Selecting Six Sigma Projects

One of the many keys to success when implementing Six Sigma is to select projects that will return the most benefit to the customers of the organization, the employees who work in the organization, and the owners of the organization.  The best projects are those that simultaneously benefit all three stakeholder groups in a positive manner.

To illustrate this point, imagine a project that reduces cost to the customer and improves profitability to the owners of the business by cutting the wages of the employees in half.  While the customers and owners might be pleased in the short term, the long term consequences could be devastating.

There are many things that we could work on when we go to work each day in order to make improvement.  We must have a way to make sure that we are choosing the things that we should work on.  You should begin by making a list of critical business issues along with an exhaustive list of possible improvement projects.  Involve your customers, your employees and other key stakeholders in creating these lists.

Projects should be selected by a group of executives and champions, such as a Steering Committee or Executive Council, not by the project leaders and team members who will plan and execute the projects.  This will help ensure that the projects have management support and are aligned with the strategic needs and critical business issues of the organization.  The best projects will have:

  • A current baseline of performance that is not acceptable to the customer.
  • A goal or target that will be meaningful to the organization both in terms of improving customer satisfaction and in financial terms. We must know the expected financial outcome of the project in dollars and the cost to execute the project in order to make an informed decision.
  • An outcome that is feasible and has a good likelihood of success.
  • An identified Process Owner and an identified Project Champion.

In addition to improving customer satisfaction and making sense financially, projects may be evaluated on other considerations such as environmental impact, and/or the need to comply with legal or regulatory requirements.  The level of risk involved in completing the project should also be considered.

Your comments or questions about this article are welcome, as are suggestions for future articles.  Feel free to contact me by email at

About the author:  Mr. Roger C. Ellis is an industrial engineer by training and profession.  He is a Six Sigma Master Black Belt with over 45 years of business experience in a wide range of fields.  Mr. Ellis develops and instructs Six Sigma professional certification courses for Key Performance LLC.   For a more detailed biography, please refer to