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adminbmt November 7, 2013

In this blog, am presenting the problem solving approach using DMAIC and my own perspective. I am not going to explain or deal with the DMAIC process steps which everyone already knows, but I am sharing and highlighting my perspective of the same and the common pitfalls where people don’t focus enough on the critical steps in the journey of DMAIC implementation.


DMAIC is a problem solving methodology. When we say “problem”, whose problem we means?

The success of the DMAIC journey is possible only when we incorporate the pain points from the “Customer”. It is the customer problem because of our process design. It may appear very simple to state that we need to include the customer’s voice here but it has to become a part of culture / attitude of the people who are dealing with the processes.

The very definition of the problem statement will be clearer when you hear the voice of customer.

Einstein is quoted as having said that if he had one hour to save the world he would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem and only five minutes finding the solution.

I’d like to share my personal experience as a trainer and a coach. In one of my workouts, I was probing to find out why customers give an incomplete set of documents for some approval of service process. During this probing, when I was interacting with the employees, one of them said that  “customer is dumb “. I was really surprised to hear this and said, “It is not the customer who is dumb but it is our processes which are dumb and not able to make the customer send the right documents the first time. Unfortunately, he is a customer relationship manager of a large organization.

Unless we bring the attitude of customer inclusive process improvement, we will miss this step of recognizing the problem in the eyes of customer and the project will not give breakthrough improvement. Then it will be difficult to bring the alignment and integration of customer experience into the organization culture.


Data collection is a challenge for many projects in Measure step; especially in the service industries. The following are the list of challenges one may face:

Existing measures may not be available

No data capturing system in place

People don’t want to capture as in the case of error between the maker and checker. They correct the error and never track to find out why and what kinds of errors are happening.

Delay the project progress to proceed further within the time plan if above things are not addressed.

One project handholding team need to foresee this and put the data capturing system when we start the project beginning.

What gets valued gets measured, what gets measured gets improved!!


Here the challenge is that the teams may focus only on the surface level causes and not the real root cause. Even though we have lots of tools and techniques like cause and effect, FMEA etc., if the team doesn’t look at the process with a fresh perspective, then the tools will not help them to uncover the real root cause.

Here sometimes you may face the challenge of fighting with status quo, why to change these steps, these steps can’t be challenged as we have been doing this for so many years. Sometimes, process owners may defend their process steps saying that these activities are defined by regulators or top management and can’t be challenge.

As a result of poor analysis, the problem, supposedly resolved, will reappear in some other form again. Then people blame the methodology and try something else. This is a vicious cycle.


Solutions generation: In this step, the challenge is to get the solutions developed on time; especially if it is an automation solution. If it takes 2 to 3 months to develop then the team will be discouraged. Since they can’t see any result forthcoming immediately.

Teams need to have some alternative solutions as part of the solution generation exercise.


This step is to monitor the Y and Control the X. This phase helps in identification of the critical Xs and the limits to monitor the processes.

The main challenge in this step is when after the implementation of the project, the team does not focus on the monitoring system especially after they got the certificate for successful implementation of the project and the team is no more there.

I have seen at times, the processes improved till the project team existed but after the team was dismantled; there was no mechanism to monitor on a continuous basis.  The improved process will start showing the decline in the performance. The major challenge for a company is to sustain the results achieved initially.

Organization needs to develop the dashboard system of getting the reports from the process teams on a continuous basis. This reporting system should be fortnightly or monthly as the case may be.

The process team should get the message very clearly that while the project ends on the completion of the control phase, the process would continue to run and would be needed to be taken care of on a continuous basis.

Contributed By

Nandha Kumar

  • VP – Operations, SSA Business Solutions Pvt. Ltd
  • ASQ certified Black belt in Lean Six Sigma
  • Certified ISO 27001 (ISMS) Lead Audito
  • Certified Lead Auditor for OHSAS
  • Certified ISO 9001 Lead Auditor

He has an MBA in Finance and over 10 years of experience in Quality Assurance and Consulting.


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