DMAIC: Attaining Superior Quality & Sustainable Results

Dr. Joseph A DeFeo Knowledge

What is DMAIC? – Superior Project Quality

DMAIC is a process or quality improvement and problem-solving method used to improve business performance. A quality improvement project is a problem defined as a process, customer, or product issue that must be resolved to reduce the cost of poor quality, improve customer experience, or reduce defects.

During the DMAIC process, improvement happens “project by project” and a “project” can be best defined as a “problem scheduled for a solution.” This means management has decided it is important enough to schedule the resources it needs to get the problem solved.

There are many projects carried out in organizations such as:

  • Improving employee and customer satisfaction
  • Decreasing the time from order to shipment received
  • Launching new services

Successful projects follow the following DMAIC methodology:

  • Define
  • Measure
  • Analyze
  • Improve
  • Control

This methodology is usually used as a part of a larger Lean and Six Sigma program.

DMAIC Process & Methodology

The DMAIC process is used to create ‘breakthroughs’ in the organization. Each project is assigned to a leader called a Black or Green Belt and a team of subject matter experts. Once a problem is identified by an organization’s senior management, a project team is selected to resolve it. This team simply follows their project charter through the five steps of the DMAIC methodology, by applying appropriate DMAIC tools during each DMAIC step.


Define is the first phase of the DMAIC methodology. This is when the project team better defines the problem they have been given to by leadership. This is when the team asks questions to both internal and external customers to affirm that the issue really exists. Some DMAIC tools which are used at this point are:

  • Stakeholder analysis
  • Collection of the voice of the customer using the voice of the customer matrix
  • Voice of the customer to critical to quality translation
  • High-level process map (SIPOC diagram)


Measure is the second phase of the DMAIC methodology. This is when the project team begins the current baseline performance of the problem. During this step, we begin to collect data and interpret the data on current performance. This often leads to a redefining of the problem to focus on the most pressing or ‘vital few issues.’ Some DMAIC tools which are used at this point are:

  • Juran’s Pareto Analysis
  • Data Collection Plan
  • Detailed Process Mapping
  • 6S
  • Value Stream Maps


Analyze is the third phase of the DMAIC methodology. This is when the project team collects and uses data to prove theories of root cause, or causes of the problem. These root causes are known as ‘Project Xs’. By the conclusion of this phase, the team will have narrowed down their multiple theories to a vital potential few root causes to test and prove true of false.  Some DMAIC tools which are used at this point are:

  • Calculating Sigma Level
  • Graphs and Charts
  • Brainstorming
  • Stratification
  • Histograms
  • Box Plots
  • Scatter Diagrams
  • Cause-Effect Diagrams
  • 5-Why Analysis
  • Failure Mode and Effect Analysis
  • Impact Control Matrix


Improve is the fourth phase of the DMAIC methodology. This is when the project team begins the remedial journey and begins acting, on what they have learned by making improvements. At this point the team will:

  • Generate alternative solutions
  • Design the solution (including designs for culture, and designs for control)
  • Prove the effectiveness of the solution
  • Implement the solution

Some DMAIC tools which are used at this point are:

  • Brainstorming
  • Solution Matrix
  • Barriers and Aids Chart
  • Pilot Study
  • Mistake Proofing
  • Benchmarking
  • Pugh Matrix


Control is the fifth and final phase of the DMAIC methodology. This is when the project team ensures that gains made during the Improve phase are held, and the problem does not recur. To ensure this, the team needs to:

  • Identify control subjects
  • Establish a measurement for control
  • Establish standards of performance
  • Measure actual performance
  • Compare actual measured performance to standards
  • Take action on the difference

Some DMAIC tools which are used at this point are:

  • Process Control Plan
  • Control Charts

Using the Steps: DMAIC as a Roadmap

The DMAIC method is a guide to keep the team and project moving forward in an efficient way. WE often refer to the DMAIC steps as the “boss of the project.” Although there is a team leader, the steps are the boss because one must follow the steps to complete the project. Skipping a step could cause the organization to waste money, cause unnecessary culture issues and solutions that do not hold gains.

The DMAIC methodology, whether implemented using just Six Sigma or in conjunction with Lean, is a simple yet very powerful tool for teams to use when making improvements within an organization. When followed, and tools are used appropriately, the DMAIC methodology rarely fails to achieve positive results, and can greatly benefit any organization by:

  1. Assuring that quality thinking becomes the way of doing business, creating a focus on customers and building customer loyalty.
  2. Applying proven quality tools to improve goods and services, and achieve breakthrough performance.
  3. Defining quality process performance metrics that tie to organizational goals.
  4. Creating a quality culture that is fun and provides a pragmatic way to achieve greater levels of process quality.
  5. Identifying projects to drive the improvement that will yield superior quality and sustainable results.

To put this principle into action at your organization, contact us today or look into our programs and workshops here.

Author: Dr. Joseph A DeFeo

Dr. Joseph A. DeFeo, Chairman and CEO of Juran, is recognized as one of the world’s leading experts on transformational change and breakthrough quality management.

For 28 years, Dr. DeFeo has worked as a trusted adviser helping business leaders increase sales, reduce costs and improve its customer experience through the deployment of performance excellence programs. These include Business Process Quality Management, Lean, Six Sigma, Strategy Deployment and Change Management. His recent publication, Juran’s Quality Essentials for Leaders, provides a concise message delivered for leaders to teach them how to embrace quality, not fight it, to be a globally competitive enterprise. Dr. DeFeo has co-authored three other popular texts.

DeFeo’s belief that a relentless customer focus and integrity drives business results was recently noted by Steve Denning of A frequent motivational guest speaker at international conferences, Dr. DeFeo has presented in over 30 countries.