6-Sigma and DMAIC from the Customer’s Viewpoint

The goal of 6-Sigma is to achieve consistent, reliable, repeatable performance in areas that affect effectiveness and efficiency. Effectiveness measures meeting the customer’s needs or wants and efficiency measures the cost of meeting customer needs or wants.  Let’s go through DMAIC from the customer’s viewpoint.

6-Sigma has five steps, summed up by the acronym DMAIC. In following, bullets are the traditional way of thinking in 6-Sigma and explanation below is the customer perspective.

1) Define the company’s processes and customer needs. Processes are the ways that companies take inputs, add value and deliver outputs.

Every business organization is all about their customers, every governmental office is all about serving citizens and every not-for-profit organization is all about serving people related to their mission. Thus, we can say that the customer experience is the process for every organization in one way or another. For customer process inputs are their true needs, added value is the way that those needs are taken care of and delivered outputs are customers with fulfilled needs. It is not about what customer’s want, it’s about what they need. And for customers processes are the ways that organizations take care of their needs.

2) Measure process effectiveness (meeting the customer’s needs and wants) and efficiency (the cost of meeting customer needs or wants).

How do you feel when you are send a customer satisfaction questionnaire with 50 questions? Or you are asked to answer questionnaire, which doesn’t really ask anything you would like to answer to? Well, your customers will feel the same way if you do that. Customers actually want measuring process effectiveness to be as invisible as possible to them, but at the same time as efficient as possible. You shouldn’t ask the customers how long did you wait in a queue, because from their viewpoint you should know that. You should also know how long they are willing to do that. If you want to have feedback questionnaire, it should ask only: Will you use/buy our services/products again? Would you recommend our services/products to your friends/family? And then ask the appropriate “why not” -question if the customer wouldn’t. Rest you should figure out with continuously bothering the customers.

3) Analyze the data in an attempt to identify the causes of variation in the process.

From organization’s internal perspective it is important to analyze the variation in processes. From customer’s viewpoint they are actually the first ones noticing the variation; long before your measurement systems, because they will suffer from the effects. The more you can prevent variation, the better. But it is not only about measuring and analyzing. It is even more about reacting to that variance. Organization needs to deal with the effects and remove the cause. When things go wrong, your customers will expect you to do something about it. And world’s best organizations are working on that proactive, they will know and deal with the problem in real-time for customers. For example when thinking about IT systems, your customer should not be the first one noticing that your servers are down causing him to not be able to access the system.

4) Improve the process by doing things differently.

And with different, customers mean fulfilling their needs better. Mathematics on analyzing the processes is not enough to tell you how to improve processes from customer experience perspective, especially if you have not measured the right things from the beginning. Try to find the optimum number of customer interactions and that will lead to increased revenue, lowered costs and improved customer service simultaneously.

5) Control with measures to make sure the improvements stay in force.

Control the customer experience at all times. You have to make the customer everyone’s business in your organization from top to bottom (in the hierarchical world) or from customer to outcome (in the process world).

Here are few reflective questions for you to ask:

-       Is our organization thinking about the customer in every step of 6-Sigma DMAIC?

-       Do we evaluate every processes right to exist before optimizing it?

-       Do we measure the right things that provide successful customer outcomes?

-       Do we control our processes based on right measurements?



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Nathaniel Palmer
Author: Nathaniel PalmerWebsite: http://bpm.com
VP and CTO
Rated as the #1 Most Influential Thought Leader in Business Process Management (BPM) by independent research, Nathaniel Palmer is recognized as one of the early originators of BPM, and has led the design for some of the industry’s largest-scale and most complex projects involving investments of $200 Million or more. Today he is the Editor-in-Chief of BPM.com, as well as the Executive Director of the Workflow Management Coalition, as well as VP and CTO of BPM, Inc. Previously he had been the BPM Practice Director of SRA International, and prior to that Director, Business Consulting for Perot Systems Corp, as well as spent over a decade with Delphi Group serving as VP and CTO. He frequently tops the lists of the most recognized names in his field, and was the first individual named as Laureate in Workflow. Nathaniel has authored or co-authored a dozen books on process innovation and business transformation, including “Intelligent BPM” (2013), “How Knowledge Workers Get Things Done” (2012), “Social BPM” (2011), “Mastering the Unpredictable” (2008) which reached #2 on the Amazon.com Best Seller’s List, “Excellence in Practice” (2007), “Encyclopedia of Database Systems” (2007) and “The X-Economy” (2001). He has been featured in numerous media ranging from Fortune to The New York Times to National Public Radio. Nathaniel holds a DISCO Secret Clearance as well as a Position of Trust with in the U.S. federal government.