Evaluating Lean Six Sigma projects: A quick guide to SMART projects

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Evaluating Lean Six Sigma projects: A quick guide to SMART projects

One of the most common things I hear from Lean Six Sigma trainees is ‘I wish I knew that when I was selecting this project’. While you can never really be guaranteed that your project will work out according to plan there are a few things you can do to make sure you avoid some common problems.

One of the easiest methods is to apply the SMART test to your project. This acronym stands for

Time bound

While you might come across the acronym in many textbooks it’s often left to the reader to interpret and apply it. Here’s a relatively easy way to ensure you are applying it correctly. The table below describes varying levels of SMART, scored from 1 to 5. If you look at each of the SMART criteria in turn and find the description that best suits your project you should be quickly able to spot any weaknesses.


As the colour scheme might suggest if your project is scoring all 4’s and 5’s you are green to go. If there are any red scores then stop and either try and resolve the issue BEFORE you proceed with the project or look for another project. Any scores in the Amber region signals that you must ‘proceed with caution’. Usually this means that there is a risk with your project that must be managed. For example if your project is likely to require resources such as IT support or capital and you are hearing the right noises from your Sponsor and other key stakeholders you might decide to proceed but you will want to plan for frequent communication with those stakeholders who will ultimately be asked to authorize the commitment of these resources to your project.

While there is no guarantee that scoring in the green in all categories means you are going to have an easy ride my experience is that those projects that score well in a class of trainee Black Belts are the ones that tend to be finished first.

You may also notice that some criteria tend to impact others. For example if you notice a dependency in your project such as the requirement for external support you might also consider that there is a risk of a delay while waiting for that resource to come through. Therefore the ‘Achievable’ criteria has an impact on the ‘Time bound’ criteria.

Once you have mastered the SMART scoring approach you can start making additional use of the scores. For example if you take the ART scores you can use the formula for Project Priority: PP = R*(A/5)*(T/5). This formula ignores the Specific and Measurable criteria as these are typically aspects of the project we have more control over. You can use the PP scoring to rank projects.

There are plenty of other methods of evaluating potential projects but I find this way is quick and generally reliable.

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