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Are you an effective project sponsor?

Why do projects need sponsoring? What are the do’s and do not’s of sponsoring? How can you be a bad sponsor? These are some of the questions that I regularly review with clients who are eager to see their lean six sigma project teams deliver successful results.

Project sponsorship is a subject infrequently addressed in continuous improvement and project management literature. Many people believe that a good project leader, that is someone who is well organised and has good interpersonal skills, is the most important factor in bringing a project successfully across the finishing line. However, in my years as a management consultant I have come to believe that effective sponsorship is the single most important factor in guaranteeing project success. I believe the following to be three essential guidelines for effective sponsorship.

  1. Strategic alignment. The sponsor is responsible for ensuring that the team leader and the team understands the business or strategic importance of the project. He/she is responsible for clearly articulating and restating the strategic objective during the project lifecycle. Example of strategic plan summary objectives are ‘zero lost time accidents by close of year and ongoing’ or ‘expanding into 3 new markets within the next 12 months’ or ‘30% productivity increase over the next 18 months’. This strategic focus is a key enabler of team success, and lean six sigma project participants are encouraged by the sponsor to take pride in their contribution to organisation development. If the project is not supporting a strategic pillar, then it simply should not be undertaken. It is assumed that safety and compliance with the law (or regulations) are always priorities.
  2. Scope and timeline management. The sponsor acts as a coach for the lean six sigma project team, without actually taking part in any project activities. Above all, the sponsor must not guide the team towards a particular solution. The lean six sigma team must be allowed to follow due process during the DMAIC project lifecycle, and occasionally make mistakes along the way. It is very disheartening for any team to be shown the solution by an overenthusiastic and under aware sponsor. Where the sponsor may intervene, is to provide advice on scope of the project and to prevent scope creep if the project leader is relatively inexperienced.
  3. Reward and recognition. This third most important role of the sponsor is to ensure that the team is rewarded at the close of the lean six sigma project. This reward is not monetary in nature. The reward should include a very clear ‘thank you’ from the sponsor to all team members, and public recognition of the project achievements. It may also include a token reward such as lunch vouchers for the team members.

In his/her capacity as coach, the sponsor may be instrumental in smoothing over any interdepartmental barriers and perhaps giving budget approval for best practice site visits. Beyond that he/she should encourage the team and not interfere. The most effective sponsors are very adept and confident in using the three magic words ‘I don’t know’. This ensures that they do not take on any team leader responsibilities, and give as much autonomy to the team as possible, in executing the project. In fact, it is good practice for any senior manager to encourage development of his/her people by regularly refusing to take on the monkey of process problem solving. Those who are most effective in developing their people, are also those who are most adept in developing their team’s problem solving skills.

 


Examination Tips

Six Sigma Certification is important for those aspiring to advance their career in the quality management sector and who want to implement Six Sigma Methodologies in their organisation to make the projects successful.

However the most daunting part of many of us doing such a course, is preparing ourselves both mentally and physically for the exam.

Here are some essential tips we at Lean Ireland have put together for you…

 

  1. PREPARTION

Check out the exact location of your exam venue on Google Maps. Know exactly where it is and how long it is expected to take you to get there.

Make sure you understand the nature of the examination in terms of how it will be conducted, and what you can and cannot bring to the exam with you.

Check out restrictions regarding text books, sample questions sheets and calculators. Most examinations will not allow any devices that can connect to the internet.

Ensure all your notes, prompt cards and text books are clearly annotated with your subject headings. Use coloured markers to highlight key topics and formulae. Only ring bound or spine bound notes are allowed. Stapled notes and index cards are NOT allowed.

 

  1. ARRIVAL

Arrive in plenty of time to register, at least 40 minutes in advance of the start time.

Be prepared for strict security inspections regarding before being granted access into the exam room.

 

  1. THE EXAM PLAN

Acknowledge that you will not know the answer to every question on the paper. Be comfortable in that knowledge.

Develop an examination timing plan, like the one below.

 

Breathe into your abdomen three times, slowly. Do not look up notes in the last few minutes. Breathe.

 

  1. READING & ANSWERING

Read through each question individually, slowly and carefully. When answering, keep referring back to the question to ensure you are on the right track.

Skip the question if the answer is not obvious, and move on to the next one. Do not worry if you don’t know the answer. Sometimes a later question will prompt an answer an earlier one.

Following first pass completion of the questions go back re-read the unanswered questions slowly and carefully.

The best of luck!

 

A more complete guideline listing of tips for the online ASQ examinations, is available by clicking the button below.

 


The Continuous Improvement Funding Menu

Time and again when visiting prospective clients, we hear the refrain “We’re too busy at the moment to start a lean programme” or, just as likely “It’s not in this year’s training budget”. These responses are true, because personnel in every dynamic company, working in a challenging marketplace, will always be busy. But this is the problem – if you have process efficiency issues, you are busier than you need to be, addressing failure demand. Failure demand is defined as work that has to be done because something that should have worked, didn’t.

The availability of funding, to invest in information systems, or boost the training budget, is a great incentive to step back from the business ‘busyness’ and re-charge your continuous improvement programme. If you are eligible, an external resource will support and coach personnel as they learn smarter and more customer friendly ways of delivering value to customers. This impacts significantly and positively on customer service and the bottom line. Check out the following funding avenues. The list is not exhaustive, and you are advised to contact your local funding body representative to discuss options and eligibility.

  1. IDA GRANTS

1.1 Research and Development (R&D): Companies can avail of financial incentives to carry out in-house R&D projects and collaborative projects with third-level institutes and industrial partners. There is also a 25% tax credit available for companies engaging in R&D.

1.2 Capital Grant: The level and availability of support is dependent on location and size of the company. This grant also covers investment in software applications.

1.3 Training Grants: Available across the country to develop the competitive capabilities of companies already located in Ireland.

1.4 Lean/Green: This is designed to encourage clients to adopt Lean business principles to increase performance and competitiveness that will sustain and grow its operations in Ireland. Support is also available to client companies to introduce good Environmental management practices through its Lean/Green business offer. This offer is aimed particularly at IDA SMEs (fewer than 200 employees)

Cordatus Consulting Limited, trading as Lean Ireland is a registered Lean consulting advisor with the IDA. For details see www.idaireland.com/how-we-help, and to check your eligibility for any of the above, please contact your local IDA representative.

 

  1. ENTERPRISE IRELAND GRANTS

2.1       High potential Start-up: The High Potential Start-Up (HPSU) team provides hands-on support and advice to entrepreneurs and early stage companies that are considered by Enterprise Ireland to have an innovative product, service or technology, and have the potential to achieve international sales and create employment. for support and investment.

2.2 Operational Excellence Offer: This latest funding scheme is designed to aid Irish companies (both SMEs and large) looking to evolve and expand, and become more competitive in the global market. The application of the funding is broad. There are 3 categories – Capital Assets (Equipment, Software Licenses), Business Innovation (Salaries, Overheads, Consultancy, Testing, Materials, etc.) and Training (including travel & subsistence).

2.2 Lean Business Offer: Similar to the IDA programme this suite of initiatives is designed to encourage clients to adopt Lean business principles to increase performance and competitiveness that will sustain and grow its operations in Ireland and exports abroad. Support is also available to client companies to introduce good Environmental management practices through its Lean/Green business offer.

2.4 Established SME funding: A variety of grants are available include Market Research and Internationalisation Supports, Supports for Product, Process or Services, Development including RD&I Funding, Supports to Enhance and Develop your Management Team, Productivity and Business Process Improvement Supports and Company Expansion Packages.

For details see www.enterprise-ireland.com/en/Productivity/Lean-Business-Offer/, and to check your eligibility for any of the above, please contact your local Enterprise Ireland representative (https://www.localenterprise.ie/Find-Your-Local-Enterprise-Office/).

 

  1. UDARAS NA GAELTACHTA GRANTS

For companies in Gaeltacht areas, Údarás can provide a range of financial incentives in the form of grant assistance to assist varied business needs. Support incentives include:

3.1       Feasibility Study Grant

3.2       Research and Development Grant

3.3       Capital Grant

3.4       Training Grant

3.5       Consultancy Services Grant

3.6       Development of Market Research Skills

3.7       Innovation Voucher Initiative

3.8       Online Trading Scheme

3.9       Lean/Green service offer, similar to Enterprise Ireland and the IDA.

For details see www.udaras.ie/en/forbairt-fiontraiochta/cunamh-airgid/,  and to check your eligibility for any of the above, please contact your local Údarás representative.

 

 

  1. LOCAL ENTERPRISE OFFICE (LEO) GRANTS

Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) provide a range of financial supports designed to assist with the establishment and/or growth of enterprises (limited company, individuals/sole trader, cooperatives and partnerships) employing up to ten people.

4.1       Feasibility Study Grants

4.2       Priming Grants

4.3       Business Expansion Grants

4.4       Technical Assistance for Micro Exporters

4.5       European Globalisation Fund

4.6       New Agile Innovation Fund

4.7       Lean/Green service offer, similar to Enterprise Ireland and the IDA.

For details see www.localenterprise.ie/Discover-Business-Supports/Financial-Supports/,   and to check your eligibility for any of the above, please contact your local LEO representative

Cordatus Consulting Limited, trading as Lean Ireland is a registered Lean consulting advisor with Enterprise Ireland, the IDA, Údarás na Gaeltachta and LEO. .

 

  1. SKILLNETS

The Skillnets network around the country has been a wonderful source of supplementary funding for lean six sigma and supply chain training and development.  These include, and are not limited to

  • BioPharmaChem Skillnet
  • CILT Skillnet
  • First Polymer Training Skillnet
  • ICBE Advanced Productivity Skillnet
  • Irish Medtech Skillnet
  • ITAG Skillnet
  • Lean and Green Skillnet

Please see https://www.skillnetireland.ie/all-networks/ for a complete listing of Skillnet networks.

 

6.  R&D FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES & TAX CREDITS

There is a variety of funding opportunities and structures available to companies be thesaech and process improvement training. y small or large, including:

6.1       In-Company R&D

6.2       Collaborative R&D

6.3       Start-up Company R&D

6.4       EU R&D Funding Programmes

6.5       R&D Tax Incentives. R&D Tax Credits are worth approximately €700m per annum to 1,500 companies in Ireland. The credit is calculated at 25% of qualifying expenditure and is used to reduce a company’s Corporation Tax. Revenue provides guidance here: www.revenue.ie/en/companies-and-charities/reliefs-and-exemptions/research-and-development-rd-tax-credit/index.aspx

6.6       Knowledge Development Box

6.7       Manunet is a network of development agencies whereby each agency uses its own funding programmes to support international collaborative projects performed by companies in the manufacturing sector. MANUNET supports innovation-driven, close-to-market research and development projects in manufacturing. It aims to encourage cross-border value chains that emerge from advancing technologies. Contact the IRDG at http://www.irdg.ie/funding-support/ for advice on R&D funding.

 

7.   INTERTRADE IRELAND

InterTradeIreland has been helping small businesses in Ireland and Northern Ireland explore new cross-border markets, develop new products, processes and services and become investor ready over the last 20 years.

7.1 Acumen sales and marketing programme

7.2 Elevate, specifically aimed at Micro-Enterprises

7.3 FUSION provides financial support to help you get the specialist skills

7.4 Seedcorn competition

7.5 Business Angel investment

For details see www. intertradeireland.com/corporate-information/about-us/ and to check your eligibility for any of the above, please contact your local InterTrade Ireland representative.

 

8. INVEST NI

As the regional business development agency, Invest NI’s role is to grow the economy of Northern Ireland, by helping new and existing businesses to compete internationally. Some funding programmes include:

8.1 Capability development

8.2  Innovation and R&D

8.3 Start ups with export potential

For details see www.investni.com/ and to check your eligibility for any of the above, please contact your local Invest NI representative.

 

So, the big question – “Am I eligible?” All of the funding opportunities come with terms and conditions. There’s no magic wand, and the application process can sometimes be off-putting (who likes paperwork?), however it is well worthwhile. The funding typically gives a scaled percentage of your actual investment, in redesigning your business model to increase competitiveness, and enhance your market position so you grow further in new markets. Also, there is typically a cap on the amount of funding that can be claimed from the agencies over a defined period of time. Your local representative will be able to help you out.

The above is only a sampling of funding and is not designed to be exhaustive. If you know of any other sources that may help companies, please post in the comments section below. I wish you well with your funding research and application process.

 


The role of the contract Lean Six Sigma Black Belt

Black Belt

The Certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt (BB) is a professional who is well versed in the Lean Six Sigma methodology, who leads improvement projects, typically in a full-time role. A Lean Six Sigma Black Belt possesses a thorough understanding of all approaches and tools within the phases of lean six sigma project. They understand how to perform and interpret Six Sigma tools and how to use standard principles of Lean.

A BB is results driven, trained in advanced project management and statistical analysis tools. He/She is expected to contribute between €250K and €1M to the company’s operating profit each year by undertaking process improvement projects that lead to enhanced customer satisfaction, and lower cost to the company.

Why use contract Black Belt support?

Employing contract BBs has become popular for every employer type, ranging from multinationals to SMEs and even start-ups. One of the reasons why it’s beneficial for companies to employ a BB contractor to work on specific projects, is the specialised expertise that they can bring to that role. They can also adapt quickly to the organisation’s processes and culture, and deliver measured value on a quick return basis.

The contract black belt service compliments existing operational excellence department resources, or can act as a stand-alone professional support to the management team and project teams on site. The advantages to the organisation are many, and include:

  1. Senior project manager with cross-sector experience;
  2. Access to a wide and deep knowledge store of programme management approaches, and lean six sigma data analysis and problem-solving tools;
  3. The support of a professional who is senior enough to influence management thinking, without having the natural hesitation that might inhibit a more junior permanent employee;
  4. Use of support days in line with the organisation’s needs, and
  5. The freedom to wind-up the contract when it best suits the organisation.

Black belt duties

Duties of the black belt will vary from company to company, however will most likely include the following. In consultation with the management team and others:

  • Development and maintenance of the continuous improvement roadmap;
  • Project selection and team selection;
  • Project planning, team mentoring and individual team lead mentoring;
  • Process problem-solving with teams in manufacturing, laboratory, warehouse and office areas;
  • Data analysis and report writing, with recommendations and project plan

Support days & duration

The range of support days varies typically, from 3 days per month to full time 20 days per month.

Funding  

The organisation may be eligible for IDA or Enterprise Ireland lean funding, under the Lean Business Offer suite of programmes. Talk to us about it today.

 

 

 


Measure up or pay up!

History is littered with examples of bad decisions, made on bad measurement data, and their very expensive consequences. In 1999, NASA lost the Mars Orbiter, which was designed to study the Martian climate & atmosphere. It seems the engineering team used English units of measurement, whilst NASA used the metric system. NASA took a $125 million dollar hit on the lost in space Mars Climate Orbiter.

We don’t need to travel to NASA to observe bad decisions made on the basis of poor measurement data. Decisions about process changes and parts’ conformance to specifications are based on measurements or inspection. Measurement itself is a process and like any process it has the potential for variation or error. Variation in the measurement system comes from many sources including people, materials and the environment in which the measurement is taken. Very often our measurements exhibit unacceptable variation and we don’t even know about it.

 

The risk to the organisation is twofold: firstly, a false reject, which cost the organisation money, and secondly and much more seriously a false pass, which may result in a customer complaint, and worst case a product recall and significant damage to the business. Time and again I have witnessed operators rejecting good parts, and they don’t even know it. Also, more unfortunately, I have witnessed customer complaints, when parts are returned from customers for 100% inspection (or worse, scrap!) after the customer has discovered non-compliant parts in the order.

 

How can we assess our measurement system? It’s typically a quick and easy, and very informative exercise to conduct what’s called a ‘Gauge R&R’ exercise. This formal technique assesses how likely the assessor (i.e. the person taking the measurement) is to get the same result, when using the same gauge to measure the same characteristic of the same part, repeatedly. This is known as assessing for repeatability, the first R. Gauge R&R also assesses how likely two or more assessors are to get the same result when using the same gauge to measure the same characteristic of the same part, repeatedly. This is known as assessing for reproducibility, the second R. The exercise provides a data set on the accuracy of your measurement system. Based on the data, you can decide whether or not the measurement system needs to be improved or updated.

 

If you don’t have access to Minitab or JMP, there are many cheap and cheerful Excel add-on packages that can enable you to conduct Gauge R&R exercises. The investment in regular Gauge R&R exercises on key processes measurements more than pays for itself. If you’d like advice on how to go about it, just give me a call on +353 91 870 708.

 

Bernie Rushe,

Principal Consultant, Lean Ireland.