Like a standard engine, the DMAIC process can be incredibly useful on its own. But like adding a turbocharger to a car, using software can boost performance and get you where you want to go faster and more efficiently. Here’s how it helps at every stage.
The DMAIC process starts with a detailed description of the business problem at hand. It is essential to document the significance and business measures impacted by the issue. All internal and external stakeholders and related processes and business units are identified. The deliverable for this step is a charter that includes the scope of the project and all of the required resources along with the team members who will tackle this challenge.
The standard tools for this step in the DMAIC process are email and spreadsheets. They are workable but inefficient and prone to error. Improvement management software offers a single platform that becomes the repository for all tasks, conversations, and documents, including the project charter. Unlike the unstructured email/spreadsheet approach, your team has one place to go to find information. Because the data lives securely in the software forever, the team can also start the DMAIC cycle by researching past projects to see if a similar problem has been addressed before and what worked best in resolving it.
One of the things we like so much about the DMAIC process is that measurement is front and center, rather than becoming an afterthought as so often happens without a structured improvement cycle. To begin the measurement phase, teams collect baseline metrics about the process today. Next, key performance indicators (KPIs) that can be used as a yardstick to measure the current and newly defined processes are identified. A plan for future measurement is created that outlines who is responsible, how and when the data will be gathered, and how it will be reported to the organization.
The best improvement technology offers charts and graphs to visualize your measurements. You might use:
• Control Charts
• Run Charts
• Bar Charts
• Pareto Charts
• Goal Charts
• Bowling Charts
The solution should also allow you to set tasks for future analyses with notifications and alerts so that this important step isn’t overlooked.
By this stage in the DMAIC process, the scope of the problem and the desired results are clear, and the team can begin to search for the root causes of problems in the target process and look to find possible solutions. Many organizations use value stream mapping and the 5 Whys problem-solving technique at this stage. After the opportunities for improvement are discovered and documented, the action plan begins to take shape.
With technology in place, all of the opportunities for improvement, even those that will be addressed at a later date, are collected in one place for analysis. The team documents each step they take so that others will be able to learn from their experience and best practices for DMAIC start to evolve.
After the analysis is finished, it is time to put the plan into action. It is often necessary to test and experiment with improvement ideas, sometimes through several iterations before the final new process is selected. At that point, a new Standard Work can be deployed.
Improvement management software plays a significant role in this stage. Team leaders can make assignments and track activities as the project unfolds. Email and in-app alerts help keep everything moving smoothly and ensure that no tasks are missed. Software makes cross-functional collaboration frictionless by giving everyone a standard platform on which to work. Executives and managers can follow the progress of DMAIC projects across the organization using configurable dashboards and charts.
Download this free comparison worksheet to figure out what improvement platform is best for your organization.
Like measurement, control is a step that is often skipped by organizations that aren’t using the DMAIC or a similarly structured cycle. During the Control step, the recurring measurements that were agreed upon earlier are implemented. The new process is monitored for unintended consequences. Finally, a plan is made about when and how to reexamine the process for additional opportunities for improvement.
With software in place, the defined KPIs are tracked over time. The right people get notified if there are any out-of-range values or unexpected trends in the measurements. The total impact of the change regarding efficiency, cost reduction, quality improvement, or customer satisfaction can be quantified and shared.
Unlike a car race, there is no finish line for improvement, but it still pays to be able to move as fast as possible toward your strategic goals.