Strategic Planning for a Lean Six Sigma Program Office (Part 3 of 4): How to Set Goals, Objectives and Measures - GoLeanSixSigma.com

In Part 1 & Part 2 of this 4-Part Series we explained how to create Mission and Vision Statements and conduct a SWOT Analysis for a Lean Six Sigma Program Office. These are critical inputs for Part 3: How to Set Goals, Objectives and Measures. Before setting goals, objectives and measures for a Lean Six Sigma Program Office, it’s important to have critical inputs handy.

These include:

  • Strategic Goals and Objectives of the organization
  • SWOT Analysis on the Lean Six Sigma Program
  • Lean Six Sigma Program Office Vision and Mission

Why Do We Need These Inputs?

One of the most important things to do in strategic planning is to align Lean Six Sigma efforts with the organization’s overarching strategic goals. Identifying where and how Lean Six Sigma efforts can support organizational goals, vetting this alignment with organizational leadership and communicating the alignment to staff serves to strengthen the Lean Six Sigma Program.

Having the Vision and Mission Statements for the Lean Six Sigma Program Office when developing goals helps the team stay focused on the departmental purpose. The last input, the SWOT Analysis, helps synthesize areas of focus which are used to discuss future goals and objectives.

The risk of not using these inputs effectively and not identifying alignment is the suggestion that Lean Six Sigma should be considered a lower priority. As a result, process improvement work is perceived as “extra” work that can be put aside and addressed when people have the time, if at all. If this happens, Lean Six Sigma is viewed as “pushed” or forced onto employees rather than “pulled” in to support the organization.

Lastly, aligning Lean Six Sigma efforts with the organization’s strategic goals and objectives helps unify employee efforts, creates “pull” for process improvement and shows how Lean Six Sigma helps staff contribute to achieving organizational goals.

Why Set Lean Six Sigma Goals, Objective and Measures?

Every department in an organization should have goals, objectives and measures including a Lean Six Sigma Program Office. Like any department or section this helps establish a clear path for what the group is trying to accomplish. For the Lean Six Sigma Program Office, what will be done and how it will be done is just as important as communicating what will not be done so others understand their roles.

Let’s discuss some definitions since organizations may not use these exact terms. Terminology is often used interchangeably which is fine. But it’s important to understand the context of these descriptions. How your organization defines high-level goals, objectives and tactics is up to you!

What is a Goal?

A Goal is a broad-based statement about what a group seeks to achieve in 3-5 years or more. These are typically long-term aspirations for the Lean Six Sigma program and likely will not change in the short-term.

One example of a Lean Six Sigma Program Office goal is:

Build the Problem-Solving Muscles of all Employees

You may have heard the term SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timebound). SMART goals are important but better used to address 3-18 month tactical efforts and project goals.

What is an Objective?

An Objective is a strategy that takes 1-3 years for a group to achieve. Objectives typically have a shorter time period than goals and speak more to how a goal may be achieved.

One example of a Lean Six Sigma Program Office objective (for the above goal example) would be:

Help employees see and eliminate waste

Below are more examples of Lean Six Sigma Program Office goals and objectives:

Strategic Planning for a Lean Six Sigma Program Office (Part 3 of 4): How to Set Goals, Objectives and Measures - GoLeanSixSigma.com

As mentioned before, a likely goal for every Lean Six Sigma Program Office is to support the organization’s strategic goals and objectives listed above as Goal 1. The objectives listed may look different, but the overarching goal will be similar.

Once goals and objectives have been identified, it is helpful to identify measures of success.

Why Measures?

Measures will help define what success looks like for a Lean Six Sigma Program Office. Measures help answer the question: One or five years from now, how will we know we were successful in the Lean Six Sigma Program Office? It’s also important to ensure organizational leaders agree to these success measures in order to quickly clear up any misunderstandings or confusion of what Lean Six Sigma is supposed to be accomplishing for the organization.

The risk of not identifying measures can be severe. I have seen Lean Six Sigma program funding cut or programs eliminated because there were no agreed upon measures of what success would look like. Organizational leaders had different ideas of what the program should have been doing than those in the Program Office and, worse, the return on investment the leaders were expecting did not come to fruition.

Measures help a Lean Six Sigma Program Office know if they’re on track. If they’re not on track they can make the right adjustments when they need to.

What is a Measure?

A Measure is a quantifiable value that helps identify what success looks like. Measures help a team know what to shoot for, whether it’s working and how to quantify “success.”

Below are samples of typical Lean Six Sigma measures:

  • Number of projects completed
  • Lead time to complete projects
  • Number of employee ideas submitted
  • Number of employee ideas implemented
  • Dollars saved (Hard & Soft Dollars)
  • Number of people trained
    • # of Yellow Belts
    • # of Green Belts
    • # of Black Belts
  • Number of processes with reduced lead times or percent of reduced errors that improve customer service
  • Skill-Building measures
    • Number of employees trained as Kaizen Event Facilitators
    • Number of Visual Management Boards
    • Number of Leaders using Huddles

Below are examples of a Lean Six Sigma Program Office’s goals, objectives and measures:

Strategic Planning for a Lean Six Sigma Program Office (Part 3 of 4): How to Set Goals, Objectives and Measures - GoLeanSixSigma.com

Once the goals, objectives and measures have been determined, the next step is creating visibility around these measures. This can be helpful for communicating with organizational leaders, Program Office staff and interested stakeholders.

Here is an example of a visual board for Lean Six Sigma Program Office measures:

Strategic Planning for a Lean Six Sigma Program Office (Part 3 of 4): How to Set Goals, Objectives and Measures - GoLeanSixSigma.com

Lean Six Sigma Program Office personnel can conduct huddles around the board to discuss current state, progress towards goals and measures along with daily or weekly team activities. The board can also be shared with Champions, organizational leaders and other key constituents to help understand the progress and impact of the work the Lean Six Sigma Program Office is supporting.

Now that the big picture stuff is set up for a Lean Six Sigma Program Office, we can start to plan the more tactical elements. Coming up next: Part 4: How to Build a Work Plan, Assign Resources and Check on the Plan.

Tracy O'Rourke

Tracy is a Managing Partner & Executive Advisor at GoLeanSixSigma.com. She is also a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Instructor at University of California San Diego and teaches in San Diego State University’s Lean Enterprise Program. For almost 20 years, she has helped leading organizations like Washington State, Charles Schwab and GE build problem-solving muscles.
  • Zephaniah Bashipaka

    Nice article Miss Tracy.

    Though a company has a strategic plan it does not succeed all the time and have many areas in the supply chain where they are disturbances. Would that be due to a poor strategic plan?