This is an acronym describing the five stages of the Six Sigma methodology or strategy. Six Sigma is a set of principles, originally developed by Motorola, designed to improve processes through the elimination of defects. The elements of the Six Sigma approach include define, measure, analyze, improve, and control. Some organizations choose to omit D for “define” because that is regarded as management work. Many of the world’s top organizations have embraced the Six Sigma strategy, including General Electric and Honeywell International. Although the modern formulation of the Six Sigma methodology is credited to Bill Smith of Motorola in the 1980s, it was preceded by strategies aimed at quality improvement that were developed over a period not less than six decades. And there are some threads in the Six Sigma makeup that can be traced back to the earlier methods, including the continuous efforts to reduce variations in process outputs, as well as the idea of improving manufacturing and business processes by analysis and control. Also common to Six Sigma and its predecessors is the assertion that succeeding and achieving sustained quality improvement requires commitment from the entire organization, especially the top management.
There are two methodologies inherent in the Six Sigma strategy, one of which is DMAIC, which is used to improve on an existing business process. The other one, called DMADV, is used to build a new product or process designs for predictable performances that are defect free. The following is the breakdown of the various parts of DMAIC.
The DMAIC strategy first of all requires the decision makers to define core processes. In business, it is considered to be important to define the project in terms of its scope, expectations, resources, and timelines. The definition phase of the Six Sigma strategy clearly identifies what is part of the project and what is not.
The next requirement in the six sigma approach is where the project manager is required to quantify and benchmark the project by using actual data. This is important for future comparison purposes,as it would be easier to determine whether defects in the product, service or system has been reduced or not.
When the project is well understood, the baseline performance documented, and an opportunity uncovered, the analysis of the project should be performed. Here, the Six Sigma approach applies statistical tools to isolate the chief causes of the problems. Any number of tools and tests can be used to understand the process sufficiently so as to be in a position to formulate the processes accordingly.
Here, ideas and the solutions may be brought to bear, after all the root causes of the existing opportunities have been discovered and validated. It is here that the solutions are identified by the project managers. There must be checks in place to ensure that the desired results are being achieved. Trials and experiments to seek the best solutions are common at this stage.
This involves ensuring that project tracking and measurement mechanisms are in place so that the gains made throughout the process are retained over a period of time.
For more information on DMAIC read this article.