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Six Sigma and the Project Management Body of Knowledge

Six Sigma and the Project Management Body of Knowledge

Gary A. Gack

Six Sigma and the Project Management Body of Knowledge

Six Sigma and the Project Management Body of Knowledge
Interest in Six Sigma is growing rapidly within the professional project management community, and themost common question coming from that group is something like "How does Six Sigma relate to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBoK)?" Six Sigma and PMBoK do have connections, similarities and distinctions. Before diving into specifics, a little background doesn't hurt. The PMBoK is a well-established standard (promulgated by the Project Management Institute) that is widely used byprofessional project managers in many industries around the world, and is the basis for certification as a project management professional (PMP). The PMBoK consists of nine knowledge areas organized into five "process groups" as illustrated in Figure 1, lower in the article. As specific connections are explored, it is useful to identify and comment on several different perspectives from which this topiccan be considered.

What Is Meant by "a Project"?
This is not asked in the rhetorical or definitional sense. It is asked to point out an important distinction between a project that is being executed to develop a new product or process (or to enhance something existing) versus a Six Sigma project that may be concurrently executing in parallel with, and potentially intersecting with, the "productproject." The following diagram illustrates this distinction.

It is possible that several Six Sigma projects may be executing at the same time as a "product project" and may deliver results that impact or are used by that project. A DFSS (Design for Six Sigma) project could be chartered to better understand the requirements of a certain customer segment, with the intent to deliver thatknowledge to the product project team at the appropriate time. Similarly, a process improvement DMAIC project might be initiated if it were recognized that testing capability was insufficient to deliver the required level of quality within the required time frame. Both Six Sigma projects could have results that impact other product project teams as well, and so are not merely tasks within the productproject, but have a life of their own.

Six Sigma and the Project Management Body of Knowledge

PMBoK as a Guide to Execution of Six Sigma Projects
At a conceptual level, many of the "management best practices" advocated by PMBoK and Six Sigma have a great deal in common – e.g., identify and communicate with stakeholders; have a sound plan; conduct regular reviews; andmanage schedule, cost and resources. In the Six Sigma project world, most practitioners would likely argue that these types of activities are the province of the project Sponsor/Champion and the team leader, typically a Green Belt or Black Belt. It is generally accepted as best to keep Six Sigma projects time limited (typically four months or so) and to execute them with small teams. Thus, it can beargued that appropriate management controls for projects of this nature may be primarily in the nature of individual results goals for Sponsors/Champions and Belts. Six Sigma practitioners may resist additional oversight from a project office or other manifestations of professional project management. In contrast, an argument can be made that professional project management finds its bestapplication in larger, more complex "product projects." In these situations, more formal and resource-intensive oversight by a mechanism such as a project office is appropriate. With large projects, individual results goals may not provide adequate control to ensure desired outcomes and accountability. In the balance of this discussion, "professional project management" is used to denote a larger, more...
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