Define Phase Success Criteria for the DMAIC Improvement Process

June 07th, 2013

Tags: Define Phase DMAIC, DMAIC, Lean Six Sigma, lean six sigma certifications, Six Sigma, Six Sigma Certifications, Six Sigma Define

The DMAIC Improvement Process of Lean Six Sigma comprises five phases namely, Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control. Define is critical to the successful outcome of an improvement project. This phase either makes it or breaks it. The phase exit review by the leadership team determines if the project will add value to the organization and continue to completion or be cancelled.  This article outlines the Define Phase Objectives, the Tools to Apply, and the Deliverables to be achieved.


The primary objective of Define is to establish the business need for the improvement project to be conducted.  Resources, time, and effort are expended to complete the project so the value proposition must be clearly stated.  The first phase exit review in DMAIC allows the leadership team to make an informed, data driven evaluation of the project to determine its viability. A decision is then made to allow the project to continue or to kill it and commission a different project.

The supporting objectives are the following:

  • Develop a concise statement of the problem being addressed.  (SMART - Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time Based)
  • Define the purpose and the scope of the improvement project.
  • Understand Customer Requirements, What defines Good and What defines Bad.
  • Business Case that clearly states the Benefits from this project being completed.

Tools to Use:

  • Project Charter and Business Case Document
  • Analysis of Stakeholder commitment of support for project completion.
  • High Level SIPOC Process Map (Suppliers, Inputs to Process, Process Steps, Outputs from Process, Customers of the Process)
  • Process Yield and Process Sigma Level Calculations
  • Voice of the Customer (VOC) Data Collection Plan
  • Affinity Diagrams
  • Kano Model of Customer Satisfaction
  • Critical to Quality Characteristics (CTQ) Tree Diagram

The most efficient way to manage a project is to focus on accomplishing the required deliverables. Yes tasks are required, but how many projects get completed and still have tasks on a task by task plan that were never finished?  Focus on the deliverables and the tasks will take care of themselves.

Deliverables that Signify Phase Completion:

  • Completed business case with a defined goal signifying project success
  • Stakeholder List - Roles, Responsibilities, and Project Support
  • Completed Project Charter
    • Project Charter Components:
      • Problem Statement
      • Project Goals and Objectives
      • Team Members, Roles, and Responsibilities
      • Project Plan by DMAIC Phase
      • Constraints, budget, time, resources
  • Completed SIPOC Process Map
    • SIPOC:
      • List of Suppliers that provide inputs to the process
      • List of the Inputs required by each of the 5 high level process steps
      • 5 high level Process Steps
      • List of Outputs from each of the 5 high level Process Steps
      • List of the Customers that receive the Outputs from each of the Process Steps
  • VOC Requirements:
    • What defines Good?
    • What defines Bad?
  • Baseline of Process Yield
  • Go Forward or Kill the Project?

The leadership team decides based upon the phase exit review of the Define Phase to either continue going forward with the improvement project or to kill it and assign another project to the DMAIC team.

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