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What is a Green Belt Project?

Don’t come to me with problems… come to me with solutions

We’re all familiar with this leadership cliché, and the leadership style that potentially accompanies it. The great news is that the PMI Improvement Cycle, used as part of the Lean Six Sigma Green Belt methodology, is designed to offer you the means and method to find the solution.

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The PMI Improvement Cycle​

The means and method of a Green Belt project will lead you through the Improvement Cycle from the beginning, where you don’t really have any idea what the answer will be, to developing the solution.

  1. Take a problem
  2. Learn about it
  3. Analyse it
  4. Develop theories
  5. Test and study the results of your theories
  6. When you think you’ve got something, recommend solutions that the organisation can implement to improve the process performance.

Now that you understand a bit more about the Improvement Cycle methodology, and how it’s going to help you develop a solution, it’s important to ask yourself at this stage – is it a Green Belt project, or an implementation project?

Is it a Green Belt project, or an implementation project?​

We are regularly asked by potential customers for our opinion on what makes an ideal Green Belt project, in preparation for them working on their improvement projects, and developing their own capability through our Green Belt programme.

In many cases, customers are confused because they have been given a project to ‘do’ and they are not sure if it qualifies as a Green Belt project; they often do not know the difference between a Green Belt project and an implementation project, and how would they?  If they work in an environment where they are traditionally given projects to ‘manage’, i.e. implement, then the temptation is to assume their Improvement project is the same.

A project that is focused on working on a problem where the solution is not known, identifying the root causes of the problem, and then developing and testing solutions to address them before implementation, is alien to them.

When clients have this same dilemma, I use the PMI Improvement Cycle to illustrate the thinking and decision-making process they need to go through.  Looking at the Improvement Cycle, you need to decide if the project you are thinking about is suitable for an improvement project.

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Is your problem a Green Belt project?

Here are some questions to ask yourself​:

  • Are you currently at the stage where you know there is a problem, but you don’t yet know all the root causes?
  • Do you have some ideas on which processes are causing the problem, but you need to investigate further?
  • Do you have enough data to be confident about the current performance of the processes, or do you need to gather data so that you can be sure of what is actually happening?

If any of these questions sound familiar or represent where you are, and what you are being asked to do, then you will benefit from starting at ‘select priorities’ on our Improvement Cycle.  This stage helps you to diagnose which processes are causing the results you and your organisation would like to improve.

This means you will be leading a Green Belt Improvement Project.

If the work has already been done to understand the problem and identify solutions, and therefore, your job is to implement the defined solution, you are starting at the ‘implement’ part of PMI’s Improvement Cycle, which is the project management element of implementing a known solution.

So, you think you’ve got a Green Belt project, but is it a good project? Here are some things to consider when selecting a Green Belt Improvement Project.

Of course, there are always exceptions to rules, but here are some helpful guidelines and suggestions to steer you in the right direction.

  • The project should be do-able over the period of about 3 months.
  • ​It shouldn’t be either too big or trivial.
  • It should address an issue which is important to your organisation.
  • You will need a Sponsor to provide guidance and to assist in removing barriers and getting resources.
  • Customer concerns are usually priorities.
  • It must be something which you, with your Sponsor’s support, can obtain the authority to change.
  • It should require a small, carefully selected team (3-7 people) to investigate, work on and implement solutions – not merely recommend solutions.
  • It should not be a ‘fix the world’ problem which people have struggled over for years and got nowhere.

If you want to learn more about how to select a project that helps you apply your Green Belt skills, consolidate your learning and build motivation for the improvement method, then I’d recommend making some time to watch this video of our On-Demand Webinar, What Makes a Good Green Belt Project?

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