In my last blogWhat’s Six Sigma’s DMAIC Methodology used for?’ I gave you an introduction to the DMAIC phases, what each phase includes and what the methodology sets out to achieve. In this blog we will explore what actions are involved in each of the DMAIC phases, how you turn the theory of DMAIC into physical actions, what’s involved for the Six Sigma practitioner and what they need from stakeholders.

The below graphic walks you through the DMAIC phases and describes the actions involved.

Project Start-up

All projects need basic information like the project purpose, scope, the project team, deliverables, project plan, potential risks and issues, etc. Six Sigma projects are no different, but there is something that makes Six Sigma projects unique.  All Six Sigma projects start with a problem statement which is backed up with measurable goals.  Six Sigma is a data-driven business problem-solving tool so any project that doesn’t start with a problem can’t become a Six Sigma project.  The problem statement and measurable goals are put into the project charter, a simple document detailing all key project information.  The project charter is then signed off by the project sponsor before the project can begin.  Another key activity that should be done at this stage is a Voice of the Customer (VOC) exercise.  This involves interviewing the customers of the process that are effected by the problem; this may involve internal and external customers.  This gives you very early insight as to the extent of how the problem is felt by the customers and what is Critical To Quality (CTQ) (the customer needs/expectations).  This can often help you with your measurable goals.


Define Six Sigma Actions Checklist

  • The Problem Statement is defined and signed off
  • The Goal Statements are clear and measurable
  • VOC sessions have been completed and the CTQ’s are understood
  • Project Charter is complete and is signed off by the sponsor


General Checklist

  • Is the problem clear and is there any data to support the problem?
  • Are the goals of the project clear and are they realistic?
  • Is the process involved clearly understood?
  • Are the customers needs understood?
  • Is the project focused on customers needs?
  • Is the scope of the project clear?
  • Have a project team been identified?
  • Are the key stakeholders in the project/process identified and have been communicated to?
  • Has the problem been looked at before?


Project Management Checklist

  • Does the project have a clear sponsorship?
  • Has the scope been clearly defined?
  • Does the sponsor understand their responsibilities to the project?
  • Have the resources to the project been committed?
  • How does the project relate to business needs?
  • Have the problem and goals of the project been signed off and accepted by the sponsor?
  • Is there a project plan in place that details a targeted end with key milestones and deliverables?

As-is Process Review

Once the problem is signed off by your sponsor the next stage will be to start to understand the process effected by the problem.  This will involve meeting with those that are operating the processes(es) and mapping out each activity. It’s important to get into the detail of the process, high level maps are not enough. Understanding who is performing each activity, the system and files used, the emails sent and the system activity is all required.


Process Performance

It’s important that once you have as-is process maps signed off as being accurate, that the process is measured.  This would be the time it takes to perform each activity and the delay between them.  Hopefully you will be able to collect this from a system, but if not, this will need to be done manually. It is only by collecting the activity and delay that you will get the process cycle time (total end-to-end time). It’s only by having the process cycle time that you get a true baseline measure of your process performance. It is at this point you would also collect as much data around the process as you can.  This could include volume of transactions broken down by things like product, month or team processing the transaction.  


Measure Six Sigma Actions Checklist

  • Has the As-is process been mapped and signed off?
  • Have the activity execution and delay measures been calculated?
  • Have all baseline measures been captured?


General Checklist

  • Has the process been mapped based on as is information?
  • Has the data been collected without bias?
  • Has the data been collected in a way that is repeatable and reproducible?


Project Management Checklist

  • Has the communication plan been updated and relevant stakeholders been informed of progress?
  • Has the Project Plan been reviewed and if necessary updated?
  • Has the project sponsor been updated on progress?

Data Analysis

Now you have all your data, it’s time to see what the data is telling you. What can you reveal with data analysis that is not obvious or what assumptions around the causes of problem can you prove or disprove?  Graphical and statistical analysis are a big part of Six Sigma and a key differentiator between its approach to other problem solving methods. 


Root Cause Analysis

Now that you have the evidence as to why and where the problems exist you can take your findings to your project team.  By reviewing your findings and brainstorming, you can back your data analysis up with what the team have to say about why problems exist. Because you have completed your analysis, you can also target the most effected parts of the process – the parts of the process that cause the most amount of inefficiencies. It is these problems that you take forward to the improve phase.


Analyse Six Sigma Actions Checklist

  • Have root causes theories been tested either statistically or graphically and conclusions made?
  • Have you used 5 why’s with the project team to identify root causes?
  • Have the root causes identified in the brainstorming workshops been documented in a Cause and Effect fishbone diagram?


General Checklist

  • Has a brainstorming session be used to identify the root causes?
  • What are the vital few root causes, have they been identified?


Data Checklist

  • Have theories been made and proved or disproved?
  • Has the data collated been sufficiently accurate to be used in the analysis phase?
  • Is the sample size of the data big enough?


Project Management Checklist

  • Has the communication plan been updated and relevant stakeholders been informed of progress?
  • Has the Project Plan been reviewed and if necessary updated?



You have just found the root causes to your problem, so the next thing to do is brainstorm with the team how are you going to fix them.  What can be done to fix the problems you have identified? This is a time for blue sky thinking. What things can be done immediately that are within the gift of the project team to change now (quick wins)? What can you stop or start doing to have a real impact on the identified problems? Then what can be done with a little bit of external support? What automation opportunities are there? What solution(s) would require system changes, increased budget and/or a longer term project? You may have lots of potential solution and need to use a tool like the Solution or Pugh Matrix.



So you have a list of solutions that can be backed up with evidence of what the as-is process looks like, measures of its performance and conclusions of the data analysis and brainstorming of root causes for why the problems exists. It’s now time to collate all of these findings and solutions and present them to your sponsor.  Presenting the findings is about explaining the journey from the initial problem statement through to the solution(s). It’s about helping the sponsor understand by using the rigour of the DMAIC methodology to explain why these solutions should be implemented and their expected benefits.  The decision to implement the solution(s) should be a ‘no brainer’. The solution should be ‘we know this solution will have this impact’’ rather than ‘we suspect this solution might have this impact’.


Plan and Implement Change  

Once your solution(s) have been approved it’s now time to plan and implement the change. This is all about putting a project in place to implement the solution. Each action required to implement the solution needs to have an owner, with timescales that are monitored, controlled and reported back to the sponsor.

If your solution impacts the way people are currently working then you’ll need to consider how the delivery of that change is managed. When dealing with people change, we all react to the news our process changing in different ways . Some people will welcome and embrace the change whilst others could feel threatened and start to put up blockers. The impact of the change needs to be carefully managed. Change Management is a big subject-  big enough to require specialist skills. This must be taken into account when considering how to implement your solution.


Improve Six Sigma Actions Checklist

  • Has the brainstorming gone far enough to enable fundamental change to the process?
  • Have solutions been identified for each root cause?
  • Have the improvement ideas been assessed and compared using relevant criteria such as ease, speed, cost, benefits etc?
  • Before implementing improvements, have the risks been assessed in a structured way (e.g. FMEA)?
  • Can each solution be measured to prove the improvement and realise the benefits?
  • Has the goal statement been achieved?


General Checklist

  • How have the different improvements ideas been generated?
  • Who was involved in the process?
  • How have the different ideas been assessed and compared?
  • Has the process been improved?
  • Have the findings been documented and presented to the sponsor for their sign off?


Project Management Checklist

  • Has the Project Plan been reviewed and if necessary updated?
  • Has a Change Management plan been generated?

Monitor and Improve

This phase is all about testing that the improvements have been implemented and embedded. It’s also about continually monitoring the process to review where your next round of continuous improvement is coming from. This is done by setting up a measurement record system. This could be by agreeing Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) and creating a dashboard and/or Statistical Process Control charts (SPC’s). 


Control Six Sigma Actions Checklist

  • Have new KPI’s been agreed and integrated into BAU?
  • Has a SPC monitoring process been implemented?
  • Has the impact to the problem statement been understood and communicated?
  • Have the goals of the project been achieved and communicated?
  • Has a continuous improvement plan been agreed?


General Checks

  • Have the improvements been documented, ‘standardised’ and become ‘business as usual’?
  • Have the project savings been calculated and signed off with finance department agreement?
  • Do each of the processes improved have process owners?


Project Management Checklist

  • Has the sponsor signed off all the savings?
  • Has the sponsor signed the project off as being completed?
  • Has the project been completed, and lessons learnt communicated to other relevant areas?

At CI Projects we are passionate about empowering the teams we work with and helping them unlock their problem solving skills. We deliver a host of training to support you with this – why not take a look here and take the next step?

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