Double Dutch Six Sigma – Becoming a Storyteller

Author: Dennis Crommentuijn-Marsh

open book of family storyNot everyone around you will understand the Lean Six Sigma technical language. Not everyone will want to. This can lead to a lack of engagement and, potentially, a failing project.


Six Sigma is like any other specialism, it has its own language and code. If you use just that language and code to talk to others, they may struggle to understand you. It’s like me describing in Dutch something to an English speaking person. I won’t get very far in gaining comprehension. This can also happen with a project.

As a project leader you need to figure out a way of telling the ‘story of your project’ in a way that is appropriate for your specific audience. Being good at improvement also requires you to become a storyteller with the ability to use language that is suitable for your audience, with the right level of detail and, perhaps the most important element, a storyline they can follow.

When talking to project leaders I encourage them to imagine that they are telling a fairy tale story: “once upon a time….”. In the project context it could look like this: “Once upon a time my organisation had a problem. My sponsor requested the project leader to investigate using the tools they were taught during our training course…this is where the story begins.”

I’ve listened to many project presentations over the years and observed some common barriers to communication. I’ve identified these in the table below. I’ve also addressed what you can do to minimise the risk of incomprehension.

In conclusion: When writing up a project, imagine you have to tell it to a complete stranger. This should help ensure you do it in a language and style that they will understand. In this way you maximise the opportunity for understanding, engagement and collaboration by the other person. And that is what it’s all about!

Minimising the Risk of Incomprehension

What do I observe? Impact Suggestions
Use of company specific acronyms Others don’t understand the acronym thus loss of comprehension Always explain acronyms in full

Add a legend to the presentation of commonly used terms

Didn’t use the PMI Improvement Cycle The flow is missing Use the standard PMI template which is on the LMS
The presentation has too many different topics Confuses the reader Keep the story linear and to the point: a good story has a beginning, a middle and an end

Put any additional investigations you did in the Appendix

A control chart without text or explanation A picture without context does not tell a thousand words, it is merely a picture. Add on the slide:

  1. What is the question you are trying to answer?
  2. Explain what data is in the control chart
  3. A screenshot of the control chart
  4. What is your analysis? (is it stable and predictable, if there are any signals, add text boxes with an explanation
  5. What is your conclusion?
No link between the conclusion and the initial objective The entire purpose of the project is missing Ensure that at the end of the presentation you check that you have actually done what the project was set up to accomplish
No control chart is used to demonstrate that a change was an improvement No statistical proof Very often people use a single control chart at the beginning, and either a separate chart at the end, or just a table of some numbers.

Always show the data on the same control chart, and use the recalculation rules to demonstrate any change.


About Dennis

20140522_PMI1318Dennis Crommentuijn-Marsh is a Director Consultant at PMI, a PMI Master Black Belt, certified Lateral Thinking instructor and runs the PMI Master Class Creative Thinking; Inspiring Ideas. As a consultant and trainer, Dennis works with clients around the world delivering a range of consultancy, coaching, training and leadership support. He also has an MSc in Mechatronics and Optical Engineering.

If you have any questions for Dennis, please do get in touch.

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