How to Use DMAIC to Improve Business Processes

There are several methodologies to choose from when it comes to improving business processes and creating structure around projects. However, the DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) approach is considered the cream of the crop, especially in STEM-based businesses and teams.

If your goal is to make improvements in your business to enhance business processes and improve your customer offerings, do it with DMAIC.

Here’s a high-level overview of the DMAIC methodology to get you started.

Stage One: Define

The “Define” phase of the DMAIC process is when the organization assesses what problems they hope to solve and clarifies the goal and success metrics. During Six Sigma Black Belt training, the Define phase is highlighted as one of the most important aspects of making changes in a business or creating a product for a customer. During this time, a project charter is developed, acting as the roadmap for the entire project.

To implement the Define phase in your business, outline the answers to the following questions:

  • What is the problem we hope to solve?
  • What’s causing the problem we’re trying to solve?
  • What does success look like?
  • What are the steps from where we are now to the finish line?

This phase is also the time to communicate with key stakeholders and share the importance of this project with the broader team.

Stage Two: Measure

The Measure phase of the DMAIC methodology is a deep dive into the root cause of your problem while also evaluating the effectiveness of your proposed solution. Many companies make the mistake of evaluating the effectiveness of their methods further down the road.

By focusing the second stage on measurement, you’re providing ample time to pivot and adapt should you find a problem with your existing strategy. The benefit of this approach is that you can change without wasting further resources.

During this phase, your team should collect and verify information about the process to compare against a baseline. Ideally, this early deep dive will show initial signs of improvement. If not, this is the time to adjust the project charter.

Stage Three: Analyze

The Analyze phase is an evolution of the Measure phase, leading many teams to skim over it. In essence, it’s taking the information gathered in stage two and looking at it through a different lens.

During the Analyze phase, the team should confirm its initial findings and present the data to the team in a digestible format. This can be done by adding visuals and graphs to make the information relevant and engaging.

Stage Four: Improve

It’s natural for further issues to arise while moving through an improvement process. Unfortunately, letting sleeping dogs lie isn’t possible when improving a business process or project. As you navigate the process, you’ll inevitably find that one change causes a ripple effect elsewhere.

Stage four provides the opportunity for continued adjustments and improvements. It’s also the implementation phase when changes are brought to life.

Stage Five: Control

Contrary to popular belief, the work isn’t done when a change is implemented. The Control phase is meant to monitor the new process and make adjustments as needed. It’s an opportunity to highlight further improvement needs and document the new SOPs.

The Control phase is typically where you congratulate your team on a successful project and take the time to review the process as a whole. Holding a post-mortem provides an opportunity to share learnings, challenges, and opportunities highlighted while navigating this project so that they can be accounted for next time.

What Happens Next?

So what happens when you’ve worked through the entire DMAIC process and reached your goal?

You start all over again with another goal in mind.

There’s always room for improvement, both in business processes and in life. Using the DMAIC methodology can help you create a culture of continuous improvement that promotes long-term success.