The DMAIC Measure Phase Requires Diligence and Patience

Posted by on May 10, 2020 in Data Collection, DMAIC Process, Lean Six Sigma, Measure Phase, Six Sigma | 0 comments

The measure phase is important for a number of reasons.  It is in this phase that the team gets into the nitty-gritty of the project.  Because of this there are a number of things that can go wrong for an inexperienced team.  Here are some of the more common pitfalls that can occur:

  • Failure to go to gemba.  I’ve never seen a problem or issue that’s been resolved in a conference room.  You have to go to the area and observe what’s going on.  Not only observing but also talking with those that actually do the work, asking questions, and trying to understand their frustrations.  Over the years many teams have told me they learn more about the process when they actually observe it and ask some simple questions.
  • Overlooking the obvious.  You and your team can’t assume anything!  Make sure you see for yourself.  Assuming something can lead you down the wrong rabbit-hole and possibly derail your project.
  • Lack of operational definitions.  Don’t assume everyone has a clear understanding of what’s good and bad.  Make sure to document and train everyone involved to ensure consistency.
  • Failure to establish the current process baseline.  In order to know if you’ve made an improvement, you need to know your starting point.
  • Collecting the wrong data.  Every process has an abundance of data that can be collected.  Make sure the data you collect is going to help solve the issue you’re charged with improving.
  • Collecting too much data.  My experience has shown me in most cases you don’t need a lot of data to see what’s going on.  Depending on the frequency of the process, you can learn a lot about what’s going on in a short amount of time.
  • Not overseeing the collection of the data.  Don’t assume the people collecting the data are doing it correctly.  Observe them to make sure it is being measured and recorded correctly.
  • Assuming your measurement system is adequate.  Validate your measurement process and system.  Measurement system analysis for both variable and attribute systems should be conducted to ensure measurement is not a source of process variation.

The goal of the measure phase is to focus the improvement effort by gathering information on the current situation.  The deliverables are:

  • Develop a more focused problem statement
  • Develop a data collect plan and validate your measurement system
  • Develop a baseline process sigma
  • Develop detailed process maps for critical parts of the process

Some of the questions you and your team should expect to answer during the measure tollgate review with your project sponsor and champion are:

  • What problem or gap are you trying to address?
    • Where, when and how often does it occur?
    • How severe is it?
  • How well do you understand the current process?
    • Have you developed a flow chart, process map, swim lane diagram, or value stream map of the current process?
    • What did you learn from it?
  • What data did you collect?
    • How did you collect it?
    • Were you able to stratify your data?
    • How did you define a defect, unit, or opportunity
    • How did you ensure your data and measurement system are valid?
    • What does your data tell you about the problem or gap?
  • What is the current process sigma?
  • Have you found any quick hit improvements?
    • Have you implemented any of them?
  • Given your understanding of the problem or gap, do we need to change or update the project charter?

So there you have it!  The measure phase can’t be rushed and is usually one of the longer phases in the DMAIC process.  Having patience and diligence during this phase can have big benefits!

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