Utility of Lean Six Sigma in Project Management

Utility of Lean Six Sigma in Project Management

Do you know why projects fail? A project fails, when there is no clearly defined project goals, ineffective execution of plans, team members are not aware of their roles and responsibilities, and broken communication link.

The goal of every project manager is to achieve the desired results of their project and increase productivity. A project manager should be aware of the tools and techniques used in the industry for increasing productivity. They can further benefit using the Lean Six Sigma methodology to remove waste and also reduce variations. It will help in the successful completion of the project with successful outcomes. Before we learn how to apply the principles of Project Management along with the Lean Six Sigma framework, let’s understand their definitions and how they work.  

Project Management

Project Management is the art of using or applying industry knowledge, expertise skills, tools, as well as the techniques to work on the undertaken project to achieve project goals. A project is defined by time and is temporary. It has a defined start as well as end time. Also, it has defined resources and scope. When planning a project, the project managers categorize the project into these groups or the life cycle of a project:

  • Initiating – Project initiating is a very crucial phase in Project Management as it involves defining the scope of the project, hiring a skilled team, establishing the objectives, understanding the purpose, and the goal of the project.     
  • Planning – Once the project is approved by the management, a well-written plan is required to guide or direct the project team. It is imperative to have a well-developed plan to handle risks, produce the desired outputs, manage supplies, and communicate the results to stakeholders.  
  • Execution – In this stage, the task and resources are allocated to the members of the team. The output and achieving the goal of a project highly depends on the effectiveness of the team members. 
  • Monitor and control – Once the team starts working on their assigned task, they have to be monitored to check if the desired output is received.
  • Closure – The closure stage is when the project is completed or reached the project end-stage. The project manager communicates the result and findings of the project to the stakeholders, internal and external clients, and customers.  

The five life cycle requires the Project Management team to work on these aspects through the course of the project; they are scope, cost, integration, time, quality, communication, risk management, stakeholder management, and human resources.

Lean Six Sigma

Lean is minimizing waste and creating value, and Six Sigma is reducing defects by solving problems effectively. Lean and Six Sigma are combined to solve problems and improve processes within the stipulated time; effectively and efficiently. Lean Six Sigma is based on facts and driven by data. It values the prevention of defects than just detection of the defects. Lean Six Sigma is used in projects to reduce waste, cycle time, and variations, and it prioritizes customer satisfaction.

Rising cost and competition are two problems that most organizations face almost every day. Lean Six Sigma enables them to solve these problems and grow their business. The organizations that have used Lean Six Sigma methodology vouch that they have achieved huge success in their projects. The Lean Six Sigma works effectively in five phases – DMAIC:

  • Define the issue or problem, customers, project boundaries, and improvement required in a process
  • Measure the problem by collecting data and by comparing it with customer feedback
  • Analyze or identify what caused the problem, the glitches, and gaps, find ways to improve and find what caused the variation
  • Improve the situation by implementing solutions and verifying them
  • Control by maintaining the implemented solution and prevent using old processes

Lean Six Sigma users mainly focus on effectiveness and efficiency, improving understanding, and reducing waste. Project Management and Lean Six Sigma methodologies have been successfully used by project managers. Let’s see what role Six Sigma plays to improve Project Management. 

Role of Six Sigma in Project Management

The DMAIC methodology used in Lean Six Sigma is a disciplined and structured process used in solving organizational problems. If there is a defect in the process that prevents an organization from efficiently and consistently producing quality products and services within the stipulated time and at an optimum cost, Lean Six Sigma tools help in identifying the root cause of the defects.  However, Lean Six Sigma doesn’t address how to manage the project. Therefore, Project Management techniques and tools are used in managing projects as it focuses on the project's attributes.    

Project managers use a wide variety of tools to manage and complete a project. Project managers use these common processes such as scope definition, risk analysis, analyze work breakdown, status reporting, schedule development, and also cost budgeting. Lean Six Sigma tools can be used to identify the project, find approaches for team development, project planning, control tools, and evaluate the methods used in a project. However, it fails to control the process of the project. An organization can integrate the troubleshooting process of Lean Six Sigma along with Project Management’s strength to control a process to achieve a controlled, predictable, and consistent troubleshooting system. To leverage Lean Six Sigma and Project Management approaches effectively, an in-depth understanding of both the methodologies and relationship between their key elements is crucial.

Blending Six Sigma with Project Management:

There is a co-relationship between various parameters of the project with the Lean Six Sigma methodology. The parameters like quality and scope are depended on each other. Similarly, cost and time are depended on each other. There are various tools in Lean Six Sigma that can be used to measure a problem. The Lean Six Sigma tools can be used to make decisions that are well informed as the project moves from one phase to another. The tools of both Lean Six Sigma and Project Management can be effectively blended for managing a project. The different phases of the project and both the methodologies can be combined to work together, as shown in the below image:

A project manager should be able to decide which tools and processes will increase the success probability of a project. Every methodology doesn’t need to be blended. It can be aligned as per the complexity, timeline, scope, and budget of a project. If the tools are used effectively in integration, desired goals can be achieved.  


Lean Six Sigma tools provide data and analysis, and when it is combined with Project Management’s aspects, both get well-integrated for a project to succeed. Using Lean Six Sigma, a project manager can target the needs of customers, evaluate and measure project performance, and constantly monitor the working of a project using various statistical tools. The data derived from Lean Six Sigma can be used for prompt and informed decision making. Therefore, Lean Six Sigma promotes an approach that is based on evidence to components that are crucial for customer experience as well as for quality.      

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