Define phase explained (DMAIC)

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Define is the first phase of DMAIC process. In define phase you need to have the team and sponsor to reach agreement on the scope of the project, goals and financial and performance targets for the project.

Key deliverables are:

  • A completed project charter (covering the problem statement, business impact, goals, scope, timeline and defined team)
  • Documentations what customers (internal or external) are or will be affected by this project and what are their needs
  • High level process map, for example SIPOC
  • Completed project plans. These often include gantt chats, stakeholder analysis, resistance analysis, risk analysis, actions logs, responsibility assignments and communication plans
  • and last outcomes from the project launch meeting shewing team consensus around project purpose, charter, deliverables and team responsibilities.

In order to successfully accomplish this phase of the project, I encourage you to follow 7 steps in Define phase.

Some companies have whole teams to do this works and others have Black Belts do some or all background work before bringing the rest of the team to the table. You should do what fits your situation or company.

These are the 7 steps.

1st step. Review project charter.

In this step – review and discuss with your team draft charter from sponsors. Ask questions and get answers. Negotiate compromises or adjustments to scope, resources, timing and who should be on the team.

2nd step. Validate problem statement and goals.

Review existing and other resources of information to confirm if the problem you are given:

  • Exists
  • Is important to customers (Collect Voice of Customer)
  • Is important to business (Voice of Business information)
  • Can reasonably be expected to be improved using Lean Six Sigma methodologies

3rd step. Validate financial benefits.

Use existing data to calculate current costs, profits, margins, or other financial metrics relevant to your project.
Estimate impact of the project and verify if that is something that is meeting management expectations

4th step. Create or validate process maps and scope.

Here you will want to document main steps of the process with SIPOC diagram to verify project scope, see if data exists to provide baseline measures on time, defects/errors, rework, etc for value stream map.

I already mentioned SIPOC. In short it is a snapshot that captures inormation critical to a project.
It is abbreviation from : Suppliers, Inputs, Process, Outputs, and Customers. Best way is to start from capturing the process (at high level) then outputs, inputs and so on.

5th step is create communication plan.

Identify all project participants and develop plans for keeping them informed and / or involved in the project.

6th step is to develop project plans.

This means schedule, budget and realistic milestones.

7th step is to complete the Define check-list.

So let’s quickly go through the define phase check list on the next page.

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