Six Sigma


By Ron Updated on June 4th, 2007

I am often asked why some projects fail to get results or even get completed. This is a difficult question with many possible answers. But if I were forced to narrow it done the ever famous “you must have a good champion” would be high on the list. But I would likely mention one other thing before that. That thing would be, “you must have a SMART project.”

You may have already guessed that SMART stands for something.

Time bound

Let’s discuss each point briefly.


Projects must be specific and not general is scope. For example, a general goal would be something like, “I want to spend more time with my kids.” A better, more specific, goal would be, “I want to spend an additional 3 hours with my kids each week.”


Next, a project should have a goal that is measurable. If someone wants to improve customer satisfaction they better have a way of quantifying the “before” and “after” situation, else they will never know if they have succeeded. In the case of customer satisfaction one may employ surveys or focus groups. Remember, if you cannot measure it, you will never be able to improve it.


Attainable goals are such that you want to make them happen. Have you ever been tasked with something challenging, yet a little exciting at the same time? You know the kind of project/problem that you lay in bed thinking about how to conquer? These are usually attainable or you wouldn’t think about them so much! Also, truly attainable goals are ones where you can see progress as you work on the project. This is why I believe the Kaizen event is so powerful and effective. They are short, punchy, and usually quite attainable in nature.


The statement, “Don’t boil the ocean, instead boil it one teaspoon at a time” is so true. I once had a person tell me they wanted to improve the OTD for their entire plant with one single green belt project. This is boiling the ocean. I suggested to this person they may want to Pareto OTD by customer and product in order to find out where the biggest issues were. Then they could target that instead of the whole plant.

Time Bound

The “T” in SMART is sometimes referred to as tangible. I prefer time bound instead. When you set a goal you need to plan how you will tackle it. This does NOT mean you should pull dates from the air. Instead, it means thinking about the complexity of the problem and breaking it into milestones. Also, I highly discourage anyone attempting to tackle a project that is planned to be greater than 4 months in duration. There are many reasons such as it is hard to keep a team motivated, people change jobs, and because nothing should take longer than 4 months!

So there you have it folks. Be SMART and your chances of completing a successful project will increase immensely. Until next time, I wish you all the best on your journey towards continuous improvement.

  1. Hal

    February 7, 2007 - 6:02 pm

    Let’s give credit where it’s due. Ken Blanchard created the SMART approach to goal-setting.

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