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The Six Sigma Line: Starting at First Base


By: Rick Ring

Welcome to the Six Sigma Line! This series of blog articles addresses topics that we find interesting and provides potentially useful information to anyone trying to enhance their business skills.

In our last blog, we talked about having a few good tools in our Six Sigma bag of tricks that can help us solve most problems. This short list included cause and effect diagrams, control charts, Pareto charts, and process maps.

However, we didn’t cover what might be the most important tool–the project charter. This essentially describes who’s responsible for what. If it starts to look a bit more like the old Abbott and Costello “Who’s on first” routine than something fit for the major leagues, things can go south fast.

“ If you don’t know where you’re going, you might end up some place else. ”

Your charter should include two parts: one that describes the project and another that outlines the steps for project completion. Think of it as both your master plan and project record. Information is written into the charter as the various steps are completed and attachments are included as appropriate.

The first part typically includes the project name, dates, team members, and a broad explanation of the project’s context. The charter should also have a project description, including problem statement, project goals and metrics, challenges and support requirements, and an estimate of the cost savings and/or additional revenue/sales.

The second part describes the necessary tasks and tools to be used to complete these tasks. Tasks are noted in the charter as they are completed, thus the charter becomes the project record.

For example, one of the earlier tasks would be, “Describe the process to be studied.” Tools used for this step may be a process flow chart and extensive interviewing. The flow chart and the results of the interviews are referenced in the charter, along with a record of the findings.

Remember, your project will only be as successful as your process for planning and recording the results.


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About Rick Ring

Rick Ring served as a lead project specialist in quality for Purdue University’s Technical Assistance Program (TAP), leading and/or facilitating multiple Six Sigma projects and Lean kaizen events. Rick holds two Six Sigma Black Belt Certifications, one from the American Society for Quality and the other from the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center, and has taught both public and on-site LSS courses. As an instructor, Rick stands ready to assist students on their quality improvement journeys.

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