The Measure phase of the DMAIC improvement process in Lean Six Sigma is where the rubber meets the road. When you talk about the path of continuous improvement, or even breakthrough improvement, the starting line must be established. How can improvements be quantified if we haven’t established a baseline before changes are implemented?
How often have you developed a great idea for improvement that when tried turns out not to work? If the baseline performance of a process has been established you have the ability to determine if a change makes a positive improvement or not. Having the ability to course correct if an improvement doesn’t work is crucial if your organization is serious about sustaining improvements. Without the baseline clearly established in the Measure phase of DMAIC you can’t determine if a change makes a difference or not. Surely, we wouldn’t want to make the process worse and not be able to determine that the changes actually failed instead of making things better.
During the Define of phase of DMAIC issues and potential improvements are often identified. Sometimes these are called the low hanging fruit. Caution must not be thrown out the window. Make sure you document what you have found both the issues and the potential solutions. Finish the Define phase and begin the Measure phase. Once the baseline performance has been established with a way to monitor your key performance metrics going forward then have at it. Make those changes and Measure if a difference was made or not so you can quickly determine success or failure.
Leadership teams are always looking for improvements to be made and that means yesterday. When Lean Six Sigma projects drag on waiting for the Improve phase of DMAIC to implement improvements the leadership team may loose patience. This is why we always encourage the improvement teams to implement the Kaizen Improvements that were identified early on in their projects as soon as the baseline performance has been established in the Measure phase.
This doesn’t mean we don’t need the Analyze, Improve, and Control phases of the Lean Six Sigma DMAIC Improvement Process. Many issues require detailed investigations to discover the root causes and time to develop creative solutions. Controls are key for sustaining the gains and use the key performance metric tracking that was established in the Measure phase. Successful Lean Six Sigma Projects encompass a series of Kaizen Improvements, some small and some large, that are implemented throughout the DMAIC improvement process, but not before baseline performance is established in the Measure Phase. This is why the Measure phase of the Lean Six Sigma DMAIC Improvement Process is so critical to success!