Continuing from my business improvement series from last month, I discussed how we gather data during the Measure phase of the DMAIC methodology, which establishes what needs to be measured in the project we’re tackling. The DMAIC methodology is a proven problem-solving tool used in Lean Six Sigma. DMAIC stands for:
When we establish a baseline through the Measure phase, we can measure the performance of our initiatives. Inaccurate data will have long-term damaging effects. We also want to ensure there will be room for improvement and sustainable results, so be selective when deciding what types of projects you will be taking on.
What Do We Analyze?
So, the next step on your DMAIC process after measurement is to analyze and take a deep dive into existing processes to get a clear understanding and work out the root causes of the problems. This eliminates guesswork and filters out the ‘blame game’ and finger-pointing when it comes to problem-solving. During a data and process analysis, one measures the gap that is preventing you from your goal performance. This will automatically lead you to do a root cause analysis.
The 5 Whys
This is the most logical step in gaining a better understanding of processes. As you start to map things out, the question comes to mind: why? Why do we do that at any given step? You will get a wide variety of answers, from “it’s always been that way” to “it’s what we have found works best!” Remember, you have to clearly understand, so now is not the time for judgment. Ask WHY at least five times for each step. Dive deep into each step to clearly understand. Just like peeling an onion, processes have layers, and you have to peel each back to get to the core or the root cause. Usually, by the time you have asked WHY five times, you will see the process failure behind the problem. Remember, no judgment! Just dive deep and seek a clear understanding.
Tools of the Analysis
Just like any other application, there are proper tools that work during the Analyze phase. During the WHY phase, you should make a list of the most vital causes of variation of defect. This is at the core of what you were looking for when peeling back the layers during the WHY process.
The following tools are best used to clarify and visually represent the processes and variations:
- Cause and Effect Diagram, also known as Fishbone Diagram, which helps identify the cause of the issue
- Process Map Analysis: A great visualization tool for the team, it helps visualize workflow and process steps taken
- Regression Analysis: Helps estimate the impact of specific variables we have on the final product
- FOV diagram: This chart can be used to determine where the source of the most variation is originating. Many times, each one of the family’s sources contributes to the overall process variation.
The Analyze phase of the DMAIC process is the most crucial of all five phases. Actions created in later phases will all be based on the results of your analysis. Ensure that you are confident with the facts you have discovered and the data revealed. Have confidence in the results and don’t second guess accuracy.