Project Charters–when I learned about project charters my initial thought was that Six Sigma is too formal and that it is no wonder that our company has not adopted it formally. Nevertheless, I went through the motions of creating a project charter as part of my black belt project. I used an Excel file template which you can download at the following link: Six Sigma Downloads.
Technically, the project champion initiates creation of the project and team and then the project team completes the charter. At our company, however, we do not have a ranking executive with Six Sigma training that initiates formal Six Sigma projects.
While we do not have a top-down Six Sigma implementation, we do have a Vice President with green belt training that understands the value of rigorous quantitative analysis and she graciously acted as the champion for my project–after I put the bulk of the charter together. She was an obvious choice for the role of champion because she has green belt training but more importantly because she is the overall owner of the process I wanted to improve.
My project team was relatively small: It included the VP champion, another black belt at the company, the department manager (the proximal owner of the process I hoped to improve), a supervisor from the same department, and myself. I wanted to keep the team small for two reasons. First, I did not want to include anyone that was not totally committed to improving this process. By that I mean I did not want to include anyone that would get cold feet and bail out or that would not care about improving the process. Secondly, I have found at our company that larger, cross-functional groups have a terribly difficult time making shared decisions in a timely fashion. That is a relatively kind way of saying that very little gets accomplished in larger, cross functional groups. By larger I mean more than about five people.
As I identified the team, I quickly began to realize the value of the charter. In this and subsequent projects it became very clear that establishing a champion and setting roles for each team member is critical to the project’s success. It is very easy for various people at a company to convince others to shut down your project. Often this occurs as a result of the ignorance of those not involved. A champion is a must.
Perhaps the most valuable part of a charter is identification of the process and definition of the problem and goal. Because I had never conducted a Six Sigma project previously, I took the responsibility of defining the problem statement and project goal. Fortunately, I had an opportunity to run my ideas past the black belt on the team and she confirmed that in this case, we had a clearly defined problem statement with a quantifiable output variable and a reasonably narrow scope.
In the end, my problem statement was, “The average handle time for general technical support calls for the advanced technical support team is 10 minutes higher than the average handle time for the general technical support queue. This higher handle time (just the portion above and beyond the handle time for the general queue) costs the company nearly $1M annually.”
The project charter template required that I identify several other pieces of information that help define the project. These included the business case (which I incorporated into the problem statement–the estimated potential savings), scope of the project (to ensure that I didn’t end up trying to “boil the ocean”), the benefits to external customers (to ensure that I focus on improving a process that benefits customers), and a project timeline (another way to ensure that the scope was set appropriately).
Lessons learned in creating my first project charter:
– Choose your champion wisely–you don’t want to risk your project shutting down due to lack of support/buy-in from others
– Spend the time up front to clearly define the problem, the team, the roles people will play on the team. A little time invested up front could save you a lot of heartache or even failure down the road