DMAIC is the problem-solving methodology behind Lean Six Sigma. It consists of five Phases: Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control. It is pronounced “duh-may-ik”.
To help you better understand the process and help you easily apply the method to an existing problem, we’ve broken down the steps for each DMAIC Phase below.
Select the Right Projects
Before beginning any process improvement, it’s vital that you choose projects that are good candidates for improvement. This will set you up for success. A good project for improvement:
- Has an obvious problem within an existing process
- Has the potential to reduce lead time or defects while resulting in cost savings or improved productivity
- Is measurable (has collectable data) and results in a quantifiable improvement
There are obstacles to smooth operations in any business and Lean Six Sigma provides guidelines to help you select the right projects at the right time. Once projects are selected, you and your improvement team(s) can use DMAIC to further refine the projects and deliver quantifiable, sustainable results.
Now, on to the DMAIC process!
What problem would you like to fix? The Define Phase is the first phase of the Lean Six Sigma improvement process. In this phase the project team creates a Project Charter, a high-level map of the process and begins to understand the needs of the customers of the process. This is a critical phase in which the team outlines the project focus for themselves and the leadership of the organization. Learn More: Define Phase
How does the process currently perform? Or in other words, what is the magnitude of the problem? Measurement is critical throughout the life of the project. As the team starts collecting data they focus on both the process as well as measuring what customers care about. That means initially there are two focuses: reducing lead time or improving quality. In the Measure Phase, the team refines the measurement definitions and determines the current performance or the baseline of the process. Learn More: Measure Phase
What is causing the problem? The Analyze Phase is often not given enough attention and, without analysis, teams jump to solutions before knowing the true root causes of the issues. The result is teams who implement solutions but don’t resolve the problem! These efforts waste time, consume resources, create more variation and, often, cause new problems. The ideal is for teams to brainstorm potential root causes (not solutions), develop hypotheses as to why problems exist and then work to prove or disprove their hypotheses. Verification includes both process analysis and data analysis and has to be completed before implementing solutions. This is the crux of the Analyze Phase! Learn More: Analyze Phase
How will the team mitigate the root causes of the problem? Once the project teams have determined the root causes it’s time to develop solutions. The Improve Phase is where the team brainstorms solutions, pilots process changes, implements solutions and lastly, collects data to confirm there is measurable improvement. A structured improvement effort can lead to innovative and elegant solutions that improve the baseline measure and, ultimately, the customer experience. Learn More: Improve Phase
How do you sustain the improvement? Now that the process problem is fixed and improvements are in place, the team must ensure that the process maintains the gains. In the Control Phase the team is focused on creating a Monitoring Plan to continue measuring the success of the updated process and developing a Response Plan in case there is a dip in performance. Once in place, the team hands these plans off to the Process Owner for ongoing maintenance. Learn More: Control Phase