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Webinar: How to Create a Strategic Plan for a Lean Six Sigma Program Office -

Join us for this free, 1-hour leadership webinar and find out how a Lean Six Sigma Program Office can develop a solid plan for next year’s success and beyond.

Webinar Recording: How to Create a Strategic Plan for a Lean Six Sigma Program Office

Webinar Presentation: How to Create a Strategic Plan for a Lean Six Sigma Program Office

Webinar Level

  • Leadership

Date & Time

  • Date: Thursday, December 15, 2016
  • Time: 11 am – 12 pm PT


  • How to create a Lean Six Sigma Vision and Mission
  • How to develop a SWOT Analysis
  • How to establish Lean Six Sigma goals and metrics
  • How to define Lean Six Sigma Roles
  • How to allocate resources
  • How to build a strategic roadmap (using PDCA)
  • Q&A



Tracy O’Rourke, Managing Partner & Executive Advisor

Tracy is a Managing Partner & Executive Advisor at For almost 20 years, she’s helped leading organizations like Washington State, Cisco and GE build problem-solving muscles with Lean Six Sigma to achieve their goals.

Q&As From the Webinar

Webinar Transcript

Elisabeth: Welcome to another webinar. Happy to have you guys joining us today. This webinar series is for you, our learner community. Lean and Six Sigma are the go-to methods for process improvement. And these webinars are part of our efforts to make it easy for you to use the tools and concepts of Lean Six Sigma.

My name is Elisabeth Swan. I’ll be your moderator today. And today’s webinar is How to Create a Strategic Plan for a Lean Six Sigma Program Office.

Our presenter today is Tracy O’Rourke. And Tracy and I are part of a core team here at

Our Expert: Tracy

Let me just give you a little background on Tracy. Over ten years, Tracy has been involved with Lean and Six Sigma process improvement. She got a start with GE Appliances as a Black Belt in 1998. Since then, Tracy has been a Lean Six Sigma consultant for over 15 years. Tracy helps organizations and industries from healthcare to financial services, to manufacturing, to state governments. And Tracy has been with Go Lean Six Sigma since its inception. And we are on a mission to provide effective training that’s practical, accessible, and enjoyable.

Tracy lives in San Diego, California with her husband and 8 and 13-year-old sons. She is an avid biker, hiker, and she recently played or actually it has been a little while now since she played Gaelic Football. I’m hoping, Tracy. You have to stop that.

Tracy: No. It has only been a year. But I think I’m retired.

Elisabeth: OK. But now still championship was the last of that. Tracy, welcome.

Tracy: Thank you.

How to Interact

Elisabeth: You’re welcome. During the presentation, you all are going to be in listen-only mode. There will be a question and answer session following the presentation but feel free to ask questions at any time by entering them into the question area. We’ll also ask you to participate in some polls throughout the webinar. If we don’t answer all your questions during the webinar, we’ll definitely post the answers afterward and you will be able to see those and download this webinar on our website.

Tracy: I always like to mention that you will get the slides because we get at least 10 people asking that.

Elisabeth: Absolutely yes. You will get the slides. We will send you and you can download the slides. And in about week from now, you will get a reminder if you didn’t, that you can do that.

Let’s Interact!

OK. So for our first interactive session, let’s find out where you guys are all from. We have hundreds of attendees from all over the world so let’s see how early or late people are up to attend this webinar.

Tracy: Right. However many cups of coffee have you had.

Elisabeth: So click on the question. OK. We’re getting Atlanta, San Antonio, Rapid City, South Dakota. Hello, to Rita. We got Hobbs, New Mexico. That’s Laura. Jefferson City, that’s Genie. We’ve got Carlos in Germany. We’ve got Steven in the UK. We’ve got Kinesia in Louisville. And Abraham in South Africa. We’ve got Justin in Nova Scotia. Yeah. Brandon in Jamaica. And I’m going to mess your name up, but Aklovine in Nigeria.

Tracy: That’s totally awesome.

Elisabeth: Right near you, Tracy. We got a lot.

Tracy: I also see from Portland, Oregon our own, Jurija.

Elisabeth: Welcome, Jurija. It’s so nice. I love it. Very nice. OK.

So Tracy, I’m going to hand it over to you.

Who is

Tracy: So, thank you for the warm introduction, Elisabeth. And thank you everyone for joining us today on our webinar. I’m really excited about today’s topic. But before we talk about our topic, I just want to let you all know that was founded on a few guiding principles and we really are here to make it easy for everyone everywhere to build their problem-solving muscles. And we are really trying to build that vision and with our mission as much as we can.

And how we do that is by providing the most practical, easy to understand and enjoyable Lean and Six Sigma resources and training available. So, we always in our training bring everybody to Bahama Bistro. Who wouldn’t want to go to the Bahamas to get trained? I know I’d love it. I’d like to get back there a few more times.

So, we help you enjoy this webinar and all of our free stuff that we provide online including podcasts and blogs.

Today’s Agenda

So today’s agenda is going to be fast and furious because we have a lot to cover in an hour. And we’re ultimately talking about how to build a strategic plan for a Lean Six Sigma Program Office. And so, let me just pause there and say, the Lean Six Sigma Program Office, I am just using as a broad term. It could be a team of people that are dedicated within an organization to helping the organization grow their Lean Six Sigma problem-solving. It could be two of you. It could be six of you. It could be 12 of you, 20 of you, whatever it is, but I’m calling it the Lean Six Sigma Program Office and The Team going forward for this webinar just to make it a little easier.

So when you hear me say The Team, I’m talking about the Lean Six Sigma Program Office Team, whoever those people are that are dedicated full time to making Lean Six Sigma happen.

So, we are going to be talking about why strategic planning is important and really the steps that are involved in doing the strategic planning. I’m not going to read all of these because we’re going to go through all of them. But this is basically the high level process steps that we’re going to be going through.

Why Strategic Planning for Lean Six Sigma?

So why is strategic planning important? Well, first of all, it answers these questions, which I think everybody will have. Where do we want to be? Where are we now? How are we going to get there? How do we stay on track? And how will we know we got there?

Where do we want to be? Where are we now? How are we going to get there? How do we stay on track? And how will we know we got there?

So these are all really important questions for not just a Lean Six Sigma Department but this is really strategic planning for – it’s a framework for any organization, any department that is trying to have a vision and trying to get there. So we are applying these questions really to just the Lean Six Sigma Program Office.

And so, strategic planning is really important for a couple of reasons. And I guess I’ll start with the worst part. The worst part is you want to have a strategic plan because what I have found is if you don’t have a solid strategic plan with Lean Six Sigma, and you’ve probably seen this too, Elisabeth, the program gets axed. They don’t – leaders don’t understand what exactly is happening, how we’re getting the return on investment. They don’t know how the Lean Six Sigma Office is supporting the strategic goals. And so, the people that are paying for this and funding it, they don’t end up seeing value. They have unfulfilled or failed expectations.

So especially when you’re running a Lean Six Sigma program, you really want to make sure that doesn’t happen because people will end up losing their job or they will get redeployed into something else because they may feel like the program wasn’t worthwhile. And I know many of you have heard of that exact thing happening. So we really want to try to avoid that from happening.

Lean Six Sigma Program Planning

So we’re going to actually go through some of these questions and walk through the steps. So this is the agenda that you already saw. It’s basically gathering those organizational inputs, defining a purpose and goal, roles and responsibilities, building and executing a workplan, and then making sure we can check and adjust the workplan.

And the reason why I have this page is because this is an example of what I would call a Macro PDCA Cycle. So it’s a Macro PDCA Cycle because it’s just not a process or a problem. It’s a program and you’re doing a Plan, Do, Check, and Act or Adjust on an entire program. So that’s what we’re going to be laying out for you today.

So the first part is when – and what I really like about this I’ll just say before I launch into this is this is really a perfect timing. It’s the end of the year and most people have some sort of annual planning and naturally because it’s the beginning of the year, we start doing this natural reflective stage for many aspects in our lives, in our organization, and that should also be probably prevalent in your department planning as well.

So I’m hoping that the learnings you get from today you will be able to apply right away and maybe spend some time reflecting on your own program and then thinking about what you want to do different for next year.

Step One: Strategic Planning

So let’s start with step one, which is gathering organization inputs. So this should not be done in a vacuum. So step one is always around what kinds of organizational inputs do you think you’re going to need to develop a really good plan.

And here’s just a couple of very common inputs that I’d like to gather or recommend people gather before they actually do the strategic planning for a Lean Six Sigma Program Office. So first of all, how about the organization’s vision/mission, goals, objectives, and measures? Super important and hopefully, your organization has them because surprisingly, I’ve seen organizations that don’t. That makes it really hard to align to some organizational goals and objectives. So that would be number one.

Number two is obviously, you would – part of this process is determine which goals and objectives can be supported by Lean Six Sigma so that might be an input to this too. Some people actually wait until they actually do the strategic planning process but I think it’s great if you can identify them early.

Gathering feedback about Lean Six Sigma efforts, so this could be from stakeholders, employees, people in the program office, customers even which is the next one. These are all things that you could be doing in terms of getting feedback and bringing it into the strategic planning process as an input.

And finally, any information you’re going to have about resources and budget. And I now that that sounds – it’s really an important part because the other problem I see a lot is there’s a huge strategic plan, massive effort, and they have two people that are going to do all of this. Really? That doesn’t make any sense. And so, they’re setting themselves up for failure.

So knowing what your resources are going to be going in, how many people you have to this that are going to be dedicated and allocated internally as well as any external support. So again, that’s where we’ve seen people call upon consultants to say, “You know what? We can’t do all this ourselves. We don’t have the bandwidth or the skill and we need to hire out for those.

So, it’s really important that you go a budget because that’s really going to dictate what you end up doing from a tactical level every year. So those are the first things you would do is you would gather your strategic inputs.

Input Example: Organization’s Mission, Vision

Here’s an example of an organization’s vision and mission. This is from the Los Angeles County Register Recorder County Clerk. I actually think they’ve done a pretty good job identifying their mission and their vision and their values because sometimes it’s 18 pages long. But no, this is only one page. So I really like that.

So this is just an example of having that mission and that vision and bringing it in as an input. And that can help you. Sometimes it’s good inspiration. That’s why you want to do it. You might have some good inspiration around having some of these pieces that are going to be ready that are going to inspire you as part of your strategic plan.

Input Example: Organization’s Goals

But I think one of the more important things about collecting parts of the strategic plan is the organization’s goals. And here’s an example again. Since I showed you the vision and mission of LA County, I’m going to show you their goals. And again, very well done. Goal A, Goal B, Goal C, Goal D. Very simple. It all fits on one page and it has got a short paragraph explaining that broad-based goal and what it’s about.

And so, I really like this but if you look at this list, I have a question for you. My question is if these were your goals, this is your first poll so get ready, if this was your organization’s goals, which of these do you think would be supported by Which of these goals do you think could be supported by Lean Six Sigma? I’m going to go ahead and launch the poll and then you’re going to make a selection.

Poll #1

OK. So go ahead and fill those out. Which of these do you think would be supported by Lean Six Sigma if these were your organization’s goal, customer service, customer service and operational enhancement, fiscal responsibility, staff development, or all?

And now, we’re going to close the poll because that was pretty easy one. OK. Like everybody voted and so let’s share the results. And what are the results, Elisabeth?

Elisabeth: You’ve got a whopping 83% saying all of that and then you’ve got 15% saying A and B, customer service and operational enhancement. But I think pretty much people felt like this was the comprehensive list of the goals that were supported by Lean Six Sigma.

Tracy: Right. Thank you. I’m going to hide those now and go back.

So I think what’s really important here is if many of you have been in process improvement before or you’ve been in it for a while, you’re probably had this experience where you felt like you might be pushing it down people’s throats rather than feeling a sense of pull, people pulling you in saying, “I want you to help me. I need you to help me.”

If you align your goals and your efforts with the organizational goals and you identify and help departments identify how you can help them achieve these goals by applying Lean Six Sigma principles, they’re going to be happy to see you. They’re going to be happy to see Black Belt. They’re going to be happy to see Green Belts. They’re going to be happy to see these projects because they know it’s going to be helping them reach their goals.

And if you’ve ever run into a situation where people just don’t have time, they don’t have time, they don’t have time for process improvement or Lean Six Sigma, question how aligned your efforts are with the organizational goals because that is typically a big problem.

By far, the worst use of Six Sigma is when there are none strategic issues. The chartering of projects have no significance to the strategy of the organization and you create this swimming upstream situation or everyone, you don’t want that. You want people to want to see you if you’re a dedicated resource and this is how – this is one of the things that you want to make sure you’re connecting the dots for people on.

Creating Organization Connection

So here’s an example again of LA County. And these are some of the ways that they feel Lean and Six Sigma fit into the strategic plan. So again, I’m not going to explain all of these to you. The point of this slide is to show you that they’ve done that. They said, “Here’s how we support the strategic plan.” And here are some of the things that they’re actively working on with all of the departments to try to improve their processes.

So that is a really important piece that I think unfortunately people miss. For example, there could be a massive standard work effort going on. And yes, I agree. Standard work is a great thing. But you’re going to have a hard time getting people to commit to it if they don’t see how it connects to what they’re supposed to be doing from a larger perspective. So just keep that in mind.

Poll #2

So let me ask you a question. Here’s another poll. Poll #2 is do you or your group, your Lean Six Sigma Program Office have a clear idea how your process improvement efforts fit into the strategy of the organization? So that’s the question and I’m going to go ahead and launch the poll.

OK. So here are some of your choices.

Elisabeth: These are interesting, Tracy, because I feel like this kind of captures basically what happens when people aren’t clear.

Tracy: Absolutely. So I have a really – unfortunately, I’ve been doing this 20 years like you, Elisabeth. We’ve been doing a long time and unfortunately, we have seen entire groups end up getting dispersed because it wasn’t clear what they were supposed to be doing and they didn’t have good results.

I was working with a team of people. There is about 12 of them in the fully dedicated and it was so unclear what they should be doing on a daily or weekly basis that they had 80% turnover in two years.

Elisabeth: What a shock.

Tracy: It was terrible. So the clearer we can get about what we’re trying to deliver and to whom and how, the better off it will be for people in the Program Office and the clients and customers of those people, aka organizational employees.

So we’re going to close the poll.

Elisabeth: Yeah. Go ahead and close up and I’ll l tell you what you got: 43% yes, but there’s still confusion, next up, 36% sort of, not sure what to do daily, weekly to support it, and then sort of distant trailers, yeah, it’s clear and our team lead regularly discuss it, got 12%. So wow! Clarity got 12%, and no, it’s not clear how my efforts align to our strategy, 9% flat out no. So kind of the bulk are in there with some confusion.

Tracy: Yeah. Wow! So like 88% feel like there could be a lot more effort towards creating clarity which is exactly what this work is doing.

Elisabeth: Yeah.

Tracy: So thank you for sharing on that poll.

Step Two: Strategic Planning

So let’s talk about what we would be doing. Once we gather those inputs and ideally, you want people to review some of those inputs prior to doing the session. But now, your goal is to take all these inputs and you’re going to define your purpose and your goals for the Lean Six Sigma Program Office.

And so, what those steps look like are you would develop the vision, the mission, the goals, the objectives and measures. You pick really the success measures. Because you know again, this is where people I feel like they pick too many things or they’re not clear how those measures actually define success. And then you’re going also be creating what I would call a dashboard or visual management board for huddle meetings for your program office.

And again, you don’t have to do that but I find it works really well to create excitement and to actually practice what you preach. If you’re a Lean organization and you’re practicing visual management and you’re having huddles, why wouldn’t a Lean Six Sigma Program Office do that too?

And also finally, the last part of this would be once you have those purpose and goals set up, how do you vet it? With the proper people, the key constituents. It could be the people in the office if it wasn’t everybody. It could be the sponsor. It could be the champions or the people in the C-Suite or employees even.

Vision & Mission: Who are we and what do we want to be?

So that’s really kind of the high level process for this piece. So again, first, you would define your vision and your mission just like – and this is again, standard strategic planning. Most organizations have a vision and a mission and that is supposed to help us identify who are we and what do we want to be. And so, I think most people have no problems knowing what they do or who they are even.

I think where people struggle is where are we going and what do we want to be. And that can really help. And if you don’t have a vision, any road will do. And if you have been in process improvement and you are trying to build process improvement skills in an organization, there is so much stuff you could do. There’s so much stuff you could do. And I could see where people get overwhelmed very quickly. And so that’s where the vision and the mission can help a great deal.

So I’m going to spend a few slides just talking about the vision and the mission but I’m going to cover this fairly quickly because we have a lot to cover.

Vision Statement

So again, the vision is really just what does the future of the organization look like? It’s really – you want to think about the organization. We also want to say the Lean Six Sigma Department so in this way, because you are serving the department, you really want to think about it from a two-fold perspective. But it is really the ideal future state of the organization.

Example of Vision Statements

And here are some examples of visions statements for Lean Six Sigma Program Offices just to give you an example. And some of them – again, these are all came from organizations. So I love this one.

“Build an organization of problem solvers.”

“Every employee is a problem solver and every leader is a coach.” And that’s really said very nicely like the future state is today.

“Inspire and empower all staff to continuously improve.”

So these are just examples of vision statements. What are you hoping to accomplish? I hope it’s not just to save buttloads of money. But you know what? Unfortunately, we have seen that sometimes.

Mission Statement

The mission statement is a little different. The mission statement is really around what do you do, how do you do it, and for whom do you do it for. So the mission statement is basically who are we? And again, here are some examples of mission statements.

The mission statement is really around what do you do, how do you do it, and for whom do you do it for.

Example of Mission Statements

“We are committed to promoting the adoption, advancement and integration of Lean concepts into our business and help our employees learn and apply process improvement skills effectively.”

There’s a longer mission here. And I’m just sharing this so you have some ideas. And again, I think the one on the right is a little long but that works for them. And you know what? If they’ve never done a mission statement before, they might change it in a year or so although sometimes they don’t change very often.

So that is really the first step around developing some of these. And again like I said, the vision or the mission don’t typically change every year. Sometimes they do if they feel like they need to revisit it. But typically, those will stay the same for the long term.


So once you’ve had figured out who you are, where you’re headed or where you want to be, now we want to think about where are we now. And this is what we call the SWOT analysis. It stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Again, this is a very typical strategic planning tool that most organizations use when they’re developing it.

And what I really like about this is this can be very colorful from year to year. So I highly recommend doing this at the end of your planning cycle whether it’s 12-month cycle for planning or an 18-month cycle. You should always do a SWOT because your strengths and your weaknesses, your opportunities and your threats are all going to be different every year. And so, I think it’s a very enriching in terms of the discussion and what people have to say about it.

SWOT Analysis

And so, here is just an example of half of this, the strengths and weaknesses and this is actually from a Lean Six Sigma Program Office. Some of the strengths that they listed that they had, some of the weaknesses that they had.

And again, I would also promote that when you do this that you actually ask it from the organizational perspective and the program office perspective. So for example, you could say, what Lean Six Sigma strengths does the organization have that will help achieve our vision? And then you could also say, what Lean Six Sigma strengths does the Lean Six Sigma Program Office have that will help achieve our vision? Because I think it is two-fold. I mean you are driving this and so you want to look at – because obviously, you’re going to dictate – your strengths can really strengthen things in the organization. And if there’s a weakness in the organization but it’s also a weakness of the program office, you’ve identified the gap that needs to be fulfilled.

SWOT: Question to Ask

So I’m not going to go over all of these questions but I will use – these are just reference for you if you’re going to do a strategic planning program and you want to do a SWOT. These are just some questions that you definitely want to address and ask with your group.

So once you have – this is typically, again, where we are now, that’s supposed to help you identify your strengths, how do you leverage those, your weaknesses, your opportunities and threats.

Lean Six Sigma Program Office Goals & Objectives

And then you really want to think about, so what do we want to do? How are we going to get where we want to go? If this is what we’re saying as our vision, what are some of our goals and objectives? How are we going to get there? So this all a part of how are we going to get there.

Typical Lean Six Sigma Benefits

So don’t forget that there are also Lean Six Sigma program goals and these are a lot of times a lot of reasons why organizations implement Lean Six Sigma. And so it’s important to just remember those things. I have to say though, when we ask organizations, what do you want to do with the Lean Six Sigma program? Do you want it to save money? Do you want it to reduce cost? What do you want it to be? And they go, “We want it to do everything.” So, don’t let them off the hook that easy.

There are some organizations that their ultimate goal is to build a problem-solving muscle and I really like that because they’re going to build a problem-solving muscle, they’re putting their people first and the outcome is going to be increased customer satisfaction and increased reduction in cost as a side bar if you will.

I was working with one organization. It was a financial services organization and they said, “We don’t really care about saving any more money. We’re making plenty of money. Our problem is our customers are not satisfied. We really need to improve our customer satisfaction.” So it’s important to think about what is it that the organization is really looking to do with Lean Six Sigma.

I will say this too, that very company when they said, “We want to improve customer satisfaction,” we did a tollgate review on some of the projects about 8 months in, there was a finance guy in there and he kept saying, “Well, where is the dollars? Where is the savings?” And the Executive Vice-President looked at me and goes, “Yeah, where are all the savings?” I go, “Remember, you said you wanted to improve customer satisfaction. That was a primary reason why we chose this project.” And she goes, “Oh yeah. Shut up, Joe.” She told the guy from finance to be quiet because it sort of – she forgot. So those are the reasons why you want to have an ultimate clarity on why we are doing something.

Goals, Objective and Tactics

So what you want to do is you want to figure out now that you’ve got all your inputs, you’ve identified where you are now, what are some of these goals, objectives, and tactics that you’re going to develop as part of the Lean Six Sigma Program Office.

And again, I have some brief definitions here. But you guys have to really figure out, I don’t know what you guys call these things. Every organization I find, they call them goals, they call them objectives, goals, they call them the strategy. There are all these different names. But the whole point is you have some broad-based ideas of what you want to accomplish, some high level strategies about what you want to do to accomplish those. And then you get into tactics. And those are very specific, measurable, time-bound actions.

And so again, that’s how it should work. You should have a couple of layers of here’s what we want to do at a high level, here’s what we want to go, how we want to go about doing it at a high level, and here are some of the very specific things we’re going to do to try to get there. So those are kind of the things that need to be worked through when you’re developing goals.

Example: Goals & Objectives

So here’s an example of some goals and objectives and we’re going to show you tactics later. And again, this is just an example of a broad-based Lean Six Sigma goal for a program office and then some of those objectives at a high level of what they believe and how they will do that.

“So support employees in their efforts to achieve our organizational goals.”

So again, this is really related to again, if you look at LA County, you might be identifying process projects that you’re going to do with other departments to help them get to their goals. And then you’re going to develop those measures.

Goal 2 is a little easier I think for people to look at. And they say, “Oh yeah, build the problem-solving muscles.” So that’s the standard things that a lot of program offices do. They’ll train their employees on Yellow Belt and Green Belt. They may even train co-facilitators on things like process walks and rapid improvement events or waste walks, those kinds of things.

And then lastly, goal 3. This might be – goal 1 is very aligned with the strategy of the organization. Goal 2 is really focused on building employees. Goal 3 is maybe something that the department itself wants to create like building a community of process improvement and some of the ways that they’re going to do that. So these are again just an example of some of the high level goals that you could create for your department.

Determine Success Measures

So once you have those, you have to say, “Well, how do we know – how do we measure these things? How do we know what’s going to be successful? How will we know we got there?” So it’s really important to not only identify the goals and the objectives but how you might measure those things.

It’s really important to not only identify the goals and the objectives but how you might measure those things.


And so, this is where I think people get a little lost, is they’re not really sure besides the standard measures what to measure. So here are just a couple of guidelines to think about when you’re selecting measures.

First of all, don’t pick too many because again, we’re a program office and if you have too many, nothing is important. So that’s going to be an important thing. And what I find is most people brainstorm a lot and then they filter them into what’s manageable.

Make sure that the measures align with the Lean Six Sigma Program Office goals. And we’re going to assume that those goals are aligned to the organizational strategy.

So don’t just pick random measures. Which goals do those measures support? And that’s a really important concrete distinction that you need so that people understand that they are actually contributing to that goal and that measure. But if it’s just a cluster of measures and there’s no connection between which goals, people are going to get a little lost.

And again, all these other things are – the next three bullets really talk about things we should know about Lean Six Sigma anyways; create operational definitions, data collection plans, make sure the data is reliable, make sure you pick measures within your control. Those are all kind of from the Lean Six Sigma process improvement school of measurement anyway.

But most importantly, in the program office, when you pick a measure, make sure it’s driving the right behavior. OK. We see this all the time. We pick a measure like training and now everybody is just going out and getting trained and nobody is delivering any results, because results isn’t a measure.

So, is that what you wanted? Because if it wasn’t what you wanted, you need to relook at the measure or you need to add a measure to balance that. So really important to don’t just pick a measure and then be blind to it. You can change it. I mean you’re starting a program office and some of this is around culture and not all measures are going to be perfect for your organization.

Example: Lean Six Sigma Measures

So here are some examples of Lean Six Sigma measures. You guys have probably seen these before. These are not – these are the pretty traditional kinds of measures we see, the number of projects completed, lead time to complete the projects, how many employee’s ideas are submitted or implemented, hard dollars, those kinds of things, or number of people trained.

More Lean Six Sigma Measures

I think these are other kinds of measures that I’m seeing. So for example, having – so again, if you have an organization that says, “Well, we want to do it all. We want to have customer impact. We want to reduce – improve productivity. We want to save money.” Well, that means you got to have a balanced portfolio of projects that will deliver all of those things.

So on the right, you can see maybe where you’re tracking productivity projects, hard dollar savings projects and customer impact projects so that people have an idea of what kinds of projects are going to be happening and what they’re going to deliver.

The other thing I think is really interesting is how many – what kinds of projects are you measuring? Do you have incremental improvement projects? Because those should get just as much of attention as revolutionary improvement value stream projects, right? So if you really want it to be the way people think, are you measuring incremental improvement projects and showcasing them and highlighting them?

And then a couple other measures we see a lot of times is training Kaizen event facilitators to run Green Belt projects or leader standard works. So how do we measure those things? If these are the behaviors we want people to see in our organization, we want them to do it, how do we measure that? So these are I think a little more creative ways to measure activity with Lean Six Sigma.

Connecting Goals, Objectives & Measures

But most importantly like I said, if you put measures, make sure you tie it to the goal. So here’s an example of one of the goals I showed you earlier, build the problem-solving muscles of our employees. It lists some of these objectives that they had in terms of some of the things that they want to do and it actually identifies the actual measure for that objective.

And again, some of these probably look very simple or you’ve seen these before. But again, it’s linkage that’s really important. Which measures measure the goal that we’re trying to accomplish?

Example: Lean Six Sigma Measures & Visual Management

So typically, I’ve seen people do this in spreadsheets or in groups on flipcharts and then they build a visual management tool to actually say – to showcase this and create it on a huddle board so that the team can huddle around it and say, “OK, so here is how we’re tracking these things.”

So on the right, it says number of employees trained, goal 2, Yellow Belt, Green Belt, Black Belt. So I really like graphs that have where they are right now and then a target of some kind so I can see if they’re on track or if they are where they need to be.

And then on the right – on the bottom left here, number of employees trained in 8 wastes, number of waste walks completed, number of A3s completed on reducing waste. So these are things that you say, “OK, yeah. I think these are good measures in terms of activity. We’re trying to measure activity and we’re trying to make it visual so that our team can see how we’re doing in the progress.”

So that is ultimately what you’re doing in the measure phase is you are brainstorming measures, you are trying to determine which of the best measures depending on which goal you have. And then you’re creating visual management and also checking to make sure these are the right measures that are driving the right behavior because sometimes that doesn’t happen.

Poll #3

So again, I have another poll for you. And again, I know I’m talking fast here. I hope you can keep up. Tell me if I’m talking too fast. Elisabeth, you’re going to have to let me know if anybody says that like, “Can you repeat that next 20 minutes?”

Elisabeth: It does seem like a blur.

Tracy: Great. I’ll have more coffee. OK. So poll #3: Which of these measures does your organization use? I’m going to go ahead and launch the poll. And go ahead and complete the poll.

Elisabeth: Yeah. Tracy, I remember we used to jokingly say that a measure of a very huge organization we’re working with was butts in seats in terms of how many we got trained. And they did a great job of getting butts in seats and then they look back after months of doing that and said, “Wait a second. What’s everyone doing with the training?” And you know as I know that if people don’t use something, use a skill or some technique they learned in 40 days., it’s gone. So that was a lot of waste and they had to go back and think about what’s the impact, what are people doing with this?

One of the measures was how fast do we get people to use training once they’ve had it. They started looking at different measures.

Tracy: Yes. I mean that is so important, Elisabeth. We’ve seen these sort of let’s train everybody and then next year, let’s work on the results. Well that means, it’s a year between when they got trained and what they’re using it. And so that we know, it doesn’t work so well.

And I’m going to close the poll and share results. What do we have here?

Elisabeth: OK, so a whopping 42% was a combination of all of the above and then the next down, close to a third at 27%, you had the number of projects completed. So there’s a completion. Focus on completion. 21% dollars saved. And then a really tiny amount 4 and 6%, number of ideas submitted and skill-building measures.

Tracy: So this is really interesting because it does look like most people are focusing on dollars saved, number of projects completed got the highest besides the combination. But I think what’s interesting is the skill-building measures are fairly low. And if you’re trying to build capability within an organization, that number should be higher. What skill is it that you’re trying to build and how do we measure besides training activities that show that people are actually using and doing some of this stuff? So that’s very interesting. Thank you for sharing that.

Elisabeth: I think training is the easy to measure. It’s why it becomes the major measure into your points. The other ones are harder.

Tracy: Yes. And yeah, absolutely. And I think we could have an entire discussion on lagging measures and leading measures. And I think that’s what we’re talking about here too. Dollars saved and number of projects completed are lagging indicators. But some of these are leading indicators like how we build skill so that they can actually deliver some of that stuff or how do we figure out how many ideas were being submitted? These are leading indicators for a Six Sigma Program Office. So I think there is an important communication around what we’re measuring and where.

Step Three: Strategic Planning

OK. Then we move. So once you’ve got your mission, your vision, your goals, your measures, your objectives, now we have to figure out, defining roles and responsibilities. And I’d like to kind of rope this into a workplan too. Ideally, I hope you know this before you get too far ahead. First of all, do people know what they’re supposed to be doing that’s Lean Six Sigma effort? Because I have to say, I do get complaints a lot from people that are in a program office. So they say, “You know what? Our champion isn’t doing what he is supposed to. He is not involved.” And I find it’s just because they just don’t know what to do. If they want to be supportive but people sort of shut – they shy away from telling the champion what they should be doing because they feel like they’re telling them something that they’re doing wrong.

And I have to – maybe some people feel that way but I find that any time I ask a champion to do something specifically, they are very appreciative. They’re like, “Oh, thank you for asking me to come and speak to these people today. I didn’t even know that they were having an event. And it was nice for me to go in there and just say thank you. “Yes, it was.” So sometimes we need to – people have to have more defined behaviors around what are the things I should be doing regularly? Sometimes we’re just not specific enough when it comes to some of these roles and responsibilities.

Roles & Responsibilities

So here’s just a list of some of the things that you would do. And I’m just going to share a creative example and I know you can’t read this but I’m just sharing you as an example like this group, and this is also LA County, they basically went and defined everybody’s role. They have the department head, the chief deputy, the champion, the assistant champion. These roles, the consultant, the facilitator, and the co-facilitator in blue, purple and brown, those are not positions within the organization. They’re more roles that someone will be taking on as part of their job and that is a role specific to Lean Six Sigma.

So really, they created the structure so people had a clear understanding of what they were responsible for and who was doing what. And that makes it a lot easier to plan and track things obviously.

Step Four: Strategic Planning

OK. And then the last thing you’re going to do is build the workplan now. And again, here are some of the steps you can do for that. And again, I like to build it out on a roadmap that people can see so that we can monitor it and we can have huddle meetings around it. But again, some of the things you want to include in this timeline or workplan are time to talk about the effort, how it’s going, and communication, celebrations, all of these things should be included in the workplan.

Workplan Considerations

So a workplan is basically a timeline with tactics to deliver on the goals and objectives. And it could be anywhere from 12 to 18 months. And again, these are some of the other things to consider like I was talking about to include on the timeline or while you’re making the timeline. Who is doing it? So do you have external resources? Do you have internal resources? Are each department allocating one full-time person? What does that look like?

Don’t forget to include communication and celebration activities. It’s really sad when you see success and then you find out nobody knows about it because we didn’t actually create a system to share. So you have to consider that as well.

Example 1: Workplan

Here’s an example, and again, I know I’m going pretty quickly here because there are lots to cover and I didn’t want to break it into two webinars. I’m sorry. But here’s an example of a workplan. And basically what this is showing is quarterly, some of the high level activities that are happening, And as you get closer to that quarter, you’re going to build our the very specific detailed workplan and what is going to be happening and who is going to be doing it. And just another example of that.

Example 2: Workplan

And I always say, if the plan doesn’t work, change the plan but not the goal. So I can’t tell you how many people we’ve helped implement a Lean Six Sigma program and some of the things we tried, didn’t work in some places and they worked great in other places. It’s a little trial and error but just recognized that and make sure you’re putting on the workplan time to rethink what’s happening. Is it working? Are we getting the results we want? Or maybe if they don’t work anymore, maybe it was great last year but the same thing this year seems boring to people and it’s not – there’s no novelty in it. Now, we’re going to change it. So these are things that you want to think through and that should be part of your workplan as well.

Lean Six Sigma Training Rollout Kit

OK. And don’t forget, training is always a part of the rollout and the workplan and if you don’t really know what to do, Elisabeth did a wonderful webinar last month on how to roll out Lean Six Sigma training and that’s definitely part of the workplan. So I just thought I’d give you another plug, Elisabeth because I really enjoyed that.

Elisabeth: So kind, Tracy.

Check Progress on the Lean Six Sigma Workplan

Tracy: And so, once you do the workplan, again, the one thing you need to do is check progress on the workplan. How do we know we are on track or how do we stay on track? And so again, this is really about impact. Everything sounds great when you’re thinking through it and then you actually implement it and you’re like, “Wow! This is harder than we thought. Well, you know what? We’re not getting traction with this. Why? What are some of the things we should be doing differently? And what does that mean we do and what do we take off the timeline or the workplan and what do we add? What roles might change?”

So, these are all things that are need constant revisiting especially if this is a new program. Obviously, if you have more maturity in your program over the years, you may not feel like you need to do this so much but really important because we don’t want people – I was in an organization and every time a person from the program office came around, people would hide. They did not want to talk to these people. What happened? Is that what we’re looking to do? Is that what we want people to react to? Something is not working. So what do we need to do differently so that we have a better sense or have better impact? So that’s really about keeping it on track.

And here are some of the things that – and I’m going to just say this as reference, checking and adjusting the workplan. Are we on track? I always use pluses and deltas. What’s working about our workplan? What should we change? And I ask our team, what do you guys think is happening? And you can invite others to do it too. You can have your champion be involved. You can have your customers of the departments be involved to get some of that feedback.

Lean Six Sigma Program Dashboard

And again, I really like to promote visual management for some of the stuff. Why not showcase what you guys are doing in a Lean Sigma Program Office, why don’t you have graphs about how many people have been trained? How many projects are happening and in what phase they are, and what your workplan is. I think it can really create some really nice discussions with your team as well as people in the organization. So don’t be afraid to do that.

Tracking Progress

And then of course, there’s the standard spreadsheets that track what goals and what projects we might have and if they’re on track or not. And so, that’s all related to the tracking piece. And so I know, it was kind of a water hose of information. But I really am very passionate about this process because again, like I’ve said in the past, Elisabeth and I have seen a lot of program offices close their doors because they didn’t do some of the stuff that they really should do to make sure that they’re successful.

Today We Covered

So here’s everything that we’ve covered today, building a strategic plan for a Lean Six Sigma Program Office. And I gave you a taste of a lot of these things and here is a roadmap to it. So this is basically everything I talked about on one page because that’s what we try to do. We try to simplify things.

So gather inputs, define purpose and goals, roles and time commitments, building a plan, checking and adjusting the plan. And everything on here is just sort of your roadmap for the strategic planning process for Lean Six Sigma.

If you need help, let us know. But I would say, you probably want to set about 4 to 5 days aside to do some of this work. And some of it is you could gather organizational inputs outside of an actual strategic planning process. But you might have some interviews that you want to do as well.

Q & A

So, that brings us to questions that you guys might have about this process. I don’t expect you to type as fast as I’m talking but it would help. And if you have question, go ahead and put it in the chat window and then we’ll go ahead and review some of those questions.

Getting Started

While we’re waiting for you guys to put your questions in, I am going to cover just a few more things. So don’t forget that we have our Yellow Belt training. It’s free. The certification you pay for but Yellow Belt training is free and accessible to anyone. So if you are in the program office, why wouldn’t you leverage free materials to help you with this? I mean it’s kind of a no-brainer.

And then we’ve got obviously, Green Belt, Black Belt, and Lean to help people get started and organizations as well.

Upcoming Webinars

And we have an upcoming webinar next year. It’s our first webinar for 2017 and Elisabeth has the privilege of doing that. And it’s a very exciting and fun topic, how to set up and run hypothesis test. I’m going to let Elisabeth explain that to you in just a moment. But I will say one thing about it. I think the way we explain this is awesome. And I think Elisabeth is going to really rock it next month. So Elisabeth, what would you like to share about the webinar coming up?

Elisabeth: Thank you, Tracy. Yes, we are going to ring in the New Year with hypothesis testing. We’re going to bring in some examples from the Bahama Bistro. And I think this is one of those topics that is difficult to fathom. The word itself is kind off putting but they’re very integral especially to Black Belt training. And we just want to sort of break the myth of the difficulty and sort of lay them out in simple terms and give an example so that it doesn’t seem so daunting and have some fun in the bargain. So it will be a good one.

Just-In-Time Podcast

Tracy: Nice. OK. Thank you. And I just want to also let you know about our newest Just-In-Time Podcast at the Just-In-Time Café. We are talking with Brian Elms from Denver’s Peak Academy. He is in charge of the Peak Academy for the city and county of Denver. And what they’ve done to really make some headway in government with improving project processes, he also wrote a book and we got a chance to ask him about his book and I have to say. If you are a reader, I would highly recommend picking this book up because just the style of writing, it’s funny, it’s short and there are a lot of learnings in there.

Q & A

All right. So, we have about 8 minutes for questions. So, Elisabeth, hit me.

Elisabeth: Here’s a question for you. I’m going to hit you, Tracy. Here’s a question from Brendon, “In your opinion, would you consider a business effectiveness team to be a Lean Six Sigma Team?”

Tracy: Well, if a business effectiveness team means that they’re working with others in a full time capacity to improve processes, absolutely. If they are looking to cut heads, no. That’s my short and sweet answer. I hope that helps.

Elisabeth: It helped me, Tracy. I don’t know about anybody else. All right. Here we got one for you. If we have several projects going on in our office, prior to meeting with the team to devise the office plan, would you send out SurveyMonkey to the teams of the projects before?

Tracy: I think that would always be a very nice and helpful input. And I would also check to see how successful that was, right? So surveys sound great and then we send them out and for whatever reason, we don’t get a big response. So, I think it’s definitely one way.

I think also doing mini focused groups is really helpful. I know that you can always do one-on-one interviews with people. You could do departmental reviews or interviews, those kinds of things. So I think there are lots of ways to gather information and I think part of it is what the success rate is on any of those. So yes, I have done that before and I think it’s a great way to get feedback.

Elisabeth: Nice. That was from Rita. Thank you. You got one from Kristine. Do you have any tools or tips to help teams develop succinct vision and mission statement?

Tracy: I actually do. But it might take me a while to explain it. But I will say, I always start with a mission statement because I actually think it’s easier to figure out who we are and what we do before we figure out where we want to go. So even though people always explain it vision/mission, I’d like to build it the other way. I like to start with mission and then go to vision. I think vision is harder and I think having some sort of inspirational exercise around – basically, I’ll just share really quickly, I basically have these pictures, 8 x 10 pictures and I spread them across the table and I basically have people pick a picture of the vision of our program office. And then they have to explain why they picked the picture and what is in that picture that reminds them of the program office. And they have to explain their analogy or their metaphor if you will. And people love it.

Elisabeth: That’s nice. I like that.

Tracy: Yeah.

Elisabeth: OK. We’ve got another one from M. Ogon. And this is, “Leadership support is crucial. Do you have any pointers on how to secure it?”

Tracy: Yes. So involve them. And again, people sometimes say, “Oh, they shouldn’t be involved.” I’m not talking about projects. I’m talking about strategy. They need to be involved in the strategy. If you’re doing any of this work with mission/vision values, the champion should be involved. The champion of Lean Six Sigma should be involved.

And I also feel like getting what you guys come up with after your strategic planning, your vision, your mission, your goals, your objectives, how you’re going to measure it, should be vetted with the entire C-Suite if you have one because they need to be supportive.

And then I would also ask them how they’ll be sharing that with their groups. Because now, it’s not just sharing the information but what are they going to do with it?

And checking on them and making sure if they have questions and seeing – I think sometimes people are afraid to engage at that level of the organization. And some of you have very good reasons. But there needs to be a Master Black Belt or someone that can engage at that level, which is exactly why Master Black Belts should exist. I hope that helps.

Elisabeth: That was good. OK. We’ve got another one from Danny. He said, “Do you have version of this for an all-volunteer organization where the time is extremely limited?”

Tracy: I think you could do this in any fashion. And I get it. People don’t have time. But I think the vision piece and the mission piece are very, very important. I think what some people do is they do something called catch ball where they will develop drafts of all of these things and then they will have – they will create forums for gathering feedback and making changes so that they’re not building it from scratch. So it’s a lot quicker to do but you’re not just doing it yourself either. So really important if you are going to do some drafting that you’re getting feedback and making changes and showing that you’re listening and paying attention and then doing it.

Elisabeth: You got a cheers from M. Ogon on your leadership answer there, Tracy. Just letting you know.

Tracy: Oh, good.

Elisabeth: OK. So this one is from Laura, “What is the best way to graphically display our current measurements? We have data collections for time study like how long each step takes in the process to show visually the quick steps versus the longer steps. So how to show graphically data collection from a time study?” Did that make sense?

Tracy: Yeah, it does. So, Laura, there are lots of ways to do it. And from a strategic perspective, I think that’s really in the weeds. And I’m not saying it’s wrong. I’m just saying that it probably is not necessarily part of the strategic planning process. I feel like what’s more important is why are you working on that? Right?

So why are you working on that and do people know why this work is important? And I’m giving you a strategic bent on it. I would be – I need more information to help you with actually picking a graphic for that because I think ultimately, it depends on the audience. It depends on how many of these you’re doing. Quite frankly, I think if you’ve got a C-Suite audience, they’re not – they just want to know the results. They may not even want to see like what the differences are.

So if you want to expand a little bit more on who the audience is and how often you’re collecting this information and how many of this you’re doing, I could probably take it offline and give you some more help on that.

Elisabeth: OK. Thank you, Tracy. You did a wonderful job answering questions. For everybody listening out there, if we did not answer your question in the time we had allotted, Tracy is going to answer it offline. So please look for the posting of all the slides, the recording of this webinar as well as answers to all your questions online within the next day or so.

Tracy: Alright. Thank you so much everybody. Thanks for joining us. And don’t forget to check our website for any free tools and templates and infographics. Have a great day and we will see you next year.

Elisabeth: Goodbye, everybody.

Tracy: Bye-bye.

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Tracy O'Rourke

Tracy is a Managing Partner & Executive Advisor at 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.