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Strategic Planning for a Lean Six Sigma Program Office (Part 4 of 4): How to Build an Action Plan Timeline and Define Roles - GoLeanSixSigma.com

In Parts 1 to 3 of this blog series, we covered how to create a Lean Six Sigma Mission and Vision, how to conduct a SWOT Analysis and how to set Goals and Success Measures. In this 4th and final part of the Lean Six Sigma Program Office Strategic Planning blog series, we turn to the tactical actions necessary for implementing the Lean Six Sigma plan within the organization.

Part 4 includes:

  • Defining Lean Six Sigma Roles and Time Commitments
  • Building a 12-18 month timeline and Work Plan
  • Checking and Adjusting the Plan

Defining Roles & Time Commitments

Why Define Roles and Time Commitments?

One of the biggest complaints I hear from frontline employees is that Champions say they’re supportive but don’t demonstrate the support. This is often because Champions are not sure how to be supportive. New roles involve new behaviors that Champions are unaware of. Defining roles helps clarify behaviors and expectations for everyone involved.

This is often because Champions are not sure how to be supportive.

Since these may be new responsibilities for Sponsors, Champions, Team Leads or others in the organization, it’s important to define who is doing what and what percent of their time should be allocated to support this effort.

What are Role Descriptions?

A role description clarifies the title and what responsibilities that role is accountable for.

First, determine the role title and the responsibilities of that role. Then determine who in the organization would fill that role and what percent of their time should be dedicated to it.

Defining roles and understanding resource allocation is important to complete prior to developing a detailed 12-18 month timeline. Otherwise, it’s difficult to develop a reasonable plan and the resulting timeline and Work Plan may be unachievable.

Below is a sample of 4 of the 8 role descriptions developed by a government agency:

Consultant Role Description - GoLeanSixSigma.com

Co-Facilitator Role Description - GoLeanSixSigma.com

Facilitator Role Description - GoLeanSixSigma.com

Assistant Facilitator Role Description - GoLeanSixSigma.com

Not only did this government agency have clearly defined roles, they also shared and maintained a list of people in the organization assigned to fulfill those roles.

Building a 12-18 month Timeline

Why build a 12-18 month timeline?

Without agreement on the actions for the next 12-18 months, there’s confusion around where to focus efforts especially by the team assigned to the effort. The 12-18 month timeline outlines quarterly activities and the roles determine who’s responsible for each action.

Without agreement on the actions for the next 12-18 months, there’s confusion around where to focus efforts especially by the team assigned to the effort.

What is a Timeline?

A timeline outlines the tactical actions necessary to achieve the Lean Six Sigma Vision, Mission, Goals and Metrics.

When building the timeline:

  • Consider Resource allocation
    • The bandwidth capacity and skills needed for the timeline and who will do what
    • Whether to use external or internal resources
  • Involve those who will do the work. Collaboratively building a timeline and a Work Plan helps others take ownership of the plan.
  • Include communication and time for celebration. These are great milestones and planning ahead sets the stage for meaningful and thoughtful celebrations of people and their process improvement success.
  • Include actions on the timeline for the team to:
    • Check on the Work Plan and the success measures
    • Assess and make adjustments where appropriate
    • Debrief key constituents and stakeholders on progress and barriers
    • Check alignment on strategy, goals, objectives, measures and activities

FBOD 18 Month Roadmap - GoLeanSixSigma.com

The example above includes timeline actions organized by 4 areas of focus:

  • Customer Focus
  • Enterprise Alignment
  • Continuous Improvement
  • Culture

Timeline Actions - GoLeanSixSigma.com

This example has timeline actions organized by 4 key areas:

  • Lean Leaders
  • Lean Champions
  • Lean Communication Strategy
  • Other Lean Activities

Depending on the number of resources allocated to roll out this effort, the team may need a more detailed Work Plan to identify who will do what and by when every rolling 6 months.

What is a Work Plan?

A Work Plan is a more detailed task list with assigned resources, actions and dates for completion. The timeline is more strategic in nature helping key constituents agree on a general plan. The timeline may say “Train Employees.” The Work Plan involves more detail around tasks, assignments and completion dates. This is where detailing out actions for a training plan involving elements of GoLeanSixSigma.com’s Lean Six Sigma Training Rollout Kit will come in handy.

How to Rollout Lean Six Sigma Training - GoLeanSixSigma.com

Check and Adjust the Plan

As the continuous improvement journey begins and the timeline launches, it’s important to revisit the timeline and the Work Plan on a quarterly basis, at a minimum. So yes, the program office should incorporate Plan-Do-Check-Adjust cycles into their own program! The Check and Adjust steps should be completed by those in the Lean Six Sigma Program Office and/or with key constituents.

It’s important to revisit the timeline and the Work Plan on a quarterly basis, at a minimum.

PDCA - GoLeanSixSigma.com

The purpose of the Check and Adjust steps would be to:

  • Check the actual activities against expected activities
  • Check off completed items quarterly
  • Discuss timeline and Work Plan pluses and deltas – What’s working and what needs to be changed? Agree to make adjustments as needed
  • Discuss alignment – Does this workplan and timeline achieve our Vision, Mission & Goals as a department? As an organization?
  • Involve Stakeholders where appropriate

Lean Six Sigma Program Dashboard - GoLeanSixSigma.com

The picture above is an example of a Lean Six Sigma Program Office Huddle Board used by the team to check and adjust the 12-18 month timeline and Work Plan.


This concludes our 4-Part series on building a Strategic Plan for a Lean Six Sigma Program Office.

The series covered:

  • Why Strategic Planning is important
  • Gathering Inputs
  • Creating a Vision, Mission, Goals & Objectives for a Lean Six Sigma Program Office
  • Developing Lean Six Sigma Success Measures
  • Determining Roles and Responsibilities
  • Building and executing a 12-18 month timeline and Work Plan
  • Monitoring the progress and making adjustments as needed

Below is a summary of the entire process for developing a Lean Six Sigma strategic plan:

Infographic - How to Create a Strategic Plan for Lean Six Sigma - GoLeanSixSigma.com

As you can see, the Strategic Planning Process for a Lean Six Sigma Program Office involves many steps! However, the upfront work pays off in organizational clarity, alignment, purpose and direction. It sets the stage for a successful continuous improvement journey. Bon Voyage!

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.