Six Sigma and DMAIC in Focus: A – Analyze Your Six Sigma Project

This article is the third part in our series on the principles of Six Sigma, focusing on Analyze within the DMAIC framework. You can find the rest of our series here.

Day three into our DMAIC in focus series sees us analyzing Analyze. Aside from getting meta, we are going to look at how successful analysis has an impact on your project’s outcome.

Before we begin, it’s worth putting up a small disclaimer. Anything related to analysis generally comes with one of two approaches. Either you can never have enough analysis work (inadequate analysis is always an easy scapegoat), or you have paralysis by analysis. It’s important to find what works best for you and your team. As you practice the skills gained in Six Sigma training, you will see what is effective, and what is less so. Now, onto Analyze!

Analysis Drives You Forward

It is during this part of the DMAIC process that the top causes influencing the metric or CTQ will be isolated. Once isolated, the root cause of the problem needs to be validated, ruling out other potential causes, before it can be corrected or eliminated. You can divide the analyze phase into two sub-stages. In the first half, team input is most important, while the second half will deal with the elimination of “trivial many” causes and the identification of the “vital few”.

Your analysis will primarily rely on team effort, but don’t consider it completed until you have identified all the root causes. Techniques like paired comparisons, multi-vari, components search, hypothesis testing, regression analysis, and standard design of experiments (DOE) are powerful tools here. Use them.

Other Analysis Tools

Analysis can also make use of several other Six Sigma tools, such as Pareto charts (we covered these earlier in the series), to gather team input and conduct objective experiments. You’ll find this useful when attempting to isolate and ascertain the top causes of your problems.

In order to pinpoint primary causes, you must perform detailed analysis. We’ll leave it up to you to decide how detailed that is. Remember, analysis should point you towards a goal, and move the project forward. Right now, that means identifying primary causes behind your business problems.

Rule of Three

Typically, you will find around three separate causes that require attention. Control these causes to prevent further issues. If you discover multiple causes, then the chances are that your team has not identified the primary causes. Alternatively, they have outlined an overly ambitious goal that cannot be completed during a single project.

While there are exceptions, you can maintain motivation for high-speed results in your business. Root causes vary greatly and any number of potential origins can stem the same problems. Data collection plans are therefore useful as they enable you to validate the root causes and rule out irrelevant issues.

Final Note on Analyze

Companies often neglect to discover or correct the root cause of problems (due to lack of resources, staff or funds). Therefore, they are unable to gather accurate data with which to identify the root cause(s). Eliminating superficial symptoms rather than the latent issues themselves prove nothing more than a temporary fix. Underlying problems lurk, like a shark, just out of reach.

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