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Six Sigma's Advantages in Project Management Planning

written by: Jean Scheid • edited by: Marlene Gundlach • updated: 5/21/2013

Using the Six Sigma process is a great way to identify faults and errors in your projects before you even start. By defining the stuff that won't work up front, your team can focus on what does work. Still, many project managers wonder, what is Six Sigma?

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    What Is It?

    Six Sigma Black Belts EA Crawford 

    The basic definition of "Sigma" means looking at the sum total of all your project's elements before you begin to keep it from deviating from total perfection. If you can realistically define your project defects initially, you'll create error-free and successful projects, every single time.

    This business management strategy first used by the Motorola Company is used more and more in the project management field than ever before. The goals of Six Sigma equal flaw-free projects by examining all the important stuff up front.

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    Using Six Sigma Effectively

    To use Six Sigma in your everyday resource management, you can obtain free Six Sigma templates--the recommended strategy--or try going it on your own. A template will help you better understand it all instead of a whiteboard full of yellow stickies and lines that connect your Six Sigma elements.

    In the early days of Six Sigma, the process was mostly used in the industrial world to determine the flaw or break in manufacturing that left companies with costly mistakes. You can apply this to project and resource management as well. Six Sigma's elements include Quality, Defect, the Process, Variations, Operation, and Design. Take a look at your project and utilize the Six Sigma process this way:

    • Quality - If the task at hand is perfecting a client's advertising slogan, the quality in Six Sigma means the customer and what he wants. Consider the quality of the slogan first. Look at why a prior one failed.
    • Defect - Does the advertising slogan have any defects? To determine that, find and target consumer groups and give it a trial run to change it. If the quality is okay, but the consumer reaction is bad, that's a defect.
    • Process - Think of that advertising slogan as something you must deliver to your client and indentify what processes you will use to ensure you deliver the slogan on time.
    • Variations - Be open to this part of the Six Sigma process: This is where you will show your client that even if the slogan worked on your test consumer group, if the client doesn't like it, you can talk about the variables they want changed or how you can match the slogan to better meet their needs.
    • Operation - The slogan may be good initially, but what are you and your team going to do to change it as the market changes? The future outlook of the slogan should be determined at the very basic level of creation.
    • Design - If you have followed the Six Sigma process, the design phase of your project will be easily handled correctly the first time, and you'll produce a quality slogan and future slogans that will be effective for your client.
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    What Works and What Doesn't

    The concept of Six Sigma is to determine the flaws, the stuff that works, including the right personnel for the task, and getting it all down in front of your team prior to beginning the project. Don't think of the test slogan as a finished project. Instead use it as part of the process to understand the client's ideas and changes before you start delving into the final slogan creation process. Make sure you and your team have followed each step before the real design process of the slogan starts.

    If the Six Sigma process is something that you feel will work within your office, take the time to learn more about how Six Sigma works and commit to all the steps in the process. Six Sigma is really all about taking the guessing or error out of any project before you start so that when you do begin, your project has all the elements it needs to succeed including good project management.