How Problem Owner Can Sabotage Your Lean Six Sigma Project


Some Lean Six Sigma practitioners sabotage their own project on day one.

They don’t define who the Problem Owner is and what his/her role is in the project.


Who is the Problem Owner?

The Problem Owner – also called the Process Owner – is the person who is functionally responsible for the process you and your team want to improve using Lean Six Sigma methodology.

Since every project is defined terms of “a problem that needs to be solved” that is why we talk about the owner of the problem.

This is important to tell – and I tell it often during my coaching: the Green- or Black Belt or their project team is NOT the Problem Owner. They are only responsible to apply the methodology in order to find solution to the problem.

After the solution is proved to be good – which is the main part of the Improve Phase of the DMAIC roadmap – the team has to hand it over to the Problem Owner.

I remember a project with a Healthcare company. Their goal was to improve communication with clients.

We had a good team but we spent lots of time defining the real, measurable problem. It took me over 24 wasted hours before I realized: all these discussions are caused by the fact that everybody sees the problem from its own perspective.

If we had one Problem Owner, he/she could tell clearly why is communication with the clients a problem that needs to be solved. Everybody is communicating one way or another with the clients so it is very difficult to point out a person to be the Problem Owner.

That brings us to the next question:


What is the role of the Problem Owner in a Lean Six Sigma Project?

During the project execution the Problem Owner should make resources – time, people, facility, machines, etc. – available so that the team can work on finding and testing the solution.

At the end of the project – the Control Phase – the Problem Owner needs to formally take over the findings of the project team and make it sure the new process is being followed.

Once I coached a Green Belt who had a project in a Swedish manufacturing company. Because of some language difficulties the Problem Owner was not part of the project team.

Everything went fine until we arrived at the Control Phase where I asked the Green Belt to get the approval of the Problem Owner for the new procedure.

The Green Belt was a bit stressed because he did not keep the Problem Owner up to date, therefore he had some hard thoughts about getting the approval.

This mistake can costs time delays and to be avoided by inviting the Problem Owner to join the project team or updating him at least once a month.



Make sure when you start a Lean Six Sigma project that the Problem Owner is well defined.

Invite him/her to join the project team.

Otherwise keep him/her up to date on a regular basis.

Do you want one-on-one coaching to avoid mistakes like these?

Go to as long as coaching spots are available.


Warm regards,



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