Mention Lean Six Sigma to Project Managers and you typically get a dichotomy – the “hmm…yes” silence and change the topic approach or the “Ah yes…DMAIC”, and a lengthy discussion on its application.
Lean Six Sigma combines the best of Lean (think focus on speed) and Six Sigma (think focus on reducing errors) – it is a powerful business improvement approach. Consider overall business and operational excellence when you think Lean Six Sigma.
Or otherwise, what benefit is it to complete a process quickly (Lean) if there are lots of errors and rework is required? (enter Six Sigma).
Lean Six Sigma Principles
Still not convinced? Consider the following – how important is it for you to:
- Focus on your customer (what do they value?)
- Understand how work gets done (in terms of flow and controls)
- Improve and smooth process flows (think smoothing peaks and troughs)
- Remove non-value adding steps and waste
- Reduce variation
- Empower people doing the process
- Undertake improvement systematically? (this is where DMAIC comes in)
Interested? Any of these ideas resound?
So what is DMAIC (pronounced duh-MAY-ick)
DMAIC is a 5 phased approach to problem solving that underpins Lean Six Sigma. It is a structured methodology that logically leads a team from defining a problem through implementing solutions and establishing best practices to ensure solutions remain in place.
- Define. What is the problem? What needs to be improved? Who are your customers? What are their requirements? (Voice of Customer)
- Measure. This is the starting point for improvement; hone in on the underlying problem. Understand and baseline current performance
- Analyse. Use facts and data to determine the root cause of the problem. Identify steps in the process that don’t add value to the customer
- Improve. Develop solutions to address the root causes, select the most suitable and test it to validate the approach. Improve practices
- Control. Full scale implementation of a solution has now been completed; need to ensure that the change is sustained – no backsliding to old ways.
The key to Lean Six Sigma is clear problem definition, backed up by measure and analyse, in order to get to an improvement solution, with control ensuring no going backwards.
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