The DMAIC model is a roadmap for Six Sigma, used to improve the quality of results that company processes produce. The letters DMAIC are short for: Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve and Control. These five parts are filled in by following twelve steps, which guide you through the process.

The five phases of the DMAIC model

As said, there are twelve steps to the DMAIC model. We go into detail in regards to all of the 5 phases and the 12 steps below. These will make your project succeed, so be sure to read on!

The ‘Define’ phase

The purpose of the Define phase can be described as follows:

Describe the problems that need to be solved and the weight the problem has for the organization or business. Organize the improvement team.

The following two steps make up the Define phase:

  1. Project selection and scope
  2. Definition of the Defect

To execute step 1 successfully, the following five steps need to be completed first:”

  • Identify the value defining elements of the organization,
  • Identify opportunities and possibilities,
  • Research the list of possibilities,
  • Determine the scope and define projects,
  • Prioritize the list of projects.

These five steps lead to the decision of which Lean Six Sigma project to do first.

Step 2: Defining the defect. The easiest way to do this is by describing it as a problem or wish that your customer has. The improvement project should give substance to the specific quality demands connected to the process. This means, in Lean Six Sigma terms, that the Voice of the Customer is translated to Critical to Quality. Critical to Quality (CTQ) is the term that is used for important, measurable characteristics of a product or process. The CTQ, furthermore, indicates the ‘’performance standard’’ that needs to be achieved in order to satisfy the needs of the customer.

The ‘Measure’ phase

Goals of the Measure phase are:

To define the defect and collect baseline information regarding the performance of the product or process. Define goals for improvement and ensure there is a proper system for measurements in place.

Within the Measure phase, the following steps are followed:

  1. Determine and analyze measurement system Y,
  2. Baseline performance,
  3. Goal determination based on baseline performance.

The Project Y is the CTQ, expressed as measurable output of the process. The Project Y is always quantitative, measurable, unambiguous, and directly connected to the process. Then the baseline performance. Based on the collected data, the current process performance level is determined by measuring the process output Y. This Y can be expressed in values like temperature, time, speed or any other measurable unit. With that Y, connected to the process, a goal can be defined that will help strive for improvements.

The ‘Analyze’ phase

The goal of the Analyze phase is to:

Determine which process parameters, or inputs, have the most effect on the critical process results (outputs).

Within the Analyze phase there are two key steps:

  1. Possible causes of variation
  2. Determination of main causes.

The first step is concentrated on finding the causes behind the variating values of the Y. These can be variations as well as defects. Subsequently, during the next step, the main causes within these are determined. It is key that these main causes can be directly substantiated by data.

The ‘Improve’ phase

The main goal in this phase is:

To identify opportunities for improvement, substantiated with information on the way these improvements help achieve the project goals.

The following steps make up this phase:

  1. Finding the most optimal solution
  2. Testing the solution

The goal is to develop a fully functional process improvement which is tested by the project team and ready to be implemented in an actual business environment. The optimal solution is selected based on the following criteria:

  • Predicted process performance,
  • Cost,
  • Implementation demands,
  • Risks.

A pilot will be initiated in order to test the proposed solutions in practice. A pilot is useful because it lowers the risk of failure and provides a more accurate prediction of the projected (monetary) savings the project will produce. This helps the development of the Business Case by substantiating the entire implementation.

The ‘Control’ phase

The goal in this final part of the DMAIC model is:

To implement the chosen solutions and make sure these are engrained in the organizational process. Share the solutions with other stakeholders who face similar issues as well!

The following steps make up this final phase:

  1. Engraining and analyzing measurement systems,
  2. Implementation and proving the improvement,
  3. Project documentation and handover.

The process changes are documented in the control plan. Each main cause is explained, including the way they are controlled in the new way of working. The control plan also mentions how the project Y will be monitored. In addition to that, the control plan also notes who is responsible for fixing any problems. Finally, the control plan contains the intervals at which checks or audits are conducted in regards to the process and its adaptations, to be sure that the changes made are permanent.

It is important that the implementation of the solution is done in a controlled way. Many organizations have embraced their own method of project management. It is generally speaking a good idea to stay in line with this method, as long as it contains the following aspects: project definition, organization, planning, necessary means and budget, a risk management plan, communication plan and training demands.

After the implementation the project can be handed over to the line organization. The first point of contact for the Black- or Green belt is the sponsor as owner of the problem and eventually the owner of the solution. Proper project documentation forms the reference work for the current process owner and any future process owners as well. It is therefore important to document the reasons behind changes in the process and the implemented solutions, including their yield. This prevents people from needlessly reinventing the wheel in the future.

The DMAIC model in relation to Six Sigma

The DMAIC model is usually always connected to Six Sigma. This because it originates from that method and is explicitly used as the Six Sigma working model. This does not mean, however, that the DMAIC model can’t function without Six Sigma.

The DMAIC model versus the PDCA Cycle

The difference between these two models is that the DMAIC model is based upon project based thinking more so than the PDCA (Plan, Do, Check and Act) Cycle. DMAIC is all about analyzing main causes of problems while the PDCA Cycle looks more towards the problem as a whole.

DMAIC or A3 Management?
DMAIC is the traditional project method for Six Sigma, designed to improve in continuous cycles. A3 Management is the traditional project method within the Lean approach and aims to finish projects within short bouts of time. Which method is most suitable depends mostly on the type of process issue at hand. DMAIC projects look to reduce variations, whereas A3 Management projects are mostly used to tackle issues with lead time.

Learn DMAIC online!

To learn more about the DMAIC model and project method without having to enrol on a full Green Belt or Black Belt course, you can follow our online DMAIC course. This course is available on our digital learning platform and sister company ‘The Productivity Company’.  In this short online course you will not only get an in-depth look into each of the DMAIC phases, but will also learn about its background and underlying mindset.

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