Lean Six Sigma Project Management

9 minute read

Process Improvement Skills Boil Down to These 3 Elements

Claudia Buckley

Claudia Buckley

In today's rapidly advancing corporate environment, a premium is placed on individuals with solid process improvement skills. Streamlining operations, slashing unnecessary costs, and amplifying customer satisfaction are all pegged to one critical ability – the capacity to methodically dissect, rethink, and refine existing processes. But what exactly delineates a professional with superior process improvement capabilities? It predominantly comes down to three indispensable characteristics: profound project management acumen, verifiable Six Sigma mastery, and a proactive demeanor that embodies initiative. 

1. Profound project management skills: the structural foundation

First on our list is essential competence in project management. An individual skilled in process improvement is more than likely to be an exceptional project manager, deftly maneuvering around the complex corridors of planning, execution, and oversight. This expertise in managing timelines, budgets, resources, and a myriad of stakeholders directly influences the triumphant realization of process improvement initiatives. 

project manager reviewing outline

An assured way to discern this critical skill is the presence of a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. The PMP certification, endorsed by the Project Management Institute, is an internationally respected credential that underscores an individual's comprehensive grasp of project management principles. It's not just a badge—it's a testament to their commitment and proficiency in steering projects toward their desired objectives. A prospective employee boasting a PMP certification is often an ideal candidate for roles necessitating robust leadership and management in process improvement.

2. Six Sigma expertise: the guiding compass

When evaluating a candidate's competency in Six Sigma, it's prudent to seek an individual who holds a Six Sigma certification, preferably a Six Sigma Green Belt or a more advanced level. This certification is a tangible indicator that the candidate not only comprehends the principles of Six Sigma but is also adept at putting these principles to work in real-world scenarios. Michael Di Leo, the managing director of the Management and Strategy Institute (MSI), explains: 

The reason we advocate Six Sigma qualifications is that it vastly increases the ability to produce long-lasting results for both organizations and their employees.

As we explain in “What is Lean Six Sigma?”, Six Sigma isn't just another fancy terminology: it's a well-crafted, data-informed strategy aimed at annihilating defects and minimizing process variability. Lean Six Sigma combines the tools, methods, and principles of Lean and Six Sigma into one popular and powerful methodology for improving your organization’s operations. Candidates adept in Six Sigma are skilled problem solvers, equipped with the tools and methodologies needed to identify challenges, dissect data, and implement lasting solutions. 

Here at GoSkills we’ve launched a range of Lean Six Sigma courses to help demonstrate leadership in an area that is vital to ensure broad-based progress across departments and organizations. 

Want to learn more about the Lean Six Sigma methodology?

Check out this ebook that will guide you through the key concepts of LSS.

3. Initiative and proactivity: the hidden X-factor

Even with substantial project management knowledge and a firm grasp of Six Sigma, the equation for process improvement wouldn't be complete without the vital ingredient of initiative. Initiative is the spark that lights the fire of action; it's the silent force that compels an individual to step up, take charge, and make a positive change.

Those demonstrating initiative and proactivity don't wait for problems to escalate. They are the self-starters, the go-getters, those who identify potential issues and address them head-on. Initiative isn't merely about being action-oriented—it's about forecasting problems before they emerge, acting preemptively to nip issues in the bud. A professional demonstrating these qualities can troubleshoot current inefficiencies and preempt future ones, ensuring a smooth, efficient operational flow in the long term.

Potential pitfalls of skill deficiency (and real-world implementation strategies)

Unarguably, the absence of these three pivotal skills within your team can have detrimental effects. The lack of solid project management skills can lead to mismanaged resources, missed deadlines, and poorly executed projects, thereby harming the organization's reputation and bottom line. Without proficiency in Six Sigma methodologies, identifying and rectifying process-related inefficiencies can become a strenuous, hit-or-miss affair. 

Most glaringly, a deficiency in proactivity and initiative could stifle innovation, causing potential improvements to be overlooked, thus keeping your organization from reaching its peak efficiency.

Consider the scenario of an eCommerce company aiming to reduce its order fulfillment errors and enhance customer satisfaction. Without an individual with robust project management skills, implementing a comprehensive plan to achieve this goal would be challenging.

Without proficiency in Six Sigma methodologies, identifying and rectifying process-related inefficiencies can become a strenuous, hit-or-miss affair. 

Deadlines could be missed, resources misallocated, and critical stakeholders may not be effectively managed, leading to an unsuccessful project.

If this team also lacks a professional with Six Sigma knowledge, identifying the root cause of the fulfillment errors becomes a guessing game. In contrast, a Six Sigma-certified individual could apply DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control) methodology to systematically pinpoint and rectify the source of the problem, leading to lasting, measurable improvements.

Furthermore, imagine if the team lacked proactive individuals. Opportunities for improvement might be missed, and the underlying issues causing the fulfillment errors could persist. Conversely, a proactive team member might initiate an audit of the current order fulfillment process, identify potential inefficiencies, and propose changes even before the problem escalates.

So, how can an organization implement these three key skills? Start by providing training and resources for employees to obtain PMP and Six Sigma certifications. Encourage a culture of continuous learning and professional development. Finally, foster an environment that rewards initiative and proactivity. Recognize and commend team members who anticipate challenges, suggest innovative solutions, and take ownership of improvements. Over time, these three skills will become an integral part of your organization's DNA, leading to sustained process improvements and enhanced overall efficiency.

Six Sigma in the hospitality industry: a case study

In line with our emphasis on Six Sigma as a cornerstone of process improvement, recent research has shown the positive impact of its application in an industry traditionally not associated with this methodology. The hotel industry, a critical sector contributing to many economies, had to adapt rapidly to the challenges posed by the recent global pandemic. This adaptation led some industry players to turn to operational excellence (OPEX) methodologies like Six Sigma to enhance productivity and performance, often at a lower cost.

A study carried out in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) hotel sector is an excellent example of this application. The researchers adopted a case study approach using Six Sigma's DMAIC (Define-Measure-Analyze-Improve-Control) phases to improve the performance of the minibar updating process attached to the hotel rooms.

The results of this application were transformative. Not only was the cycle time for the minibar process significantly reduced, but the process capability index also improved substantially. This process improvement led to notable performance enhancements and an annual profit increase of $50,000 for the hotel. 

Want to learn more about the Lean Six Sigma methodology?

Check out this ebook that will guide you through the key concepts of LSS.

The indispensable trio of process improvement skills 

Process improvement, anchored in the core competencies of project management, Six Sigma, and proactivity, is the fulcrum of operational efficiency, customer satisfaction, and business success. These skills are intertwined, with each complementing and enhancing the others to deliver substantial process improvements across sectors. 

Project management prowess ensures the effective orchestration of resources and objectives, while Six Sigma's disciplined approach systematically eliminates defects and improves processes. Proactivity, meanwhile, aids in staying ahead of issues and continuously seeking improvement opportunities. 

The power of these skills was recently underscored in the UAE hotel industry case study referenced above, demonstrating that these skills are universally applicable, bringing transformative improvements to any organization that embraces them. As the competitive landscape intensifies, possessing these skills is no longer just desirable—it's a necessity for both individual and organizational success.

Therefore, organizations should strive to cultivate these competencies among their teams, emphasizing relevant certifications and behaviors indicative of initiative and proactivity. This not only enhances performance but also contributes to shaping a future-ready workforce.

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Claudia Buckley

Claudia Buckley

Claudia is a project manager and business skills instructor at GoSkills. In her spare time, she reads mystery novels and does genealogy research.