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Your Lean Six Sigma Project Charter

When you start an improvement projects, ensuring that you and your team understand why you are undertaking the project and what you want to achieve, is an essential ingredient for success.

With a DMAIC project, you start with a problem that needs to be solved
Before you can solve the problem, you need to define it and one of the key outputs from the define phase is a completed project charter.

The project charter is an agreed document defining the purpose and goals for an improvement team. It helps address some of the elements that typically go wrong in projects by providing a helpful framework to gain commitment and understanding from the team.

It is best to keep your project charter simple – maybe only two pages in length.
Here is a suggested structure for your project charter document:

Project title
Date commenced
Why. This is a high-level business case describing why this project is important and how it links to your business plans

Problem statement
In frame
Critical to quality requirements

Goal statement
Out of frame
Defect definition

Who. This names the process owner, champion, team leader, and team members. You describe and they are and what are their roles, responsibilities, and time commitment. You describe what involvement is expected of the Champion, and how often you should meet

When. Here you include your project schedule showing the high-level timeframes of the DMAIC phases.

The project charter should contain the following key elements:
A high-level business case providing an explanation of why undertaking the project is important
A problem statement defining the issue to be resolved
A goal statement describing the objectives of the project
The project scope defining the parameters and identifying any constraints
The CTQ’s specifying the problem from the customer’s perspective.
Roles. Identifying the people involved in and around the project, expectations of them, and their responsibilities.

The project charter forms a contract between the members of the improvement team and the champion or sponsor.
Milestones. These summarize the key steps and provisional dates for the achievement of the goal

The project charter needs to be seen as a ‘living document’ and be updated throughout the various DMAIC phases, especially as your understanding of the project you are undertaking, becomes clearer.

Depending on the nature of your project, you may also need to use some other tools, such as affinity and interrelationship diagrams.

If your project is large and potentially complex, and estimate the diagram prepares you for success and it can also help in developing your project charter.

Affinity and interrelationship diagrams provide definition for your project and help the team really understand what is involved, so these tools should be used together.

The affinity diagram can be the first step in a large project and it helps the team to develop their thoughts on the issues involved.

By the time they have created the project charter, the team will have a detailed understanding of what they need to do, the drivers of success, and the many and varied relationships involved, and they will feel they own the outputs of the project.

The best way to create the affinity diagram is to use sticky notes and silently brainstorm ideas on an agreed issue statement.
These sticky notes can then be placed on a wall and moved into appropriate themes or clusters.
These identify the key causal factors all drivers for your project by enabling you to understand the relationships between the themes or clusters.

In looking at different pairs of clusters, you are trying to see if a cause and effect type of relationship exists.

Throughout your project, developing a storyboard summary of all the key decisions and outputs help you review progress and share what you have learnt.

After you have defined the problem, you need to clarify how, and how well, the work gets done. So understanding the current situation of your process, knowing what it looks like and how it is performing is important.

You need to know what is meant to happen and why. Understanding how your process links to your customer and their critical to quality requirements (CTQ) is also helpful.

Knowing the current performance of your process is essential as this knowledge becomes your baseline but knowing what has happened in the past is also useful.

You must measure what is important to the customer and to measure what the customer sees. Gathering this information can help focus your improvement efforts and prevent you from going in the wrong direction.

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