Lesson IV: Six Sigma Define Phase

Six Sigma helps in performance improvement and it’s an important project management philosophy being adopted in different industries, particularly in the automotive, medical device and biopharma sector. The ‘Define’ phase describes what the project is all about, the project deliverables, and the deadline.

1.Steps in Define Phase

Step I: Develop the problems and goal statements

One should have a clear understanding of ‘what measurable performance outcome or target must the project accomplish?’


Step I of the ‘Define’ phase establishes the performance measure to improve

Step II: Develop the project charter

The project charter contains the problem and the goal statement, project scope, names of the project teams, the expected operational and financial impact, and milestones. Thus, the project charter is like an internal contract between senior management and the project team. Once the charter is complete, the project champion will review it and approve it.

Step III: Develop a SIPOC diagram

SIPOC diagram Six Sigma
A typical SIPOC diagram starting for a Pizza delivery restaurant. The diagram starts from the Process column and then SUppliers, Input, Output and Customers columns are filled. (Source: LinkedIn Learning)

S-I-P-O-C is an acronym for supplier, input, process, output, customer. The SIPOC diagram identifies and illustrates, at a high level, processes relevant to the project. Inputs and outputs involved, those who supply the process inputs, and those who receive those process outputs as customers.

SIPOC allows the project team to have a bird’s eye view or overview of the project.

2. Problem and Goal Statements

The problem defined in a Six Sigma project should be recurring, chronic and measurable. The problem should be as specific as possible such as specific to a product, service, process, or defect. The goal must be SMART; specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.

Problem and goal statement in Six Sigma

The problem and goal statements must address specific problems, not generic broad problems.

3. Complete the Project Charter

Project charter in Six Sigma ‘Define’ phase

A project charter is a document that is the management’s authorization of the project which has details about the problem to be addressed, the attainable goal statement, project deadline, metric of performance, operational and financial benefits, project scope, milestones (checkpoints) and signatures of project leader, project champion and finance person.

Read: How to Write a Project Charter?


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