Using DMAIC the Agile Way

by Devshree Golecha

Process improvement is the proactive initiative of identifying, analyzing, improving and monitoring an organization’s existing business processes for optimization, and to meet new standards of defined performance metrics and quality.

Improving business processes involves the systematic approach of problem solving that follows a specific method by closing performance gaps through cycle-time reduction, and eliminating root causes of below-specification quality, process variation and nonvalue-added activities.

Why process improvement?

Process improvement results can be measured by monitoring and tracking performance metrics and key performance indicators related to product quality, customer satisfaction, net promoter score, customer loyalty, increased productivity, employee skill development and improvements in financial metrics—including selling, general and administrative expenses and net revenue—resulting in a higher and faster return on investment.

The DMAIC method

The define, measure, analyze, improve and control (DMAIC) method is one of the most well-defined, highly disciplined and rigorous ways of improving and optimizing business processes (see online Figure 1). The beauty of DMAIC is that it can be applied to all industries, not just manufacturing.

Online Figure 1

A traditional DMAIC project takes three to six months or longer to complete. In today’s competitive world, businesses want results faster and quick wins with less turnaround time that can be implemented immediately.

The agile way

To continue using DMAIC successfully while enjoying the benefits of this disciplined phased approach of problem solving, follow these suggestions, no matter the length of the project:

  1. Have a well-defined project charter. A project charter is the living document of any project. It represents the problem, goal, scope, critical to quality aspects, performance metrics, project team and financial benefits of the project. If the charter is not well-defined, it leads to scope creep and, often, trying to solve too many problems in one DMAIC.
  2. Hold daily stand-up meetings. Daily stand-up meetings aren’t just for software teams anymore. These meetings let team members share progress and surface any roadblocks. The goal is to touch base every day for 10 to 15 minutes and ensure the project is running smoothly.
  3. Collect data during the define phase. It is ideal to collect data during the predefine or define phase as a parallel activity. By collecting data in advance, preliminary analysis of the current state can be performed, significantly reducing the project timeline.
  4. Use fewer project tools. If you can reduce the number of tools you use and apply appropriate tools as required depending on the nature of the project, it still will deliver the same project benefits, but in a shorter timeframe.
  5. Send project deliverables in advance. Send the project documents to team members in advance with an explanation of what is expected and the deadline to submit the deliverable. This ensures participation from all members and quicker turnaround times.
  6. Send tollgate approval through email. Email the tollgate deck to the hands-on champion and get approval through email with follow-up questions.
  7. Implement quick wins. Identify and implement quick wins during the project. This will showcase the power of DMAIC, and the project could reap the benefits of improvements implemented during the project duration.

DMAIC is a great approach that has proven its mettle by improving business processes by making them efficient and effective, affecting the bottom line and increasing financial benefits. I like to call it a legendary method, which might lose its importance if not matched with new business needs. The answer is using DMAIC the agile way.

Devshree Golecha is an adjunct professor of quality improvement and statistics at the University of Houston. She received an MBA in finance from Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies in India. A member of ASQ, Golecha is an ASQ-certified Six Sigma Master Black Belt.

Many thanks for this information, DMAIC process it's very useful, I hope this can be understood by the companies, because some of them doesn't want to invest in people and time.
--Hugo Gomez, 05-19-2020

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