Being a project manager is not easy. You need to be always on your feet and make wise and business-critical decisions. Following project management in an organization revolves around completing a project within its constraints such as deadlines, scope, and the overall cost. All this while ensuring that the quality is not compromised.
Companies face such challenges and therefore resort to various project management frameworks. Six Sigma is one such framework that leverages data-driven DMAIC methodology to improve overall project management.
Six Sigma is popular among the manufacturers to reduce defects lesser than 3.4 per 1 Million products. However, there’s more to it.
The DMAIC methodology of Six Sigma helps project managers reap the best results. It aids in developing efficient processes to complete a project successfully.
Some intriguing facts about DMAIC
DMAIC is an improvement-focussed Six Sigma methodology. It means, this methodology helps companies achieve their desired goals by implementing some changes to their existing processes. What you need to keep in mind is that DMAIC may not be suitable if these changes land up being huge, to the extent that more than 50% of job duties see a drastic change.
DMAIC is mostly used by companies to understand the root cause of project failures if any. Also, this technique considers the areas that act as a deterrent to the successful completion of projects like unnecessary time lags or improper use of resources.
As we know, Six Sigma is a data-driven process, and so is DMAIC. Data helps companies to understand the causes that may lead to project failure. Companies use these data and analyses them to make well-informed decisions that yield optimum results.
DMAIC stands for define, measure, analyze, improvement, and control methodology. We shall discuss the application of these principles for effective project management.
Most of the companies leverage the Project management book of knowledge (PMBOK) Guide from PMI to approach the project management game.
Over the years, especially after the successful implementation of Six Sigma by Jack Welch of General Electric, DMAIC has gained significant acceptance among the industries.
Define and Measure the problem
Six Sigma’s DMAIC lays down project management rules similar to PMBOK. For example, both methods suggest vetting out a proper plan of action before actually executing them.
The DMAIC Methodology emphasizes the importance of having clear objectives before starting any project. One of the crucial reasons why projects fail is that they start without defining the goals or without having clear objectives.
The first step in DMAIC, therefore, is to “Define” the goals.
Before you start working on a project, have a clear idea of what you want to achieve from this, define and write down your desired outcome. It gives you the power of vision and sets the stage for a wiser decision making process and reliable, actionable plans.
As a project manager or a team lead, if you are clear with the desired outcomes, it becomes easier for you to communicate the same with your subordinates and team members. A strong team is one where there are give and take of ideas and suggestions that add to the productiveness of the process. A clear understanding of the expected outcome makes the team conversation more effective.
Next, you need to “Measure” the goals. Here the team decides when and how frequently the outputs need to be measured. It increases the understanding of how well the project is progressing towards its desired goal.
One way to define the goals is to get the right answers for a few questions like:
- What is the purpose behind the project?
- How is this project beneficial to the company?
- Who can participate in the project?
- Who will have a direct influence on structuring the goals of the project? This question is relevant mainly for those projects where the stakeholders vary in their demands.
What is the extent of this problem?
Once you have set the goal and measured the various aspects of the problem, the project in-charge or a manager needs to find the root cause of the problem. The 5 WHYs method is one of the most effective tools used by professionals to deeply analyze a problem.
This method follows a simple rule. Asking “why” five times will help you figure out the root cause of the problem. It helps you find gaps in your existing approach to tackling a project.
The goal we have set is to deliver the project on time. So, to find out the best ways to do so, we need to first understand why there is a delay.
For this, you can use the “five whys” technique like:
- Why wasn’t the project completed on time?
There was a system lag
- Why was there a system lag?
One of the developers failed to understand the issue
- Why was the developer incapable of understanding the seriousness of the issue?
Due to lack of proper training and awareness to respond to a problem
- Why were they not trained properly?
Due to time constraints and lack of training faculty
- Why was there a lack of faculty?
The management did not have the budget to hire good trainers.
As we answer these WHYs the deep insights into the problem surfaces.
It is a crucial step, and you can keep on asking “WHYs” until you get a satisfactory root cause. Typically, by the fifth “WHY” you get an answer, and hence the name “five whys” method.
Solve the Problem
Next, once you have figured out the issues within the project, the team can start working on finding possible solutions.
While chalking out a solution, you have to bear in mind the risks associated with implementing each of such solutions. Total project cost, work-force required, managerial constraints, technological constraints, every aspect has to be considered.
You can find help from the experts in the related field to explore the areas of improvement and the possible fix to the problems.
The Five WHYs method discussed in the previous section helps a lot in this stage. It promotes contribution from each team member and discourages the blame culture that usually deteriorates the performance of a team.
After the analysis, you can incorporate the findings and the related solutions while executing the project. Your role as a project manager can be to take proper feedback and updates from the concerned department. It will give you an idea of how well your solutions have helped in the enhancement of the project execution process.
Sustain the improvements
Now that your team has figured out a solution and implemented the same. Its time to look out for the improvements.
Once you start noticing the improvements and positive deviation towards the goals, make note of the changes done. This will help in the future to avoid repeating the mistakes. This process requires sharp observational skills, as the manager is responsible to make sure the mistakes are not repeated.
A proper action plan needs to chart out that lays down the ways to sustain the improvements in the long run.
Except for the inexorable factors, the project has to be carried out to attain the goal to the fullest possible stature. DMAIC relies on real data to analyze the reasons behind the success and failure of a project. It can be easily streamlined to an existing project to get the optimal results from the project.
In order to adapt to this proven DMAIC methodology to your workflow, Quality Management Certification Courses can be of great help. These certifications get you equipped across quality management frameworks, tools, and techniques so that you achieve success across your projects.
Some of the popular quality management certification courses that individuals and enterprise teams can take up are: