So Much Data, So Little Time: Revisiting DMAIC Methodology

As a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, the measure phase can be full of potential data.  How does the DMAIC methodology help us skim through it, spot the significant data, and focus the team?

Recently a student called and described their own struggle to identify what data to focus on. I explained to the student that the key to navigating the data collected in the Measure phase is looking back to the Define phase. During the Define phase, you explained how the process works today. Now, when you look at the data collected during the Measure phase, you can easily spot outliers and issues as compared to the baseline. Essentially, everything you learn in the Define phase will help you narrow your focus in the Measure phase and eventually chart a successful path in the Analyze phase.

As it turns out, I’m happy that this student called because it brought up a great reminder: The DMAIC methodology tools are not one-and-done exercises or project documentation. Using the tools, you make discoveries that help you make even more discoveries—and make project decisions—as you work through the DMAIC phases. Take a look at the table below for examples of how tools from the Define phase are used throughout an improvement project.

SIPOCUsed to define scope and to define the factors related to the project including Suppliers, Inputs, Process, Outputs, and CustomersUsed to identify Input, Process, and Output measures. These can then be inputs to  the X/Y Matrix and eventually the Data Collection Plan
As-Is Process MapUsed to define how the process works todayUsed to capture time studies and can identify the activities within the process that should be measured or further investigatedUsed to identify waste and conduct Lean Process AnalysisUsed to design the new to-be processThe to-be map becomes part of the SOP for the standardization of the implemented improvements

The next time you feel stuck on a project, take a step back and review some of the previous tools to see if they provide direction.