Use DMAIC To Enhance Your Career
by Teresa Whitacre
Attend an ASQ section meeting or conference, and if you didn’t already know it, you’ll quickly learn Six Sigma is still one of the hottest methodologies in the quality profession today.
One common Six Sigma methodology is the define, measure, analyze, improve and control (DMAIC) strategy. It is used to expand the current capabilities of an existing process and to identify opportunities to improve current and future processes.
Your career is a process. Careers, like processes, involve a series of actions, changes or functions designed to bring about some desired result. There is a definitive beginning, a burn-in period of getting yourself grounded, a period of growth and expansion and finally a definitive end at retirement.
Do you know what makes your career unique? Use the DMAIC process as a vehicle to understand the key drivers that influence your career success.
In this step, define the purpose and scope of your career. What is it you hope to get out of your working life? Do you work for a paycheck alone, or are you seeking fulfillment in your life? Think about why you chose your career path. Something had to draw you there:
- A specific talent you have or courses you took that really sparked an interest.
- An entrepreneurial spirit.
- The field’s financial rewards.
On the other hand, you may not have found the career you were seeking. You earned a degree in accounting, for example, and worked as an accountant for several years only to realize you despise the work—as happened to an associate of mine.
Defining the purpose and scope—where you want to be vs. where you are—helps you focus. Define, too, how you think you can get there. Write down activities worth your time, ones that are inefficient or a waste of time, and actions that might be needed to make a change.
At this stage, simply define these activities. The success—or failure—of your defining work will be tested in the next phases.
Measure the current situation. It is difficult, if not impossible, to gauge how to implement the purpose and scope of your career without any measuring. Gather as much informative data as you can. Data that are helpful in this case include your earnings goals, your strengths and weaknesses and what motivates you to succeed.
Write out some questions to gauge these measurements and help determine goals. Use those questions and goals to focus on the current and future state. One measurement method could include reviewing open positions in your chosen field. This will let you see the risks and rewards of implementing the purpose and scope.
Consider the activities documented during the define stage. Do you know where you stand now? How will you get to where you want to be?
Analyze your career process to identify its direction. The goal at this stage is to pinpoint the specific cause and effect relationships that result from measuring your purpose and scope.
If you want to become a vice president, are measures in place pointing you in that direction? Are the measurements you used correct for your process? If you are currently a manager, what steps do you need to take to reach your goal of becoming vice president?
Do the measurements, purpose and scope accurately reflect what you are setting out to accomplish? Involve a mentor or friend in this stage. An outsider often can help determine whether you have taken the appropriate steps or how effective your process has been so far.
The improvement phase is often difficult. Here, develop ways to enhance or reach the goal and test your various options. If the results do not meet your goals or miss the mark, then rethink what you have done so far.
Start over if necessary. Use the data from the previous steps to work toward improvement. Did the measuring and analysis phase point out a new skill? Perhaps that new skill was to become a Six Sigma Black Belt (BB). How can you improve your chances of attaining a BB? If you already hold a BB, how can you improve your success when working on improvement projects?
The goal at this point is to maintain your progress by learning from past mistakes and growing both personally and professionally along the way. Achieving the goal is important—but maintaining success is even more important.
Controlling your career growth helps you stay employable for life. You do have control of your career—even though it frequently may not seem so.
No matter what stage of your working career you are in, the DMAIC process will help you maintain your current status or move on to the next level. The more efficient you make your career process, the more successful you should be.
TERESA WHITACRE is a quality assurance process leader for Respironics Inc., a respiratory device manufacturer and distributor near Pittsburgh, and principal of Marketech Systems. She authored a quality technology text used by the ASQ Pittsburgh Section for certified mechanical inspector and certified quality technician courses and has instructed both. Whitacre holds a bachelor’s degree in quality engineering from Pacific Western University, is a Senior Member of ASQ and holds the Society’s quality engineering, manager, technician and auditor certifications.