Problem-Solving Method: An Overview of DMAIC

Problem-Solving Method: An Overview of DMAIC

Everyone knows that there’s no such thing as a perpetually problem-free enterprise of any sort. When problems occur, there are multiple reasons they don’t get addressed or handled. A central reason is that most organizations don’t employ a structured problem solving model, so when faced with a problem, they “wing it” rather than address it in a systematic way.

That’s where DMAIC comes in. 

DMAIC provides a defined path for solving problems. It enables a problem solving team to work cohesively through a long problem-solving journey. It also prevents the primary deficiencies of “winging it,” which are solution-orientedness, the use of bad decision-making tactics, and too little reliance on good data.

Teams are guaranteed to be successful in this process if company leadership provides them with the commitment and support they need to problem solve. This includes resources from the company leadership such as time, training, and sponsorship. Also, they should hold teams accountable for deliverables, input, and data that supports findings and proposals, as well as results.

This article series will be a quick walk-through of the five stages of DMAIC. We’ll get into the detail of each stage in subsequent articles.

The five stages of DMAIC are: Define Measure, Analyze, Implement, and Control.

  1. The Define stage is to determine the team’s starting point. The team will draw up a project charter, document current state of the situation, and gather data regarding the Voice of the Customer and the Voice of the Process (more about those Voices in later articles). 
  2. In the Measure stage, the team goes on to gather data and information that further develops their knowledge of the current state of the problem. 
  3. Next, in the Analyze stage, the team “crunches the numbers.” They look for clues to lead them to the root of the problem and opportunities for improvement.
  4. The Implement stage is where the team develops and initiates actions designed to eliminate or diminish the problem.
  5. Finally, in the Control stage, the team “locks in” its solutions by documenting needed policies, procedures, and standards as well as proposing the mechanisms for ongoing measurement and assessment.

There is a lot to talk about within each stage, so this is just a brief overview. But before we get into the details, here are two methods that will help you be successful throughout the DMAIC process:

Brainstorming and Polling

Throughout DMAIC, the team will often need to simply get ideas out onto the table. The team will then work to narrow the list down to a manageable number. Brainstorming and polling serve these two needs well.

Brainstorming

The objective of brainstorming is to get a lot of ideas out onto the table in a short amount of time. There are four guidelines that help us do this.

  1. The first guideline is quantity over quality. To guarantee that you get a sufficient amount of ideas, set a quota for your team.
  2. The next guideline is that evaluating, assessing, judging, or discussing ideas as they come up hinders their development. A lot of time is lost when the team is discussing ideas and members become more reluctant to toss in their own ideas after others are discussed in depth.To overcome this barrier, commit to writing ideas down with no discussion at all. A bit of discussion may be acceptable if an idea needs to be clarified.
  3. The next guideline is that if an idea comes to mind, say it. Make the brainstorming comfortable for “out of the box” thinking and half-baked ideas to ensure that everyone gets their thoughts out without judgment.
  4. Lastly, look for opportunities to tag onto, modify, amend, and augment ideas already on the brainstorm list. Expand on ideas with illustrations and examples of each of these items and pretty soon, four items can become forty items.

Polling

Polling is different than voting because it is used to narrow down a list of potential options to a manageable number for discussion, rather than making a final decision. To effectively utilize the Polling method, have team members put tallies next to the brainstormed items that they are most interested in or find importance in.

Each member can distribute their tallies however they want to without explaining or defending their choices. Should a team member decide later on an idea that didn’t get any tallies should still be considered and discussed, that’s what the team should do.

Use brainstorming and polling frequently to make progress quickly when there are lots of ideas afoot. This will overall improve your DMAIC experience.


Continue Reading: Read the next article in this DMAIC series to learn more about the problem-solving method. 

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