DMAIC – Which Phase Requires the Most Time?

Six Sigma – iSixSigma Forums General Forums Methodology DMAIC – Which Phase Requires the Most Time?

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    I have heard many schools of thought on the subject such as . Define should take the most time since getting this phase right will make the project more focused or Measure twice to insure the data you are working with is valid.
    Does anyone have some experience they could share?


    Chris Seider

    Interesting…I’m curious why you ask.

    Define phase should be and CAN BE finished in 2 days in a good organization that knows how to scope teams, assign team membership, and have good data to select which teams to launch. My two cents.

    You’ll see lots of teams bog down in Measure or Control phase depending on the organization. Control phase often bogs down because 1. Bureaucratic encumbering of changes or 2. Non-alignment of changes desired all along the project with the process participants/champion. Measure phase bogs down often because of lack of data and is often overrated as the reason to bog it down. My other 2 cents!



    In one Word




    Einstein said (I am Paraphrasing) if he had 1 hour to save the world from Destruction he would spend 55 Minutes Defining the problem.


    Chris Seider

    We don’t agree seemingly, @Ashwani



    Interesting question.

    It depends is the answer I would give.

    A mature improvement organization will have scoped the problem well prior to launching the project and define should be quick. In this case measure will most likely take the longest as very rarely do you have the specific data needed.

    In a not so mature organization I have seen a lot of time spent in define, just getting a good problem statement and scope are a challenge. Measure still takes time so it may still be longer, or as you blur the lines between define and measure it may be quick once you have defined and scoped correctly.

    Control is the wildcard. It is fairly easy to put together a solid dashboard/measurement evaluation, the run out as you view results can be months/years. The time invested isn’t much. You are technically in the control phase the longest based on calendar time, not effort.



    Could this wild card Control being evaluated over a long period of time Months/Years become part of a phase 2 DEFINE process?



    Hopefully I am understanding your question.

    I could see a phased project solution approach over time, I wouldn’t use Define as a characterization of the phase you are in though, it should follow good implementation and control planning, still the Control phase.

    I like to keep projects simple so I would actually create a new charter/SIPOS for the next level if your defect/target has changed after solving the original problem/defect. Essentially a second project with some obvious advantages as you have solid data and baselines if Control is done well on the first.



    Where is it that the not so mature organizations lack in order to match up the defining abilities of a mature organization?


    Kashyap Routhu

    While many seem to press the importance of “Define”, I feel that “Analyze” should take up the most amount of time.
    With the help of a group of individuals, a problem can described precisely in a very short while, once the data is gathered and may a root cause analysis performed.

    But analyzing the problem and singling down on a single solution should take a while, considering a lot of alternative solutions that might exist. Analyzing the effectiveness of each solution, and choosing the one which is also feasible for the organization usually takes a longer duration.

    While technically, “Control” takes most of the time due to it being implemented for the life of the project, we have to keep in mind that this is not a continuous process, but rather a periodic on.

    So, in terms of effort, I would go with “Analyze”


    Kashyap Routhu


    This surely helps in making the right decisions and faster too.



    I would agree a major time-to-completion factor is the organization culture toward Six Sigma and using data/analysis in general. In most organizations with amble business measurement systems the Define Phase should be accomplished in a couple days.

    However, Define Phase quality of event of setting up the project properly, and choosing a problem suited for Six Sigma for that matter will have a major impact on time required for the following phases (complex, unknown solution, analysis required, etc.).

    Measure phase is a load of work if done correctly – proper base-lining, financial validation, process steps/inputs/outputs defined, MSA, C&E – all that. This can be the longest phase but if you don’t do a thorough job, you will pay for it in following phases.

    I could go on but each phase has it’s hazards & success factors that affect time required. Understand, each phase builds on the prior, so dig deep and push hard and you will see the finish line quicker than watching the clock & taking short cuts.

    If you do that, Control phase will be a smooth transition of ownership back to the process owner. They won’t accept a mess! They want implemented solutions that need only be sustained. Your role should be then to only monitor, calculate the ongoing savings and step in only when needed for course corrections.




    I would agree with experience and add solid analytics and most importantly leadership support are the differentiators in a mature vs. not so mature organizations.


    You cannot plan it, and unlike someone posting above, I would never set a time limit for the define phase, unless calling a project complete is more important than calling it a true success.

    I say define takes as long as it takes. Since you have to define it in measurable terms, those two items overlap. And if you want to solve a complex problem, developing the plan that you choose to execute may involve discovering more issues that need their own RCA. There can be no rule of thumb since problem solving isn’t cookie cutter. If it was, marketing could do it.

    Aristotle said “Well begun is half done”. I call that endorsement of define.



    DMAIC also works on 80-20 rule. I have myself lead few DMAIC projects successfully & as per my experience it also works on 80-20 rule. 80% of time is consumed on Measure + Analysis Phase & rest 20% is consumed on Define + Improvement + Control phase.
    I saw few comments where some gentlemen were sharing as Define phase as most time consuming. In my opinion , Define phase should not be as before taking-up a project we should know that what we are targeting in DMAIC. Whether First pass ration improvement or working on some Customer complaint elimination.
    Analysis phase or Measurement phase are most time consuming if i need to pin point a single phase. Also the project undertaken will define which phase will be most time consuming along with team mentors/ members key role in DMAIC project.




    Define often takes long, not because the problem isn’t clear but because bureaucracy, approvals, strict requirements for charter details, cost/benefit analysis, forming a team, etc. can turn it into a project by itself. You may end up doing DMA just to get through Define. If that’s happening in your organization I’d say you’re suffering from “analysis paralysis” and timidity.

    I’ve often seen projects fail to invest enough time and effort on Measurement. It isn’t enough to just collect data. You need the right data, a significant sample size, and MSA so you can trust your data. But the keyword here is “enough”.

    If you get stuck in Analysis, it’s probably because your problem definition is too broad or you didn’t invest enough in Measurement. Improve can be very short if you’re just tweaking the process or it can be a project by itself.

    Control, in my opinion, is part of Improve since controls should be part of the improvement, not added later. The project ends when the improvements and controls are implemented, but the Control phase never really ends.

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