Choosing the right Six Sigma project is vital. Several examples illustrate why this is so:
One important difference between a Six Sigma project and a "normal" project is that in Six Sigma you will use advanced statistical tools.
To do this you will need data. If you already have access to a large data amount it will be possible to dig deep in the "analyze"-step and learn the different tools. If you do not have the data, but have a good idea on how to find it (using Design Of Experiments or other techniques) you will still have the possibility to make a great project, but you will need to plan the "measure" step in detail.
If you do not have any clue on how to find relevant data you should probably try to find another project.
One approach for choosing a Six Sigma project is to start with a brainstorming session. The desired result is a list of potential projects. Then take the interesting step of rating these projects against each other. Finally, present a highly-rated project for executive approval.
The brainstorming session requires having a variety of people, particularly representatives from line functions who will directly benefit from these projects. They should also be able to describe the issue they want addressed, and provide some limits on the scope and timelines.
Select a team of about half a dozen to agree on a fairly small number of criteria, a scoring system, and finally to evaluate the candidate projects. Here is an example of a scoring system that works well for organizations new to Six Sigma:
Then take a dozen or so likely projects for closer scrutiny.
It is simpler if each person on the selection team simply contributes their scores to one tally, rather than trying to gain consensus from each person. That does not preclude discussion or debate, especially the discussion to ensure everyone understands the project under discussion.
Remember that these should be objective criteria, requiring research between the brainstorming and selection meetings. For example, estimating the cost to run each Six Sigma project is not trivial; neither is determining the expected cost saving.
Finally, the highest total score should not be the sole determinant of the "best" candidate project. The CEO may have already stated a goal for, say, improving customer service in a particular division. This exercise may have demonstrated that this particular goal is already being addressed outside of the Six Sigma framework, so then the selection team would advocate for a different project. If the CEO's pet project is a close third from the selection process, however, it might be more important to ensure executive commitment than to pick a slightly higher-scoring project.
By Oskar Olofsson