My wife and I love watching superhero shows, especially Warner Bros’ The Flash. A favorite villain of ours is Leonard Snart, or Captain Cold: A world-class thief renowned for his sly and meticulous heists. Though he spends most of his time taking rather than contributing to society, Captain Cold proves to show a mastery of plan implementation. According to Snart, “There are only four rules you need to remember:

  1. Make the Plan
  2. Execute the Plan
  3. Expect the Plan to go off the rails
  4. Throw away the Plan
Leonard Snart Quotes - MagicalQuote

Minus the point where you “throw away the plan,” Implementation Planning follows a very similar system. The most successful implementation plans are those that account for every detail from start to finish. Good implementation plans even include mitigation planning for when the plan “goes off the rails.” Thorough planning will increase the odds of success for your project and yield long-lasting improvement for years to come. It is crucial to note that you should not begin implementation planning until you’ve determined the exact solution to your problem, which is found in the ANALYZE Phase of DMAIC. Also, proceed with the implementation plan after a successful pilot test.

For more tips on implementing a pilot for your project, use the article here.

Where & How do we use the Implementation Plan?

Final Process Sigma requires operational definitions from the implementation plan.

The implementation plan is not only used in DMAIC but is also used in Design for Six Sigma or the V for Verify found in DMADV.

There are five elements used to successfully create an implementation plan.

Five Elements of an Implementation Plan

As noted earlier, the successful implementation of a Six Sigma initiative requires thorough planning to ensure success. There are five categories the project owner needs to consider in order to achieve a fool-proof plan.

  1. The Work Plan
  2. Resource Plan
  3. Stakeholder Management Plan
  4. Risk Assessment Plan
  5. Quality Control Plan

The Work Plan

The work plan is where you define what will happen to all involved in the process improvement. In other words, you are creating the scope for improvements. The scope includes but is not limited to, changes to the process, resources, and supplies.

Let’s take, for example, a dine-in restaurant that goes through the DMAIC process. The team at the diner determines that there is a lot of unnecessary time spent cleaning up spilled messes due to walkway traffic when waiters are delivering food. Collisions are so common at the diner that, on average, 10 waiters or waitresses spill food on the floor weekly. The team’s goal is to reduce occurrences down to 1 or less per week.

In this case, the Work Plan will define all the changes required to achieve successful results, such as:

  • Changes to the restaurant layout so that guests and waiters have more space to move
  • Add visual cues such as arrows that tell guests where to walk.
  • Move the bathrooms away from the kitchen
  • Purchase new food handling plates to prevent spills.

All workers in the restaurant agree with the needed changes, but there are concerns about whether all of these changes are necessary or if the budget allows each change.

Resource Plan

This is where all project funds, resources, and purchases are finalized. Resources include time, staffing changes, overhead costs, and other items. It is crucial to verify the available resources and receive proper approval to utilize them; otherwise, the project will fall short of expected gains.

Back to the diner example, the owner has allocated a $2,000 budget for the project. The project owner went out to contractors to bid on expanding walkways and relocating the bathrooms and quickly determined $2,000 did not cover all the changes they hoped to make. The team was left with two options to select.

  • Changes to the restaurant layout so that guests and waiters have more space to move
  • Add visual cues such as arrows that tell guests where to walk.
  • Move the bathrooms away from the kitchen
  • Purchase new food handling plates to prevent spills.

Most of you reading this may feel that this is an obvious example where the cost of renovating a diner far exceeds the outlined budget. Still, having gone through a similar experience in my professional career, it happens. So be mindful to never exceed the budget!

Stakeholder Management Plan

The Project Charter created in the DEFINE phase of DMAIC includes key stakeholders that must be kept up to date on the progress of the project. Not only do these same stakeholders need to be 100% on board with the implementation plan, but anyone remotely affected by the implementation should be considered a stakeholder. That includes process owners, outside vendors affected by the process, and even some customers depending on the implementation. Aim to have all stakeholders support the implementation but prioritize efforts with a strong influence and impact on the project. Consider using the table below when preparing stakeholders for the implementation. Stakeholders with the highest score require the most priority.

Image demonstrating a Implementation Plan
Stakeholder Management Plan

In our diner example, the Stakeholder Management Plan removes opposition from employees and guests. If the diner chooses to implement food handling plates, all waiters and waitresses must be on board with the new method of carrying food and be trained. With the visual cues signaling guests where they should walk, the cues only work if the customers are willing to conform to the change.

Risk Assessment Plan

The Risk Assessment Plan is where we touch upon any existing Failure Mode Effects Analysis around the Implementation Plan. In this case, the best type of FMEA to use is PFMEA, as you are pinpointing risks around the process of handling food.

Quality Control Plan

Elements of the Quality Control Plan are widely found in the Control Phase of DMAIC since the Quality Control Plan introduces metrics to monitor the project’s gains. Also, take time to verify that the implementation plan covers the complete scope of the project in the project charter. If you are missing something in your implementation, what changes must be made?

Barriers to implementation

Implementing project solutions is bound to be met by people who favor the implementation and others who oppose it. Those who favor change are often those who see the vision of how it benefits their work, such as the process owner. Upper management may favor the change because they see how it saves the company money or reduces labor hours.

Blue-collar workers may oppose change because an improvement made to their job may leave them without employment.

Common barriers to implementation include:

  • Budget Constraints
  • Time
  • People
  • Technology

Sufficient to say it is very rare not to receive a level of opposition to any implementation because it involves change. Most people are reluctant to change because they value the “tried and true way” of how things work. Perhaps they have a bitter taste for past changes in the workplace. Whatever the case may be, the project owner has an opportunity to inspire an improved outlook on change.

See change opposition for more details.

Account for Barriers to implementation

Firstly, forces that favor implementation are usually people who see the benefit of change. This may include executives, the project owner, suppliers, and customers. Little opposition will come from those favoring the change; however, a solid communication plan must be used to keep proponents excited about the change.

Secondly, forces that oppose implementation are often the most affected by the change, such as direct labor employees. In my experience, the best way to help people who oppose implementation is by showing them how the change improves their work life. They are likely asking themselves, “how does this project benefit me.” Therefore, break down the benefits regarding how much time they will save, the quality of work they can perform, and the pain points that will go away. Explain that you care about the quality of their work life. Doing so will break down barriers to implementation.

Lastly, do not fail to address barriers to implementation! Six Sigma is about achieving process improvements that last the entire lifetime of the process at hand. Failure to address barriers will lead to short-term improvements since people will fall back into old habits of doing things. Not only will people fall back on the “tried and true way,” but they will increase in skepticism towards other changes.

Additional Resources


  • Tanner Zornes

    I earned my Lean Six Sigma Black Belt through IASSC.'s guided course has helped me gain confidence to pass my exam and earn my certification. I currently apply Six Sigma in aerospace manufacturing to drive efficiencies and reduce costs. Ask me how the Six Sigma Study Guide can help you pass your exam.

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  • Ted Hessing

    I originally created to help me prepare for my own Black belt exams. Overtime I've grown the site to help tens of thousands of Six Sigma belt candidates prepare for their Green Belt & Black Belt exams. Go here to learn how to pass your Six Sigma exam the 1st time through!

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