No-Nonsense Project Management

Six Sigma Practitioner — or — Project Manager

Thomas S. Ostasiewski, PE, PMP
Posted: 09/12/2010

So many people today are "wearing multiple hats" that the term is synonymous with "employed." Within the Six Sigma community, it is very common and even expected that the "Belt" is in charge of running the project in addition to being the expert with the tools. Naturally, some people gravitate to the tools and analysis side of the work, and other toward the management aspects. The challenges this situation presents can directly impact the success of your Six Sigma project, and potentially your career.

Handling Multiple Roles

I’m sure you’ve known (or are) one of these people who is really good at data analysis, so he or she is sent to Six Sigma school. The person comes back and is even better at the analysis. Then he or she is given problems to solve, projects to run, etc. and the person doesn’t do well. The opposite are becoming more frequent as well — those who are pretty good project managers are being sent to Six Sigma training, and they just don’t grasp the tools very well. Both can succeed if they just know how to divide and conquer.

The first thing to consider is your natural preference for the technical, tool-based data analysis versus the organization and leadership of the project. We all will naturally lean toward one of these preferences, and it is important to identify which one you prefer. Once you know that, you can determine where you need to place extra effort and where you won’t have to work as hard to accomplish the goals. If you tend toward the analysis side, you’ll be more excited to do this work, it will go faster, and you’ll expend less effort doing it. You will, however, have to force yourself to perform those tasks that are more project management and leadership related

One strategy to ensure both roles are fulfilled is to plan the work of each separately. Pretend that they are filled by two separate people and lay out what needs to be done by each — separately. This way, the mind can focus on each role one at a time.

Another strategy that works is to block out specific times of the day or week to focus on that part of the work that you’re not naturally inclined to do. For instance, set aside time specifically to plan the next steps, prepare updates for the team/management, review documentation, etc. This time of day should be your "ideal" time — if you’re a morning person, set this up in the mornings. You can then spend the remainder of your time doing what comes easier to you knowing that the project organization is handled for now.

Benefits of Multi-Role Six Sigma Positions

You may be thinking this is only a challenge that must be overcome, instead of an opportunity to grow and achieve more. It is challenging. But there is also the opportunity to learn where you are not as strong, work on improving in that area, developing a track record of success in it, and becoming more well rounded in the process. In an era where the more value you can add to your company the more secure you are, this is a very strong incentive to ensure both sides of the "belt" role get sufficient attention.

Thomas S. Ostasiewski, PE, PMP
Posted: 09/12/2010

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