What is DMAIC?


DMAIC is a project improvement methodology popularized by Six Sigma that helps you improve your chance of successfully solving a problem. It provides a structured approach so you don’t skip steps or jump ahead to conclusions.

We prefer DMAIC over other approaches because the step names are intuitive and easy to remember. PDCA is also a good approach, however, the P (Plan) phase is very large and most people don’t complete all the necessary steps before moving into D (Do), which can create problems later in C (Check) and A (Act).

Here are some simpler questions you can ask for each phase:

  • Define
    • How do you know there might be a problem?
    • What high level data (cost, errors, complaints, labor hours, accidents, delays, etc) pointed you to the problem area?
  • Measure
    • What is the current process and does everyone understand it?
    • Can you trust your current data? How do you know?
    • What detailed data is needed to study patterns and trends?
    • What did you observe about the problem at the gemba?
    • What did you hear from the workers about the problem when you interviewed them?
    • Where can we prioritize our efforts?
    • Based on all this knowledge gained, what changes should we make to the original problem statement?
  • Analyze
    • Conduct graphical and statistical analysis of the data to determine root causes or sources of variatino
    • When data is lacking, use non-analytical tools (5 Why’s, Fishbone, etc)
  • Improve
    • What are the list of improvement based on the Analyze phase?
    • Can you conduct a pilot study to test out these ideas, and measure if they work?
    • Were you able to measure an actual improvement to the original problem?
    • Can you statistically validate the improvement?
  • Control

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The following is the text version of the DMAIC Project checklist from above…


The intent with Define is to create a clear problem statement (what is current state and how does it differ from what it should be).

Gather data and identify largest problem in area (customer satisfaction/quality, cost, speed/delivery, risks) – Show why this problem is the most important one to work on.
Review timeline and history of problem (Run Chart) – Determine if this been an ongoing problem, or a recent problem
Identify stakeholders (SIPOC) – Determine who should be involved in the project
Fill out Project Charter draft – Summarize the information gathered into one document, so you can get approval from leadership
Review project charter with sponsor and champion – Meet with leadership to make sure you have support
Obtain signed Project Charter – Have leadership sign the charter to show their official support to team


Prioritize and focus on top drivers from data (Pareto chart) – Break down the problem into categories, and focus on the top drivers
Observe and document current state of process (VSM, Process Map, Go and See) – Fully understand the current state of the process (not what is documented or stated verbally)
Collect additional data to understand problem (Check sheets, Pictogram) – Determine if additional data is needed or needs to be collected in a different format (by location)
Validate whether data being utilized is valid (Gage R&R) – Perform studies to prove that the data being analyzed is trustworthy
Determine if problem is due to common or special cause (Capability, SPC) – Review any variable data to determine if problem is due to outliers (errors/mistakes) or random variation (sources of variation)
Complete Measure Phase tollgate review – Leadership and mentor review to ensure all steps have been completed before moving to Analyze phase


Brainstorm potential causes of problem (Fishbone Diagram, FMEA) – Techniques to brainstorm causes with team members

If problem due to common cause, identify sources of variation:

Multi-Vari Studies – Graphical analytical technique to identify potential causes
ANOVA – Statistical analysis to quantify potential causes with attribute data based on past data
Regression – Statistical analysis to quantify potential causes with variable data based on past data
Design of Experiments (DOE) – Statistical study to quantify causes with attribute/variable data based on new data

If problem due to special cause, identify root cause using 5 Why’s – Determine what errors were made, and the process breakdown for why it happened (human error not a cause)

Validate root cause or source(s) of variation with data – Use data and statistical analysis to prove the cause(s) correlate with the problem

Complete Analyze Phase tollgate review – Leadership and mentor review to ensure all steps have been completed before moving to Improve phase


Brainstorm possible solutions to reduce or eliminate the problem (Mistake Proofing) – Identify ways to stop the problem from happening again
Identify top actions to improve the problem (NGT, Multivoting) – Techniques to shorten the list of solutions based on team input
Conduct small-scale improvements to test out possible solutions – Test out improvements quickly and in small area to minimize impact if it doesn’t work
Determine statistical validity of improvements in data (Hypothesis Tests) – Measure the improvement and make sure the results are statistically better
Develop full scale implementation plan to include documentation, training, communication, risks, assignees and dates (Gantt, FMEA) – Develop a project plan to complete a full rollout of the improvement
Complete Improve Phase tollgate review – Leadership and mentor review to ensure all steps have been completed before moving to Control phase


Determine system and reports to monitor results over time (SPC, Visual Controls) – Determine how the project will be tracked and how new trends and shifts are identified
Estimate financial benefits and improvement to metrics for 12 months – Predict cost or metric improvements for project
Complete Control Phase tollgate review – Leadership and mentor review to ensure all steps have been completed before monitoring begins
Schedule and review results for 30-60-90 days – Schedule meetings to review results monthly to ensure short term results are maintained
Communicate and share success and lessons learned – Expand improvements to other applicable areas
Perform final review after one year – Schedule meeting to review results after one year, to ensure long term sustainment of improvements
Complete project summary report – Summary report of all phases with improvements

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