equally important. Processes that matter are those that relate closely to pain areas (for customers/ management). These processes need improvement.
6. In each project, individual project managers, site engineers face a whole lot of problems that they solve. These problems do get solved in the project (after they have caused a delay or cost in the specific project). Normally there is no mechanism to aggregate learning from the experiences of these managers and use it for process improvement. Also companies do not have structured mechanism to use tried and tested techniques to eliminate or reduce such issues in future projects.
7. To be able to study and improve management systems one needs a structured approach that should include
a. Identifying individual problem areas (or focus areas) and prioritizing them.
b. Next, we need techniques to identify the root cause of the problem.
c. Once we identify the root cause, we need to generate solution alternatives, compare them and select the best.
d. We then need to implement the best solution and see how it works.
e. If successful, we wish to institutionalize the solution.
8. Six Sigma provides tried and tested techniques for steps A to E in a team based approach which converts each problem area into an individual "improvement project"
9. When processes improve, there is a reduction in problems and defects.
10.Primary defects in construction industry (and most of the project driven industries) are DELAY, REWORK and COST OVERRUNS and Six Sigma can be used to reduce any of these defects.
This is not all. In addition to usage in improvements in existing processes (as explained above), Six Sigma is also used to design new processes (or redesign existing processes that contribute to project success (with better predictability that ever before).
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