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D. M. A. I. C. – Six Sigma.

Define – Define the Problem or the Goal to be achieved.

What problem would you like to fix or what is the Goal that needs to be achieved? 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. Without a clearly defined Objective or Problem the project team could begin to go off track and end up not resolving the issue or resolving another issue that was not part of the project.

Measure – Quantify the problem.

How does the process currently perform? Or in other words, what is the magnitude of the problem? Measurement is critical, not just at the start, but throughout the life of the project and after. As the team starts collecting data they focus on both the actual process as well as measuring what customers really 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 – the current state.

Analyse – Identify the cause of the problem.

What is causing the problem or prevent the objective occurring? The Analyse Phase is often not given enough attention and yet it is phase that can require most of project teams time.  Without analysis, teams jump to solutions before knowing the true root causes of the issues. The result is that the team will implement a solution, but this will not resolve the problem. This results in wasted time, resources, creates more variation and, in the worst cases, causes new problems. The ideal is for teams to brainstorm potential root causes. Key here is not to then think of a solution. From this they can 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 Analyse Phase!

Improve – Implement and verify the solution.

How will the team remove the root cause? Improve customer satisfaction? Reduce the lead time? Improve quality? Once the project teams have determined the root causes it’s time to create and develop solutions. The Improve Phase is where the teams brainstorm all solutions, put in pilot process change tests, implements solutions and lastly, collect 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.

Control – Maintain the solution.

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.

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