Dashboards and scorecards in Six Sigma

Monitoring the critical Key Performance Indicators are vital to Continuous Improvement sustainability. This article describes how dashboards and scorecards differ and how they can be used for the effective and ongoing monitoring of the health of a process.

Dashboards, as they relate to Six Sigma, are brief summaries illustrating the health of a process or operation at a glance. Just like the dashboard in your vehicle, the viewer can quickly determine if the indicated values are within the targeted operating range. The indicators that are displayed on a dashboard are fed by a roll-up from the detailed scorecard.

A dashboard should not be confused with the more detailed scorecard. A typical scorecard will present all the critical measurements of day to day operations and is the mechanism that drives the dashboard. Both tools serve a viable function in our process measurement and the resulting reporting. They inherently have a degree of overlap but are not the same tool.

Dashboards that are laden with all the reporting of a scorecard can easily become too cumbersome for upper management and customer use. A scorecard presented as a dashboard will likely display too much information and hinder a quick review. Scorecards are more commonly internal management tools, whereas the dashboard reporting tool is frequently shared with the external customer. Most often, it is a version of a dashboard that upper management and our customers prefer to see during their high-level reviews of the operation.

During the course of a Six Sigma project, the team will identify the critical few root causes that are influencing the objective (y) of the project. In the analyze and improve stages, the team gains clear insight into the drivers known to influence the performance of the objective. Finally, in the control stage, it is possible to measure the success of the implemented changes. These key influencing drivers are the critical process measurements to be monitored through the effective scorecard and later rolled up into the dashboard. A vital component in our Six Sigma process is the identification of the critical measurements and the established means in which to capture and report them in the scorecard. Once the correct measurements are in place, a dashboard can then be added with little effort and will report the successes and/or issues of the process to management and customers.

Scorecards function as early warning systems in depicting the real-time measurement of the critical drivers. The real-time nature of the scorecard tool will enhance the process manager’s ability to monitor the process performance and intervene quickly if necessary. The detailed nature of the scorecard will facilitate his ability to identify in what areas he first should focus his attention. Scorecards enable a fast response to process related failures if designed properly and monitored frequently. Process owners often utilize their scorecard as the guiding light for the implementation of focused and successful process adjustments as the operating environment evolves following the Six Sigma project conclusion. They can then use the dashboard to report the overall progress and the health of the business to their internal or external customer.