By Craig Gygi, Bruce Williams, Neil DeCarlo, Stephen R. Covey

At the business level, Six Sigma projects are the players in the overall game plan of a breakthrough performance improvement initiative, DMAIC. The business perspective is that a Six Sigma project is the agent of action that executes the business strategy and returns the results.

Every Six Sigma project follows a standardized and systematic method named for each of its phases: Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control, and known by its acronym, DMAIC. This method defines a formalized problem-solving procedure that can improve any type of process in any organization by improving the process’s efficiency and effectiveness. You can see a breakdown and graphical representation.

  • Define: Set the context, key metrics, and objectives for the project.

  • Measure: Capture the current baseline performance and capability of the process or system being improved. Identify all possible contributing factors.

  • Analyze: Narrow the pool of possible factors down to the critical few. Use data and tools to understand the cause-and-effect relationships in the process or system.

  • Improve: Develop and validate the modifications that lead to an improvement in the process or system.

  • Control: Establish plans and procedures to ensure the improvements are adopted and sustained.


DMAIC is applied by highly trained practitioners who complete improvement projects that are managed to financial targets. In DMAIC, business processes are improved by following a structured method with set steps, or tollgates.

Only as you start and complete one step are you ready to move on to the next. After moving through all the steps, and only when you can show that the DMAIC project has generated breakthrough benefit, can you then say you’ve completed a Six Sigma project.

Some companies and Six Sigma practitioners place an R for Recognize before the D for Define, indicating that you must first recognize and choose the right problem to solve or need to improve before you can define what the problem or need is.