The DMAIC Manifesto - Define Phase

The DMAIC Manifesto - Define Phase

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The DMAIC method is a roadmap for solving complex problems.  It is the foundation of most Six Sigma projects regardless of industry.  In the DMAIC Manifesto, I described each phase of the DMAIC method at a very high level.  Today we’ll explore the Define phase in more detail.

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The two points of concern

Any continuous improvement project should be concerned with two points.  The first point is our baseline.  Where are we now?  The second point is our goal.  Where do we want to be at some point in the future?    

The Project Management Institute defines a project as being temporary.  It will have “a defined beginning and ending in time, and therefore defined scope and resources.”  This is an important aspect of a continuous improvement project and must not be ignored.

By first defining where we are, where we want to be, and the time constraints we can now identify the gap between the two, the resources that we’ll need to accomplish that goal, and describe the scope of our endeavor.  A DMAIC project that fails here will be built on a poor foundation and is destined to fail.

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Define the problem

Any problem worthy of a DMAIC project should be tied directly to the company’s strategic objectives.  The problem, or pain point, should be stated in plain language.  Describe how this pain point impacts each of the three major stakeholders (owners, employees, and customers)?  Clearly state how it is tied to the company’s strategy.  Document this in the project charter as the problem statement. 

Define the goal (the objective)

A DMAIC project is similar to a road trip.  If we fail to define our destination then we are destined to fail.  We must define early what exactly will be considered success.  It is imperative that the goal is SMART:

·         Specific: Define who is involved, what should be accomplished, where it will be done, why you are doing it, and which requirements do you have.

·         Measurable: Will you have a method to know where you are today and in the future?

·         Actionable: Is the goal within your ability to control?

·         Relevant: Is the goal aligned with your Why?

·         Time Limited: Set a specific date that the goal MUST be accomplished by.

The goal must help propel the company towards their strategic ideal.  The true beauty of continuous improvement comes from the never ending pursuit of unattainable perfection.  Any project that is not aligned with the company’s strategic ideal will be very difficult to sustain.

Tools, tips & tricks

Some tools that should be included in any define phase are the project charter, defect definition, SIPOC, and a communication plan.  This is not intended to be an exhaustive list if tools, rather it should be seen as a basic minimum requirement of the define phase.

The project charter should include the business case, the problem statement, and the objective statement.  The business case describes how a project is aligned with the overall company strategy.  The problem statement will describe how the pain point impacts the customers, employees, and owners.  The objective statement will provide the SMART goal that the project is designed to accomplish.

The defect definition will describe, in plain language, a primary, secondary and consequential metric.  A primary metric will typically center on a hard, quantifiable number.  The secondary metric will often be a more qualifiable metric.  The consequential metric is the counter metric to the primary metric. 

Think of the consequential metric in terms of what you do not want to sacrifice to gain the primary metric.  For instance, imagine a situation in which you wish to gain revenue.  A consequential metric may focus on not losing profit margin while gaining revenue.

The SIPOC is an acronym for Supplier, Inputs, Process, Outputs, and Customer.  A great SIPOC will define the overall process to be improved in three to seven steps.  A common resistance to the SIPOC is that it may feel like an oversimplification of the process; however, any business can be summarized in three steps as shown in this services-based example.

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A define phase must include a communication plan.  This will document how each of the major stakeholders will receive updates, when the team will meet, and how general communications should be handled.  It is best to define this early to ensure that all involved are kept informed.

The DMAIC method is anchored in the Define phase.  As stated in the DMAIC Manifesto the define phase describes where we are and where we are going.  In the next article I’ll explore the Measure phase.

Attila Dobai is a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt and Project Management Professional (PMP).  He holds an Advanced Master’s Certificate from Villanova University in Lean Six Sigma with a special concentration in Business Analytics and Business Intelligence.

He has 14-years of experience in a Fortune 500 business leading international continuous improvement projects, programs, and portfolios.  He has been interviewed as a thought leader and written about continuous improvement in media such as the Gemba Academy podcast and the Colorado Springs Business Journal. 

Attila is available for comment on continuous improvement, business intelligence and analytics, and strategy execution.  He can be reached by e-mail: Attila@Dobai.com or by visiting Dobai.com

The DMAIC Manifesto

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D

Define the problem and the goal. We cannot improve what we do not understand, nor can we improve if we fail to define "better."

M

Measure the output. Clearly define how you will measure the defects...how will you know if it is better? This doesn't always need to be a hard measurement, but it should be clear and consistent.

A

Analyze the root cause(s). What inputs are truly leading to the defects?

I

Improve the process. Seek methods to control special cause variation and eliminate common cause variation.

C

Control. Stay aware of changes by consistently measuring for changes in the process. Constantly seek new improvements.

 

Attila Dobai is a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt and Project Management Professional (PMP).  He holds an Advanced Master’s Certificate from Villanova University in Lean Six Sigma with a special concentration in Business Analytics and Business Intelligence.

He has 14-years of experience in a Fortune 500 business leading international continuous improvement projects, programs, and portfolios.  He has been interviewed as a thought leader and written about continuous improvement in media such as the Gemba Academy podcast and the Colorado Springs Business Journal. 

Attila is available for comment on continuous improvement, business intelligence and analytics, and strategy execution.  He can be reached by e-mail: Attila@Dobai.com or by visiting Dobai.com.

Continuous improvement key for small businesses

This article was originally published in the Colorado Springs Business Journal on May 18, 2018.


Continuous improvement key for small businesses

Continuous improvement methods are common in large businesses.  Large businesses can afford teams of consultants or full-time employees that specialize in continuous improvement methodologies such as Lean Manufacturing or Six Sigma.  Continuous improvement does not, however, need to be limited to large businesses.  There are methods that small business owners can implement on their own to improve their bottom line.  One method that the small business owner can implement is waste identification and elimination.

What is Waste?

The idea of waste identification and elimination was formalized by Taiichi Ohno, father of the Toyota Production System, as a method to identify items or processes that negatively impact profitability.  The method was first applied to the manufacturing industry, but with some minor modification, it can be equally applied to the services industry.

Identifying waste should be done from the perspective of the customer, the employee, and the owners.  Any activity that does not add value to the final product or service is waste.  If the customer is not willing to pay for the activity then it is waste that is reducing the value the process adds to each of the stakeholders.  The original Japanese word for this is “Muda” meaning “futility; uselessness, or wastefulness.”

Identifying Wastes

Wastes can be classified into 8 distinct categories: Waiting, Over-Production, Re-Work, Motion, Processing, Inventory, Intellect, and Transportation.  An easy way to remember these is with the acronym WORMPIIT.

Waiting

Definition: any time that a product or service is not actively being worked on

Manufacturing example: The time materials are waiting to be loaded into a machine

Services example: The time that a customer is waiting in line

Over-Production

Definition: making more of a product or service than is required by the customer

Manufacturing example: making products before they are needed (often in large batches)

Services example: over-staffing for customer demand

Re-Work

Definition: producing defective products or services that must be corrected or thrown out

Manufacturing example: making items that fail to meet specifications

Services example: data entry errors or typographical errors

Motion

Definition: people moving unnecessarily

Manufacturing example: people walking repeatedly from one machine to another

Services example: people walking to a printer and back to their workstation repeatedly

Processing

Definition: doing more than is required by the customer

Manufacturing example: adding features to a product that the customer does not want or need

Services example: adding extra features to a computer program

Inventory

Definition: products or services that cannot yet be used to generate revenue

Manufacturing example: producing a stockpile of parts that will not be immediately consumed

Services example: pre-printing forms

Intellect

Definition: underutilized skills and knowledge

Manufacturing example: failing to incorporate line-workers in the quality inspection process.

Services example: failing to utilize feedback from customer service employees in marketing and operations.

Transportation

Definition: moving products or people from one location to another

Manufacturing example: moving materials around the factory floor

Services example: moving people to a work site

Eliminating Wastes

Dealing with wastes should be a part of the company’s culture.  This should include everyone in the company from the CEO to the janitor.  Each employee should be trained to identify wastes and have a standard method to escalate the observation so that it can be addressed and eliminated. 

Once the waste is identified the next step is to identify the root cause.  This is not always obvious.  A great tool for identifying the root cause is known as a “5 Why” analysis.  In the simplest terms, 5 Whys is asking “why” repeatedly to get from the symptom or waste to the root cause.  It is important to note that the number of times the questions are asked is arbitrary.  Do not get trapped into asking “why” a set number of times.  Additionally, caution should be used when asking “why,” which can be interpreted as accusatory and may elicit an emotional response.  This is especially true in the services industry where symptoms are observed as human behavior.  To overcome this limitation it may be better to frame the question with “how” or “what” rather than “why.”

After identifying the root cause of the problem, it is time to invoke a solution.  Some solutions are simple and may require a minor change in process.  Others can be more complex, requiring a major change to process or an innovative solution. 

Opportunities to eliminate one category of waste should be explored with careful consideration for all the other forms of waste.  It is easy to mistake waste elimination when waste is merely shifted from one form to another.  For instance, you may eliminate the waste of overproduction by letting go of staff, but you should consider whether the cost of intellectual waste is greater than the benefit.  Ask yourself if that same staff could have been utilized in a different way.  Another example of shifting waste would be to eliminate the waste of transportation by increasing inventory. 

It is imperative to think in terms of all stakeholders when solving a problem.  The customer, employee and owner perspectives should be considered.  The best solutions will improve the customer experience, improve the employee experience, and improve profitability.

 

Attila Dobai is a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt and project management professional with more than 14 years of continuous improvement experience in the services industry.  He started Dobai.com, lives in Palmer Lake and can be reached at attila@dobai.com.

Gemba Academy Episode 194 | How to Teach the Art of Continuous Improvement

I had a great interview with Ron Pereira of the Gemba Academy today.  We discussed how to teach the art of continuous improvement.

Many courses teach continuous improvement practitioners the science of how to use a tool, but they often lack the artistic side required for successful application.  We discuss the 5-Whys tool extensively and give some advice that you can use today to get better results. 

You can hear the interview here: https://blog.gembaacademy.com/2017/12/21/ga-194-how-to-teach-the-art-of-continuous-improvement-with-attila-dobai/