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Closing the Gaps

A Roadmap for Project Selection

May 24, 2016 - Over the last couple of weeks I’ve had occasion to discuss the project selection process with a client, and I thought this diagram might be useful as a general roadmap.

The first step is to clarify the strategic and regulatory imperatives of the organization – the collection of activities that must be executed at a high level of capability for the organization to be successful.

Step two is to identify a way of measuring the performance of each imperative, as well as a target performance objective representing the required to be considered successful.

Once those key performance metrics and targets are established, actual performance can be compared to the target. Any shortfall in performance, or gap, must be closed by some activity. That’s step three – which establishes the scope of work that must be performed.

Having quantified the gap to be closed, the next steps are to identify specific projects to help close the gap. These projects fall into two categories: those that address known root causes to implement known (or mostly known) solutions (step four), and those that address unknown root causes and unknown solutions (step five).

The known root cause and known solution arena representing step 4 is comprised of capital projects, IT implementation projects, and simple process improvement efforts (e.g. the room is cold, the window is open, so shut the window). These are projects where the tasks to implement can be identified at the front end.

The last step on the diagram, step 5, represents projects of discovery since the root cause and solution set are unknown. This is the realm of Lean Six Sigma: DMAIC projects fix more complex process problems, rapid improvement (Kaizen) events, and new product or process design efforts. These are projects where the specific tasks to implement are NOT known at the front end – only the questions to be answered are known.

In practice, project identification and selection is a lot more complicated than this simple diagram, but it’s always best to start with a conceptual roadmap that is as simple as possible.

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Excellent perspective to simplify prioritization. Many leaders have been promoted over the years because they came with solutions (what they knew, or what is described in as "Known." Helping leaders to focus on what is "Unknown" can often feel like unnatural. Excellent overview to talk to this point. Thanks Bill for sharing.

May 31, 2016

Bill Zeeb

It has been interesting to watch various aspects of the Six Sigma methodology morph over the years. My first Process Map was in 1983 and everything had circles because that was the only drawing template I had. They have become so exotic that I am sure you have to be able to get a Masters degree in Process Mapping. This blog is addressing a much more critical issue to not only the success of each individual project but to the deployment. It lays out a process that can be followed, measured and improved. Continuously improving the continuous improvement process because it is not exempt from the need to iterate and become more efficient. Being able to identify the best projects available is a critical skill to a successful deployment. Just my opinion.

May 27, 2016

Mike Carnell