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Process Improvement, Project Management, Six Sigma

Project Management is no good for Process Improvement!

Many of my clients have their own Project Management processes with either four or five stage lifecycle models (e.g. Initiate – Plan – Implement – Close). This is great as a generic model for running a project, but less than ideal if you want to “do improvement”.

DMAICIt tells you the stages your project will necessarily go through, but doesn’t provide a clue to the tools you’ll need to improve a process or solve a problem. For that, you need an improvement methodology such as DMAIC (which originates in Six Sigma). DMAIC stands for:

  • Define
  • Measure
  • Analyse
  • Improve
  • Control

Each of these stages also has a set of supporting tools that enable you to make progress from setting up the improvement project right through to embedding changes into business as usual. The Table below shows some examples of the tools and techniques you might need to help you improve a process or solve a problem. Some of them are common to “Project Management”, but many are unique to “Improvement”. If you don’t recognise the difference, don’t be surprised if your “projects” don’t actually deliver “improvements”!

 Improvement Project Stage

Tools and Techniques

Define –       Project Definition-       Stakeholder Mapping, Analysis and Planning

–       Process Definition (SIPOC)

–       Voice of the Customer (VoC)

–       Critical to Quality (CTQ) – Customer Requirements Analysis

–       Process Mapping

–       Value Stream Mapping (Current State)

–       Brainstorming


Measure –       Checksheets/Tallysheets-       Concentration Diagrams

–       Traveller Time-logs

–       Customer Surveys & Focus Groups

–       Data Collection Interviews

–       Stratification

–       Activity Sampling

–       Activity/Unit Costing


Analyse –       Pareto Analysis-       Basic Data Handling (Mean, SD, Graphs & Charts)

–       Statistical Process Control Charts

–       Cause & Effect Analysis (Fishbone Diagrams)

–       Seven Wastes

–       Value-add Analysis (VA Ratio)

–       Process Walk-through


Improve –       Process Design/Re-design (To Be Mapping)-       Future State Mapping (including Flow/Pull)

–       Risk Analysis

–       Rating Sheets/Decision Matrix

–       Force Field Analysis

–       Change / Implementation Planning

–       Cost-Benefit Analysis

–       Mistake Proofing (Poka Yoke)


Control –       Corrective Action Process-       Statistical Process Control

–       Visual Management (Visual Office)


For more information on how I help organisations develop project skills and improvement skills, please visit my resources pages:



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