A central aspect of six sigma is an eight-step approach for achieving dramatic improvement at different levels of the business. The process is given by the acronym RDMAICSI – Recognize, Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control, Standardize, and Integrate. As a short cut, many just apply DMAIC.
At a top management level, it functions as a tool for isolating and exploiting sources of leverage throughout a business enterprise. A CEO uses the strategy to achieve visibility into the many dimensions of quality. Whereas the dimensions of quality form the “what” of quality, the DMAIC strategy forms the “how.”
Senior managers apply the DMAIC strategy at an overall business level to help identify and close the capability and capacity gaps that are crucial to business success. They align and deploy people and technology, along with appropriate management initiatives, business systems, quality tools and programs. At this level, executives and senior managers also rely on the DMAIC strategy to establish clear accountability and enhance communication.
While the DMAIC strategy is a tool for improving the business, it is also a tool for improving individual operations and processes. This is the level at which a six sigma “Black Belt” would apply analytical discipline and statistical tools in improving the way a product is made, a service is delivered or a business transaction is executed. At this level, the DMAIC strategy is the executable aspect of value entitlement.
Just think of a company like GE, which completed more than 50,000 Black Belt projects in 1997 and 1998 alone. Imagine a grandiose, elaborate system of interlocking gears, each yielding business results in their own rights yet turning in lockstep for a greater cause. The DMAIC strategy provides the consistent format necessary for aligning and integrating multiple improvement initiatives across geography, between functions and among systems, operations and processes.
So if we do something in a quality way, we do it in design, manufacturing, information systems, distribution, marketing, billing, sales, communication and on and on all the way up, down and across the organization and into the furthest reaches of the business chain (suppliers, affiliates, strategic partners, etc.). The DMAIC strategy brings everything under one roof, so to speak, and serves as a way to manage the entirety of the business relationship.