I’ve been fortunate to work on many improvement projects from banking back-office procedures, capacity planning, decommissioning infrastructure, and IT request workflow automation. Through these, I have (loosely) used the DMAIC methodology to help organize and prioritize each project lifecycle. Though many of my projects have a data-driven improvement element to them, most of the time the primary complaint by the customer/business is that the process “takes too long”.

What is DMAIC?

Wikipedia describes DMAIC well; “DMAIC (an acronym for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control) (pronounced də-MAY-ick) refers to a data-driven improvement cycle used for improving, optimizing and stabilizing business processes and designs. The DMAIC improvement cycle is the core tool used to drive Six Sigma projects.” DMAIC traditionally means to Define the problem, Measure the root causes, Analyze the root problems, Improve and implement solutions, and Control the new solution.

Making Processes Leaner with DMAIC

When I look at processes improvement, I often leverage DMAIC in this manner:

D = Define the problem.

M = Map and measure the current state (as-is).

A = Analyze and identify the process wastes.

I = Improve the process (to-be).

C = Control the new process.

Using DMAIC is this manner places less emphasis on root cause and effect analyses and more emphasis on wasted inputs and activities throughout the process.

The key to making processes leaner while improving quality is to evaluate what goes into the process. Processes are full of waste and in the service sectors, these processes are often “invisible” and hard to follow. They are further complicated over time as entropy is inevitably introduced. These wastes include inventory, motion, waiting, defects, and over processing (read my 8 Deadly Process Wastes in Services article to learn more about these wastes). This adds unnecessary time and variation to the process and is constituted as non-value-added activities. The sad part is that we become accustomed to these wastes and stop seeing them for what they truly are. Has anyone ever told you, “that’s just the way it is” or “that’s how it’s always been”?

In my career, I have saved companies millions of dollars and many (many) thousands of hours spent in processes by using the above concepts. I rarely find a need in most of my improvement projects to dive deep into Six Sigma statistical analysis and, perhaps in-and-of-itself, this is a waste of ‘overprocessing’. Hopefully I have enlightened you today and given you a slightly different perspective. Either way, I’d love to read your thoughts!

 

Tell me your thoughts in the comments and let’s open a dialog. I would be excited to hear other opinions on this topic.

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Chad Higgins

Chad Higgins

Contributing Author

With 12 years of diverse project management experience, Chad brings a unique perspective to PMforToday.com. Whether it was at the start of his career as an ice cream store manager or more recently as a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and ITIL leader in the telecommunications arena, Chad has always zeroed in on the kinds of changes that make a business function more effectively. Chad's formal background in process improvement complements his seasoned project repertoire. He's never found a team or process that couldn't improve in some area, and Chad is a firm believer that a healthy company culture is fundamental to any process improvement initiative.

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