Six Sigma & Project Management

Six Sigma & Project Management are two high trending topics of interest among professionals and organizations today. While Six Sigma is a management approach, project management principles instill the rigor of execution. Whatever is the nature of your business, innovation is critical today. In order to survive competition and be the customers’ choice, you need to come up with really new products and services.
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All it means is that your change management ability is a direct measure of your success. In other words, timely launch of new products/services in desired quality and price are going to determine your success; apart from the cultural change aspect. So whether you want it or not, good project management skills are essential in today’s business to survive and win. Without digressing on other pre-requisites of good project management, let’s focus on one of most important but rarely focused area. There are several project management techniques and tools available, such as: CPM, PERT, and Critical Chain. Immaterial of the base on which these models are structured, out of my experience, everything finally boils down to predicting the time duration for a task and delivery as predicted. In small organizations (less than 10 employees), it is more of coordination, multi-tasking, and communication that will determine if a task can be completed as predicted. But with organizations involving a few hundreds of employees, it is all about how resources and efforts are synchronized. There may be lack of knowledge of what is to be done next, on who owns which piece, how & when to escalate, and lack of clarity on authority & decision making. Additionally, unlike big organizations, smaller companies will have to manage with inexperienced and understaffed scenarios. So to make life easy for everyone; if processes associated with project management such as supply chain management processes, finance processes, clearly defined inter-department service levels and authorities, etc., are established well; it will help the organization deliver projects in time. Isn’t this what ‘Process Orientation’ is all about! Strong Process Orientation: one of the key foundations of Six Sigma is responsible for success in most project based industries. Mathematically also it makes sense to focus on process orientation. For instance, consider the PERT model in which the PERT Time (Task duration) is a function of Optimistic Time (OT), Most Likely Time (MLT), and Pessimistic Time (PT). When OT and PT are wide apart, it means that it is not possible to predict the task duration accurately. In other words, the process on which the task is dependent has high variation. Such a process leads to higher PERT Time. When all the tasks of a project have widely spread OTs and PTs, the overall project duration itself will be high and unpredictable.

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