When it comes to motivating a team, which of the following three goal statements is most effective?

  • “Install new hardware and software to improve our customer service to world class levels.”
  • “Respond to 95% of our customers’ inquiries within 90 seconds with less than 5% callbacks about the same problem.”
  • “…land a man on the moon and return him safely by the end of the decade.”

It would be hard to out-motivate the man behind the third goal statement – President John F. Kennedy – but for Six Sigma team leaders, the second does the job nicely. With specificity that gives everyone something to aspire to, it illustrates what makes a powerful goal statement, which is an important component of an effective business case for Six Sigma projects.

The business case is the heart of a project charter. More than just explaining the intent, value and end goal of the project, it should serve as a motivational tool to keep the team (and leadership) excited and engaged.  From its goal statement to metrics, it must be well thought out and articulated, not just as a road map but also as justification for the investment of the organization’s time and resources.


Identify the need and solution

The first step is to identify an existing business need and lay the foundation for how the project will pose the solution to meeting it.  In addition to providing a description of the project, with key goals and objectives, it outlines what the project will deliver, along with other high level expectations.

Answering a series of well-researched questions is important:

  • Why is the project worth implementing?
  • Why is it important to customers, the business and employees?
  • Why now?
  • What are the consequences if it’s not done now?
  • How will the reduction of defects impact internal and external stakeholders?
  • How does the project align with the operational initiatives and targets?

Support the case with hard data

Six Sigma is a data-driven methodology. Solid supporting data is important to include in order to ensure that senior management is being shown the clearest possible picture of the project’s basis. A thorough business case should always cover:

  • The time period for which the initial data was collected
  • The problematic metric that was identified
  • The target and the actual performance basis behind the data
  • The financial loss due to the gap in performance

Identify project risks and how they’ll be managed

Every project presents some level of risk. The best cases scope them out and offer ways of offsetting them throughout the project.

  • Financial: Will funding be sufficient to deliver the project, and will anticipated savings be achieved? In addition to finding similar projects that might provide relevant data, a sensitivity analysis will be helpful in accounting for variabilities in the cost/benefit analysis.
  • Strategic: Will the funds be used appropriately, and in a way to support the organization’s ability to achieve other goals? How the project links to current policies, strategies and processes will help address this area of risk.
  • Operational/technical: Is there a possibility that the project will interrupt normal operations? Appropriate managers and others with relevant expertise can be solicited to lend their thoughts on this area of risk management.
  • Operational/safety: Will safety issues arise with the project? The safety risk assessment protocols that most companies have will need to be followed.

As the project moves forward, the business case can serve as a dynamic component of the decision-making process throughout the life cycle. Done right – and with initial buy-in and ongoing revisitation by team members and project owners, it can be a roadmap for Six Sigma project success.

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