What is a Pilot?

A pilot is an experimental or preliminary trial or test of your solution on a limited scale. A Pilot plan is the best way to make sure your pilot run is successful.

Why Pilot?

  •  Lower Risk
    • Lowers risk of failure by limiting resource usage.
    • Assess true performance in controlled-but-live experiments.
  • Learn
    • Confirm or disprove expected results and relationships.
    • To test and validate the benefit of the proposed solutions before roll out.
    • Validate your measurement system.
    • o
  • Improve Solution
    • Identify additional improvements in either the solution or implementation launch itself.
    • Improve future projections of benefits of full roll out.
  • Stakeholder Relations
    • Increase stake-holder buy-in.
    • Quickly deliver a version of the solution to a targeted segment of the client population.

When should you Pilot?

  • When you want any of the benefits covered in Why.
  • The scope is very large and the price of full roll out failure is large.
  • The solution could have far-reaching or unintended consequences.
  • The solution is difficult or impossible to reverse.

Traits of a Pilot

  • Small scale
  • Reversible
  • Designed to incrementally increased-employee involvement
  • Utilize simulations – process improvement may be simulated using mathematical or computer based modeling

Design the Pilot Plan

Similar to the Define phase of DMAIC – what are you trying to do? What do you hope to achieve? What is the definition of success? How are you going to get there? Who is impacted? Whom do you need help from?

What are the 3 keys aspects to a successful pilot? Plan, monitor, evaluate

Pilot Plan

  • Plan Pilot Purpose & Goals
    • Define what needs to be piloted / implemented.
    • Good idea to reference the Project Charter, especially the Project Benefits & Objectives. Will your pilot be able to demonstrate that achieving these is possible?
  • Pilot Scope
    • Prioritization matrices can be used to rationally narrow down the focus of the team before detailed implementation planning can happen.
    • What is the size or boundaries to what will be measured?
    • How will you ensure the pilot is as realistic as possible?
    • Identify when & where pilots will be run.
  • Timeline
  • Activities List
  • Clearly articulate the steps & tasks necessary to test the proposed solutions.
    • Action
    • Owner
    • Process it Affects
    • Schedule
  • Determine how pilots will be conducted and length of time
    • Pilots should be run for as long as it takes to understand if the process is stable or not.
  • Determine result tracking needs.
  • Useful tools.
  • Budget and Resources Required
  • Identify team members, equipment, and material to be used.
  • Plan appropriate training and communications for the pilot.
    • Documentation Required
  • Monitoring plan and operational definitions of measurements to collect and goals to be met.
  • How will you evaluate results?
    • Contingency Plans
  • How will you monitor and deal with issues during the pilot?
    • Ex. Minimize disruptions

Run the Pilot

  • Collect data on internal and external factors that may be influencing the process.
  • Expose the pilot to as broad of a range of inputs and process conditions as possible.

After the Pilot

  • Collect and Evaluate Pilot Results.
    • Analyze the gaps between the predicted performance and the actual performance.
  • Root cause the gaps to determine why and if solution changes are needed.
  • Analyze the pilot plan. What worked? What didn’t? What had to be added or changed?
    • Communicate Pilot Results
  • o    Create a summary of the strategy used to pilot the solution and communicate the results achieved.
    • Solicit Stakeholder Feedback:
  • Change management is a key part of project success. Soliciting feedback during stakeholder interviews gives you access to thoughts from those impacted by the project.
  • Review the original stakeholder analysis to determine how/if anything has changed, and what you may want to do to address those results.

Comments (6)

Thoko, The risk is that you are betting your improvement is 100% correct. By having a pilot to a restricted or smaller group, you can work out the kinks and any issues before full roll out of the changes. Think of it as incremental validation.


A pilot plan is chiefly used to mitigate risk. I’m not sure what SSO means (Single Sign on?).

Perhaps try to create a FMEA and then let that help you follow the steps listed above and go from there.

Best, Ted

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