5 Simple Process Improvement Steps


A quick tutorial on the five steps to improving a process based on Lean Six Sigma: 

Step 1 – Define the problem

The definition is extremely important, and must be specific and precise. To guide this process, we suggest you use the following questions:

  1. What is the problem?
  2. When did it start?
  3. Who owns it?
  4. What is the goal and objective? These are typically referred to as SMART objectives — Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.
  5. What are the financial benefits if improved?
  6. Who are the customers of the problem?
  7. What are the customer’s expectations?

Though this seems simplistic, I am sure you would agree, in the hustle and bustle of life we sometimes skip ahead and try to solve problems without taking the time to up front to gain a better understanding of how the problem started in the first place.

There are also SMARTER objectives, with the “ER” standing for “Easily Remembered.” When defining the problem, be precise, and it should be so precise as to be easily remembered.

Step 2 – Measure the problem

Without data to measure, you cannot fix a problem. The problem must be measurable.

Step 3 – Analyse the data

Based on the data, where is the root of the problem?

Step 4 – Improve the problem

Using a team of experts on the problem to develop measurable solutions and then test the solution and assess the data for 95% confidence of statistical improvement. Data must tell you that the improvement is the solution.

Step 5 – Control the improvement

Put Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in place to make sure the improvement stays in place. Too many times a problem is solved with a new improvement but people go back to their old ways, and the improvement is negated.

This 5 steps are also known as DMAIC (dee-make), the core Six Sigma improvement framework.