A project charter is the first step in the Six Sigma methodology. It takes place in the Define step of DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control), and the charter can make or break a successful project. It can make it by specifying necessary resources and boundaries that will in turn ensure success; it can break it by reducing team focus, effectiveness and motivation.
So what pieces are necessary and what are some tips people have learned over the years? Alright, let’s get down to business. Here are the major project charter areas that are necessary. We’ll start with an explanation of each, then at the end of the article you’ll find a template that you can download, print and use today.
Necessary Project Charter Areas
It may not be evident at project inception, but you are going to complete the project and over time this project will hopefully serve as a best practice for other people within your business. It i’s important to name the project with a properly descriptive title that will allow others to quickly view and select your project based on the keywords and phrases. If you are increasing call center effectiveness, a possible title may be Call Center Cycle Time or Call Center Variation Reduction.
Black Belt/Green Belt
This is the person leading the process improvement project. It is important to identify the project leader so management knows who is leading the effort, and others can locate the leader for gathering further knowledge at a later date.
Mentor/Master Black Belt
It is important to identify a resource for the project leader to lean on if any project questions or issues arise (and they always do). Everyone needs a helping hand – a successful project ensures that when it’s needed, the helping hand has already been identified.
Project Start Date
No project can maintain momentum indefinitely. This field is mainly for documentation purposes. It is the date the project or project leader formally started working on the project.
Anticipated Project End Date
The anticipated project end date will probably be set by the mentor, master black belt or quality leader. The duration of the project will provide the leader and team adequate time to complete the project, given business conditions, work-load, holiday schedules, and such. Many businesses set general guidelines around how long projects should take.
Cost of Poor Quality
It is sometimes easy, other times difficult, to quantify the cost of poor quality that is being produced by your process. If scrap is being produced – quantify it. If excess hours are being spent by employees performing manual and redundant activities – quantify it. If violations and fines are being levied (oh my, I hope not!) – quantify it. It just needs to give business leaders an order of magnitude guesstimate of your project savings. If you are going to save the business $6,000 over the next year, that may not be a project on which to focus an entire team.
Here’s where we get to the meat of the matter. Every business operates by processes. So what is the process that you are improving and why is it important enough to spend time improving? For instance, if you want to improve the account opening process, you could identify how your process compares to competition, how it is the lifeline of your company, how the customer experience is suffering…you get the picture. Next we get to the exact problems.
Once we have a high level view of why the process is important to the business, we talk about how it is broken. For instance, there is no online data checking, customers can’t instantly open accounts which leads to frustration, redundant processes lead to human error, no validation of customer typed information leads to mis-shipments of collateral, etc.
Process Start/Stop Points
We cannot solve world hunger or boil the ocean (if anyone knows of any other sayings, please send them to me for inclusion), so how do we make sure we are biting off something we can chew 100 times before swallowing? Bound the project with a start and stop point: From the time a customer calls until the time the complaint is handled and customer is informed of the decision. Then, when the inevitable issue arises confusing the group’s mission, you can ask – ‘Does that action/issue occur between our process stop and start points?’ If the answer is no, table it and get the team focused on the task at hand.
What results do you anticipate from this project? Will cycle time be reduced 50 percent? Will defects be eliminated or at least reduced 90 percent? Will variable costs be identified and capped to a certain dollar figure per transaction? Set challenging but realistic goals.
What are the measures that you’ll use to determine effectiveness of the project. Will it be $/item or cycle time in days, or call queue time in seconds? Specify all you think may be necessary, but make sure that they are within the scope (process start/stop points) of your project.
List the following roles and who will be filling the roles:
Subject matter experts – it is sometimes a useful reference to list the subject matter in parentheses next to each name, especially if the team is cross functional and employees do not know each other.
We have already identified the project start and (estimated) stop points. What are the major milestones (e.g., presentations, phases of the Six Sigma methodology, etc.) between those dates? Mentors and MBBs are very helpful in creating this part of the charter because they’ve done projects and have an idea for how long each step requires.