Change Focus: Process Improvement 

DMAIC Process

The DMAIC process is a problem-solving methodology used in Lean Six Sigma to improve the quality of a process.
DMAIC Mutomorro
Download a free DMAIC Process template

What is DMAIC?

DMAIC, an acronym for Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve, and Control, is a structured problem-solving methodology widely used in business process improvement. Developed as part of the Six Sigma initiative at Motorola in the 1980s, it’s a robust and systematic approach to optimisation that ensures quality and efficiency in operations.

As the name suggests, DMAIC comprises five interconnected phases. Firstly, the problem is defined, setting the stage for improvement. Secondly, the current process is measured to establish a baseline for comparison. Thirdly, the process is analysed to identify the root causes of issues. Fourthly, improvements are developed and implemented. Finally, the improved process is controlled to ensure the gains are maintained.

DMAIC is a cyclical process. Once the control phase has been completed, the cycle begins anew, ensuring continuous improvement. This methodology is not just limited to manufacturing or industrial processes; it is versatile and can be applied in diverse fields such as healthcare, finance, and education.

How does DMAIC fit into Lean Six Sigma?

DMAIC is the cornerstone of Lean Six Sigma, a business process improvement methodology that aims to reduce waste and variability. Lean principles focus on eliminating waste and streamlining processes, while Six Sigma seeks to decrease variability and improve quality. DMAIC is the tool that combines these principles into a cohesive, effective strategy for optimisation.

Each phase of DMAIC corresponds with Lean and Six Sigma principles. The ‘Define’ phase aligns with a lean focus on value as defined by the customer. ‘Measure’ and ‘Analyse’ echo Six Sigma’s emphasis on data-driven decision making. The ‘Improve’ phase reflects Lean’s drive for efficiency and Six Sigma’s pursuit of perfection. Lastly, the ‘Control’ phase ensures the sustainability of improvements, a core concern of both Lean and Six Sigma.

In essence, DMAIC is the framework that allows Lean Six Sigma to function effectively, providing a systematic, repeatable approach to process improvement that combines the strengths of both Lean and Six Sigma.

How to run a DMAIC project

DMAIC, Lead Six Sigma - Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve and Control

Running a DMAIC project involves progressing through each of the five phases in order, using specific steps and tools in each phase to achieve the desired outcome. Let’s explore these phases in more detail:

1. Define

DMAIC - 1. Define stage

During the ‘Define’ phase of a project, the primary emphasis is placed on comprehending the issue that necessitates attention and resolution. This critical stage involves the creation of a succinct problem statement that encapsulates the challenge at hand. Additionally, a goal statement is crafted to provide a clear direction for the project. 

A process map is also developed to visualize the steps needed to achieve the goal. Furthermore, it’s essential to define the customer and their specific requirements to ensure the project meets their needs. Lastly, keeping others informed about the progress of the project is a crucial part of this phase, ensuring transparency and fostering collaboration.

Steps

  • Develop a problem statement
  • Develop a goal statement
  • Develop a process map
  • Define customer and requirements
  • Inform others of project progress

Useful Tools

  • Project Charter
  • SIPOC
  • Value Stream Map
  • Swimlane Map
  • Voice of the Customer (VOC)
  • Translation Matrix
  • Tree Diagram
  • АЗ
  • Relationship Map

2. Measure

DMAIC - 2. Measure stage

The ‘Measure’ phase involves determining how the current process performs, creating a plan to collect data, ensuring the data is reliable, gathering baseline data, and updating the project charter.

The lead time of a process refers to the total time taken from the start of a process to its completion. In the context of DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control), lead time can be significantly reduced by identifying and eliminating waste and inefficiencies in the process.

The quality of output in a process is determined by how well it meets the needs and expectations of the customers. DMAIC helps in improving the quality of output by understanding the current performance of the process, identifying the root causes of any problems, and implementing improvements.

The baseline of a process is the current state of the process before any improvements are made. It serves as a benchmark against which the effectiveness of the improvements can be measured. In DMAIC, the baseline is established during the “Measure” phase, where the current process is thoroughly quantified.

Steps 

  • Develop a problem statement
  • Develop a goal statement
  • Develop a process map
  • Define customer and requirements
  • Inform others of project progress

Useful Tools

  • Project Charter
  • SIPOC
  • Value Stream Map
  • Swimlane Map
  • Voice of the Customer (VOC)
  • Translation Matrix
  • Tree Diagram
  • АЗ
  • Relationship Map

Data Collection Plan and Operational Definitions are essential tools for this phase. They ensure that everyone understands the data, how it will be collected, and what it means. Check Sheet is another tool used to collect and organise data.

3. Analyse

DMAIC - 3. Analyse Stage

In the ‘Analyse’ phase of the project, which is a critical and integral part of the overall project lifecycle, the entire process is subjected to a thorough and meticulous examination. This rigorous examination involves creating a detailed graphical representation of the data, which aids in better understanding and interpretation of the data. 

Following this, the dedicated team then embarks on the challenging task of identifying potential causes of the problem at hand. Once these potential causes are identified, through careful analysis and scrutiny, the next step in the process is to verify the actual cause or causes of the problem. This is a crucial step as it helps in pinpointing the root cause of the issue. The final step in this comprehensive ‘Analyse’ phase is to update the project charter accordingly. This involves reflecting the findings and updates from the analysis in the project charter, ensuring that all relevant information is accurately captured and documented for future reference.

Steps

  • Determine How the Process Currently Performs
  • Create a Plan to Collect the Data
  • Ensure the Data is Reliable
  • Gather the Baseline Data
  • Update Your Project Charter

Useful Tools

  • Value Stream Map
  • Value Added Flow Analysis
  • Run Charts
  • Histograms
  • Pareto Charts
  • Box Plots
  • Fishbone Diagram
  • 5 Whys
  • Root Cause Hypothesis
  • Project Charter

4. Improve

DMAIC - 4. Improve Stage

The ‘Improve’ phase involves brainstorming solutions, selecting practical solutions, developing process maps based on different solutions, selecting the best solution(s), implementing the solution(s), and measuring to ensure improvement.

Steps

  • Brainstorm Solutions That Might Fix the Problem
  • Select the Practical Solutions
  • Develop Maps of Processes Based on Different Solutions
  • Select the Best Solution(s)
  • Implement the Solution(s)
  • Measure to Ensure Improvement

Useful Tools

  • Brainstorming
  • Benchmarking
  • Value Stream Map
  • Swimlane Map
  • PDCA/PDSA
  • Classic Lean Improvements
  • Impact Effort Matrix
  • Weighted Criteria Matrix
  • Pilot Checklist
  • Implementation Plan
  • To-Be Map

5. Control

DMAIC - 5. Control Stage

In the final stage, which is referred to as the ‘Control’ phase, the process is meticulously managed and closely monitored. The enhanced process is carefully documented for future reference. The improvements that have been made are then applied to other relevant areas. Success is not only shared among the team but also celebrated to boost morale. Furthermore, the process is subjected to continuous improvement, adhering to the principles of Lean methodology, to ensure efficiency and effectiveness in the long run.

Steps

  • Ensure the Process is Properly Managed and Monitored
  • Document the Improved Process
  • Apply Improvements to Other Areas
  • Share and Celebrate Your Success
  • Continuously Improve the Process using Lean Principles

Useful Tools

  • Control Plan
  • Control Chart
  • Monitoring & Response Plan
  • Documentation
  • Innovation Transfer Opportunities
  • Gallery Walks

When and when not to use DMAIC

While DMAIC, an acronym for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control, is undeniably a potent tool for enhancing process efficiency, it’s not invariably the optimal selection. This methodology is most fitting for intricate issues that necessitate a comprehensive, methodical approach. It’s especially efficacious when there’s an established process already in place, but it’s not delivering the expected results or meeting the set performance standards. Thus, while DMAIC is a valuable tool, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution for every problem.

However, for simpler problems or when a process doesn’t yet exist, using DMAIC could be overkill. In these situations, using a simpler problem-solving tool or process design methodology might be more appropriate.

Summary

In conclusion, DMAIC provides a structured, data-driven methodology for process improvement that’s at the heart of Lean Six Sigma. By defining the problem, measuring the current process, analysing the root causes, implementing improvements, and controlling the new process, DMAIC allows organisations to continuously improve their operations and deliver better value to their customers.

Remember, DMAIC is not a one-size-fits-all solution. It’s a powerful tool when used in the right situations, but it should be part of a broader toolbox of problem-solving and process improvement methodologies. Always select the tool that best fits your specific needs and circumstances.

DMAIC Process Template

Click the link to download this DMAIC Process template to explore with your own team or organisation.

DMAIC Process, Lead Six Sigma - Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve and Control

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 James Freeman-Gray 

I'm James. A change consultant and organisational development specialist. I've been working in people-centred change for over 15 years. I partner with causes, champions, teams & leaders on projects for social, environmental, technological & human good. If you think I can support in making your change a success, drop me a message. 

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