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Understanding the Lean Six Sigma DMAIC Cycle

What is the DMAIC Cycle?


If you’re familiar with Lean Six Sigma or Process Improvement, you may have heard the term “DMAIC Cycle”.

Put simply, the DMAIC Cycle is a model for effectively implementing Lean Six Sigma process improvement.

It’s a 5-step cycle that guides practitioners through the necessary stages for enacting sustainable, positive change within an organisation or a process.


DMAIC stands for:


  • Define
  • Measure
  • Analyse
  • Improve
  • Control
The DMAIC Cycle

In this article, we’ll break down each of these stages and give you guidance on how you can get to grips with using this transformative model in your work environment.

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What are the 5 Steps of this Six Sigma model?


Think of each lean six sigma project like a journey, with the 5 stages of the DMAIC Cycle as points along the journey. They follow a logical sequence for understanding the process, identifying opportunities for improvement, making, and finally sustaining improvements.

Process, Project or Service?


Throughout this article, we refer to “improving a process”, but Lean Six Sigma and the DMAIC Cycle can be applied to improving a service or product, or to managing a project.

D – Define


What must be done?


The first stage on the cycle is where you get very clear about what you want to achieve. This is where you identify the problems you want to solve.
Define Stage

M – Measure


What is currently happening?


In the Measure stage, you will review the process as it is right now. Take time to paint a detailed, accurate picture of everything that occurs within the process.
Measure Stage

A – Analyse


Review the data you have gathered


Once you have thoroughly detailed the current state of your process, it’s time to evaluate your findings. The Analyse stage is all about getting to the root of existing problems and understanding why blocks to productivity exist.
Analyse Stage

I – Improve


Begin implementing improvements


This is the stage for devising and implementing solutions. The tools you’ll use for this stage of the DMAIC Cycle are key to finding improvements that will be both effective and sustainable for your business.
Improve Stage

C – Control


Maintain the improved standards


Keeping focus on sustainable, the Control phase is about ensuring that the improvements remain in place. There are techniques for this that will support the ongoing application of your improvements.
Control Stage

Let’s not forget the word “Cycle”


DMAIC is called a “cycle” for good reason. As with everything in continuous improvement, the intention is that this cycle can run indefinitely.

Once you have reached the end of a particular cycle, you can begin at the Define stage again, either for the same process or a fresh task or process.

Learn more about the benefits of a Continuous Imrpovement mindset in our article "Afraid to Fail? Try Continuous Improvement".

Lean Six Sigma DMAIC Cycle and the 5 Lean Principles


5 Lean Principles
The Lean Six Sigma DMAIC Cycle is complimented and supported by the 5 Lean Principles.

These 5 principles were championed by Daniel T. Jones and James P. Womack, founders of the Lean Enterprise Institute.

The 5 Lean Principles are:

1. Establish Value:
What value does this process / service / product provide?

2. Map Value Stream:
What are the steps involved?

3. Create Flow:
Analyse the process

4. Establish Pull:
Understand your customer / stakeholder needs

5. Pursue Perfection:
Always look for ways to continuously improve
You can read more about these signposts in our article, “What are the 5 Lean Principles?”.
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How can I implement the DMAIC Cycle in my work?


Almost everything in Lean Six Sigma training revolves around the tools and techniques you’ll use for following the steps of the DMAIC Cycle.

While the stages seem logical, it’s extremely important to understand how you can use the right approach for achieving improvements.

Our Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Training content follows the flow of the DMAIC Cycle, incorporating the skills and methodologies used within each stage.

We blend practical and theoretical learning to help build confidence in your ability to implement Lean Six Sigma techniques.

We run this 5-day course as live virtual classroom training (online) all year-round, with dates available almost every month. You can click on any date below to reserve your place on an upcoming course.



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