Problem-Solving Method: The I & C in DMAIC

Problem-Solving Method: The I & C in DMAIC

this is article 5 of 5 in the dmaic problem-solving method series

At this point, the team should have a pretty good handle on the problem and its causes. It’s time for the solution.

Implementation Stage

The objective of the Implement stage is to identify, evaluate, and select the best solutions and improvement options. These options are often a combination of short term corrective actions, “quick fixes,” and long term solutions. The team will then need to develop action plans for implementing its solutions, and continue to follow through with them.

The steps the team needs to undertake during this stage are as follows:

  1. Review the Analysis stage results: This is simply a matter of looking over and agreeing on what results the previous stage produced before moving on. Although you’ve reviewed your Analysis stage results quite a bit, it’s still helpful to ensure that the team has drawn a consensus on the highest priority root causes and process variances.
  2. Brainstorming and polling for improvement ideas: The team will need to re-visit the guidelines for brainstorming and polling to develop a list of possible solutions, and then narrow it down from better to best. (We’ll go over that in the next step). Generally, this stage goes quickly.
  3. Select the best options: In some occasions, selection of the best improvement options can be straightforward and have a clear consensus. Other times, the team may need a bit of help working through the options, especially if there are several that seem good but the resources aren’t available to implement them. In those cases, a decision matrix can help the team move forward.

A decision matrix is simply a tool that guides the team in considering a number of options and selecting the one that will be most effective. There are two elements to any decision matrix; a list of options to be considered, and a list of important criteria. A matrix is created with the list of the options on the side and the list of the criteria across the top. This information should all come from the brainstorming and polling the team did earlier.

An example of a decision matrix is shown below:

 

Criterion 1

Criterion 2

Criterion 3

Option 1

 

 

 

Option 2

 

 

 

Option 3

 

 

 

The team then discusses each option with respect to each criterion and records the results in cells. The team might record a simple “yes or no,” or give the options a numerical value. It’s up to the team to decide how elaborate it wants the decision matrix to get.

Next, create an action plan for implementing the corrective actions. A simple action plan that indicates who will do what by when is all that’s needed. Make sure your action plan includes a schedule of team meeting days and times where the team will review and update the action plans. Leadership should insist that these follow-up meetings take place, as they are an important piece.

Control: The Last Step

The Control stage can be seen as an extension of the Implement stage. The team will use the follow-up meetings discussed in the Implement stage to tend to the following objectives:

  1. Document changes to processes, procedures, policies, and task instructions: After having spent a lot of time and energy coming up with solutions, you’ve now arrived at what might be the toughest task of all: documenting what the new processes, procedures, policies, and/or task instructions will be. This work is tedious and time consuming, but must be done or all your work will blow away like autumn leaves. Essentially, you’ll need a team or committee to carry out this task.
  2. Communicate and educate: Once your solutions are documented, the team will need to tell everyone exactly what changes are afoot. Education and training needs can then be planned and scheduled.
  3. Audit adherence to new processes, procedures, policies, and task instructions: So, everyone knows what to do and how to do it, but it’s unlikely that they will unless the team puts measures in place to audit adherence to the new behaviors. This might sound a bit “police state” but it’s just a matter of making sure that everyone knows what to do, then following up to see if they are doing it or not.
  4. Evaluate the effectiveness: Essentially, the team just needs to keep evaluating the data from the Measure stage to see if things are getting better, staying the same, or getting worse. This way, they can tell if the implemented solution is effective.

In sum, if an organization has an issue that must be addressed, the DMAIC method is a structured problem-solving method that allows them to work as a team to find a solution. Each stage of DMAIC ensures that the team works through every possibility to produce an effective end result. This method can easily be implemented into any workplace, and as long as employees are willing to participate and company leadership is supporting, the problem afoot can be solved.

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