top of page

DMAIC - The 5 Phases of Lean Six Sigma

What is DMAIC?

DMAIC stands for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control. It is a structured problem-solving methodology commonly used in Six Sigma and process improvement initiatives. DMAIC provides a systematic approach for identifying and addressing problems, improving processes, and achieving measurable results.

Why use the DMAIC process?

DMAIC provides a structured and systematic approach to problem-solving and process improvement. It offers a clear roadmap with defined steps, ensuring that the improvement efforts are focused and organized.

DMAIC emphasizes the collection and analysis of data to understand the current state of the process and identify the root causes of problems. By relying on data, organizations can make informed decisions rather than relying on subjective opinions or assumptions.

The Analyze phase of DMAIC focuses on identifying the root causes of process issues. By understanding the underlying factors contributing to problems, organizations can implement effective and targeted solutions rather than simply addressing symptoms.

DMAIC encourages the use of key performance indicators (KPIs) and measurement systems to assess process performance. This focus on measurement allows organizations to track improvements over time, quantify the impact of changes, and ensure that the desired outcomes are achieved.

DMAIC promotes a culture of continuous improvement within an organization. By following the DMAIC process, organizations can identify opportunities for improvement, implement changes, and then monitor and control the process to sustain the improvements achieved. It establishes a cycle of continuous learning and refinement.

DMAIC provides a standardized framework that can be applied consistently across different projects and teams. This ensures that best practices are followed, knowledge is shared, and lessons learned from one project can be applied to future initiatives.

DMAIC emphasizes the importance of understanding customer requirements and expectations. By defining and measuring customer needs, organizations can align their improvement efforts to deliver products or services that meet or exceed customer expectations.

What’s the difference between Six Sigma and DMAIC?

In essence, Six Sigma is a broader concept that encompasses various principles, tools, and techniques for quality improvement. The DMAIC methodology is a specific process used within Six Sigma projects to guide teams through the problem-solving process. DMAIC is one of the most commonly used methodologies in Six Sigma, but there are other methodologies as well.

History of DMAIC

The concept of Six Sigma was first introduced by Motorola in the early 1980s as a quality improvement framework. The term "Six Sigma" refers to a statistical measure of process variation, with the goal of reducing defects and improving quality.

In the 1990s, under the leadership of Bill Smith, a Motorola engineer, the DMAIC methodology was developed as a problem-solving framework within the Six Sigma approach. DMAIC was designed to provide a structured approach for organizations to identify and solve process-related problems.

Six Sigma gained significant popularity and adoption in various industries during the 2000s, particularly with the success stories of companies like General Electric and Honeywell. DMAIC became a widely used methodology within the Six Sigma framework, helping organizations achieve significant improvements in quality, cost savings, and customer satisfaction.

Throughout the 2000s and beyond, DMAIC continued to be refined and adapted by practitioners and organizations, incorporating various statistical and quality improvement tools. It became a cornerstone of Six Sigma implementation, providing a systematic and data-driven approach to problem-solving and process improvement.

Today, DMAIC remains a popular and widely used methodology for process improvement, not only within the Six Sigma context but also in other quality management and continuous improvement initiatives including lean manufacturing and project management. It has been applied across a range of industries, including manufacturing, healthcare, finance, and services, with the aim of achieving operational excellence and delivering value to customers.

The Five DMAIC Phases

Define Phase

In this initial stage, the project goals, scope, and objectives are defined. The focus is on understanding the problem or opportunity for improvement and aligning it with the organization's overall objectives. Key activities in this stage include defining the project charter, identifying stakeholders, understanding customer requirements, and setting specific improvement goals.

Measure Phase

The second stage involves gathering data to establish a baseline and understand the current state of the process. Key performance indicators (KPIs) are identified, and data collection plans are developed. Data is collected, validated, and analyzed to quantify the current performance of the process and identify areas of improvement.

Analyze Phase

In the analyze stage, the collected data is analyzed to identify the root causes of the problem and understand the sources of process variation. Various tools and techniques, such as statistical analysis, cause-and-effect diagrams, and process mapping, are used to explore the relationships between variables and determine the most influential factors affecting the process. The aim is to gain insights and knowledge that will guide the improvement efforts.


The fourth stage focuses on generating and implementing solutions to address the identified root causes and improve the process performance. In this stage, potential improvement ideas are generated, evaluated, and selected based on their expected impact. The selected solutions are tested and implemented on a smaller scale to assess their effectiveness. The focus is on achieving measurable improvements in key process metrics and meeting the defined improvement goals.

Control Phase

The final stage of DMAIC is the control stage. Once the process improvements have been implemented, control mechanisms are put in place to sustain the improvements and prevent the recurrence of the problem. Control plans are developed to define the monitoring and control activities, establish performance targets, and implement appropriate process controls. Ongoing monitoring and measurement ensure that the process remains stable and continues to deliver the desired results.

How Do You Use DMAIC In A Project? An Example

XYZ International, a multinational conglomerate with diverse global businesses, needed to improve its supply chain efficiency as a response to increasing customer complaints. The company decided to use the DMAIC model to address this challenge.

Define: The project team defined the goal as reducing lead time and improving inventory management within its global supply chain. They identified key performance indicators (KPIs) such as fulfillment time for orders, inventory turnover, and on-time delivery.

Measure: The team collected data on KPI performance across business units. They analyzed the data to establish current order lead times, possible bottlenecks and issues with inventory stockouts. They also gathered VOC (Voice of the Customer) and created several process maps of key processses.

Analyze: Using statistical analysis tools, did some root cause analysis to pinpoint the factors contributing to long lead times, excessive inventory, and delivery delays.

Improve: Based on the analysis, the team developed optional improvement strategies. For instance, they could implement demand forecasting systems, optimize transportation routes, establish strategic supplier partnerships, or introduce lean inventory management practices such as Kanban or replenishment pull systems. They prioritize the solutions based on their potential impact on lead time reduction and inventory optimization.

Control: The team implemented the selected improvements and established control measures to sustain the gains. They continued to monitor KPIs. They set up continuous improvement mechanisms, such as supplier performance reviews, periodic process audits, and ongoing training to ensure the changes are maintained and further refined.

The structured approach of DMAIC helped identify and address inefficiencies, enhanced data-driven decision-making, and fostered a culture of continuous improvement within XYZ’s supply chain processes.

DMAIC Tollgate Reviews

DMAIC tollgate reviews, also known as project tollgates or phase reviews, are checkpoints or milestones that occur at the end of each DMAIC stage. These tollgate reviews serve as formal decision points to assess the progress and success of the project and determine whether it should proceed to the next stage. They ensure that the project is on track, aligns with organizational objectives, and justifies the allocation of resources for further stages. The specific structure and content of tollgate reviews can vary between organizations.

What are some tools used during DMAIC?

DMAIC utilizes a variety of tools and techniques to support problem-solving, data analysis, and process improvement efforts. Here are some commonly used tools within each phase of the DMAIC methodology:

Define Phase

● Project Charter

● Voice of the Customer (VOC) Analysis

● SIPOC (Supplier, Input, Process, Output, Customer)

Measure Phase

● Process Mapping

● Data Collection Plan

● Measurement System Analysis (MSA)

● Control Charts

● Takt time

Analyze Phase

● Cause-and-Effect (Fishbone) Diagram

● Pareto Chart

● Statistical Analysis (Hypothesis testing, linear regression)

● Process capability (Cpk)

● Histogram

● 5 Whys

Improve Phase

● Brainstorming

● Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA)

● Design of Experiments (DOE)

● 5S

● Kanban

Control Phase

● Control Plan

● Statistical Process Control (SPC) Charts

● Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

● Risk analysis

These are just a few examples of the tools used in DMAIC. The selection of tools depends on the specific project and the nature of the problem being addressed. DMAIC offers a wide range of tools and techniques to support problem-solving, data analysis, and process improvement throughout the different phases of the methodology.

Can you use DMAIC outside of Six Sigma?

Yes. DMAIC is a methodology while Six Sigma is a more encompassing management philosophy. DMAIC can be used, under appropriate situations, any time your organization has a problem that needs to be fixed or a process that needs continuous improvement.

3 DMAIC best practices

1. Clearly define the problem

At the beginning of the DMAIC project, be sure to clearly define the problem or opportunity for improvement. Be sure that your problem statement is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). As you learn more about your problem, you may need to redefine it later on.

2. Utilize cross-functional teams

DMAIC projects are enhanced by getting input from a wide array of subject matter experts, process customers and other stakeholders across a variety of departments and functions.

3. Use data to drive your decisions

DMAIC relies on data and facts to drive decision-making. Collecting accurate and relevant data is essential for understanding process performance, identifying root causes, and evaluating improvement efforts. Best practices include defining appropriate metrics and measurement systems, using statistical tools for data analysis, and establishing data collection protocols. By making data-driven decisions, organizations can effectively prioritize improvement opportunities, measure the impact of changes, and sustain improvements over time.

Should I use DMAIC for every problem-solving effort?

While DMAIC is a widely applicable problem-solving and process improvement methodology, there are certain situations where it may not be the most suitable approach. Here are a few instances when DMAIC may not be the best fit:

Non-Repetitive or Unique Situations

DMAIC is designed for addressing recurring or repetitive problems and improving processes over time. If you're dealing with a one-time or unique situation that does not have a clear process or data-driven approach, DMAIC may not be the most appropriate methodology.

Immediate Crisis or Urgent Situations

DMAIC projects require time for data collection, analysis, and implementation of improvements. If you're facing an urgent crisis or immediate situation that requires rapid decision-making and immediate action, DMAIC may not provide the level of responsiveness needed.

Exploration of New Opportunities

DMAIC is primarily focused on problem-solving and process improvement. If you're in the exploratory phase of identifying new opportunities, designing new products or services, or entering new markets, DMAIC may not be the ideal methodology.

Lack of Data Availability

DMAIC heavily relies on data collection, analysis, and measurement for making informed decisions. If the necessary data is unavailable, unreliable, or too costly to obtain, DMAIC may face significant limitations.

Resistance to Change or Limited Resources

DMAIC projects often require strong leadership support, stakeholder engagement, and allocation of resources. If there is significant resistance to change, lack of necessary resources, or inadequate support from key stakeholders, implementing DMAIC may face challenges.

Is DMAIC the only problem-solving methodology to consider using?

There are several alternative problem-solving methodologies and frameworks that can be used to address business problems, depending on the nature of the problem and the specific context. Here are a few commonly used approaches:

PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act)

Also known as the Deming Cycle or the Shewhart Cycle, is a simple and iterative problem-solving method. It involves planning, implementing, evaluating, and adjusting actions to continuously improve processes. PDCA is particularly effective for small-scale improvement efforts and rapid problem-solving cycles.

A3 Problem Solving

The A3 problem-solving method, derived from Toyota's management practices, is a structured approach that involves using a single A3-sized sheet of paper to capture problem-solving efforts. It emphasizes problem clarification, root cause analysis, solution development, and action planning in a concise and visual format.


Kaizen (Kaizen Event or Kaizen Blitz), which means "continuous improvement" in Japanese, is a philosophy and method that focuses on making small, incremental improvements in processes on a continuous basis. It involves involving all employees in problem-solving, encouraging suggestion systems, and fostering a culture of continuous improvement.

Quick Wins

In Six Sigma, "quick wins" refer to small-scale improvements that can be implemented relatively quickly and yield noticeable results in a short period. These quick wins are important for building momentum, demonstrating the value of the Six Sigma approach, and generating enthusiasm for further improvement efforts. This is best used when the solution has little, if any, need for capital investment, can be implemented quickly, and can be easily reversed if needed.

Frequently asked questions about DMAIC

What does DMAIC stand for?

DMAIC stands for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control.

What is the purpose of DMAIC?

The purpose of DMAIC is to provide a structured methodology for problem-solving and process improvement. It aims to identify and address process issues, reduce variation, improve performance, and achieve measurable and sustainable results.

How is DMAIC different from Six Sigma?

Six Sigma is a broader quality management approach, while DMAIC is a specific problem-solving and improvement methodology within the Six Sigma framework. DMAIC is one of the most commonly used methodologies in Six Sigma and follows a structured five-step approach.

What are the key benefits of using DMAIC?

Using DMAIC can lead to several benefits, including improved process efficiency, reduced defects, enhanced product or service quality, increased customer satisfaction, cost savings, and a culture of continuous improvement.

How Can I Learn More About Lean Six Sigma?

A quick Google query resulted in 43,700,000 links in .49 seconds. From there you can find a wide array of sites dedicated to Lean Six Sigma. If you wish to narrow your search, two excellent sites for information about Lean Six Sigma are

How Can I Get Certified In Lean Six Sigma?

Sign up with an IASSC accredited organization like

Determine Your Desired Certification Level

Lean Six Sigma certifications are available at different levels, such as White Belt, Yellow Belt, Green Belt, Black Belt, and Master Black Belt. Assess your skills, experience, and career goals to determine the appropriate certification level for you.

Choose a Certification Body

There are various organizations and institutions that offer Lean Six Sigma certifications. Research and select a reputable certification body that aligns with your needs and requirements.

Training and Education

Enroll in Lean Six Sigma training programs or courses that are specific to your desired certification level. These training programs provide the necessary knowledge and tools for Lean Six Sigma methodologies and techniques. You can choose from online courses, in-person workshops, or university programs. Ensure that the training program is delivered by experienced instructors and covers the relevant concepts and methodologies.

Hands-on Experience

Lean Six Sigma certifications often require practical application of the concepts and tools. Gain hands-on experience by working on real-world projects or case studies that apply Lean Six Sigma principles. This experience will help you better understand the methodologies and strengthen your problem-solving skills.


Once you have completed the training and gained the necessary experience, you will need to pass a certification exam. The exam typically assesses your understanding of Lean Six Sigma concepts, tools, and their application. The format and requirements of the exam may vary depending on the certification body you choose.

Certification Maintenance

Some certification bodies require you to maintain your certification by earning continuing education credits or participating in ongoing professional development activities. Understand the requirements for maintaining your certification and fulfill them to ensure that your certification remains valid.

61 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Value Stream Map (VSM)

What Is a Value Stream Map? A Value Stream Map (VSM) is a lean management tool used to visually represent and analyze the flow of materials, information, and activities required to deliver a product o

Six Sigma White Belt

What is a Six Sigma White Belt? A Six Sigma White Belt is an entry-level certification in the Six Sigma methodology, which is a set of techniques and tools used for process improvement and reducing de

Six Sigma Certification

What Is Six Sigma Certification? Six Sigma certification is a professional credential that validates an individual's knowledge and expertise in implementing and managing the Six Sigma methodology. Six


Tel: 404.793.0778

bottom of page