Six Sigma - Define Phase


The 1st phase of a DMAIC Process:

Define Phase
The DEFINE phase will enhance the Business opportunity. It is important to weigh team synergy as the GB/BB team leader as well as begin the technical journey. Attention must be devoted to assembling the optimal team and analyzing each member’s stake to get best cross-functional input and results. The Phase involves choosing a qualified / Six Sigma certified Project Manager, such as a Green Belt or Black Belt.

Define phase should involve the Champion commonly to ensure the team is moving to the right beginning. The Champion should plays an observer to ensure progression is satisfactory & acceptable. The Champion should refrain from providing definite direction or predefined solutions.

Following are the components of the Define Phase. They are used to define the organization’s Objectives and Major activities


Key Features of Define Phase:   

  • Scope and Boundary
  • Define defects
  • Team charter and champion
  • Estimated project impact
  • Leadership approval


What is important in Define Phase?

Answer: There are two main points to take care of in Define Phase

1. Objectives:                          

  • To identify the Business Opportunity.
  • To Develop the Business Process.
  • Define critical customer requirements.
  • Prepare as an effective project team.

2. Major Activities:          

  • Validate Business Opportunity.
  • Identify stakeholders.
  • Identify team members.
  • Develop team charter
  • Identify & Map processes
  • Identify quick-win & refine process
  • Develop team guidelines & ground rules
  • Define Project Milestones
  • Identify technical requirements


Key Tools of Define Phase: 

  1. Voice of Customer (VOC)
  2. Quality Function Deployment (QFD)
  3. Kawakita, Jiro (KJ)
  4. Kano Model
  5. Benchmarking


Steps Involved In Define Phase:

  1. Project CTQ (Customer To Quality)
  2. Business Case
  3. Process Mapping
  4. Change Management


What is SIPOC?

In six sigma, SIPOC is often used in the "Define" phase of DMAIC steps, as it helps to understand the purpose and the scope of a process. SIPOC stands for suppliers, inputs, process, outputs and customers. As it is always accomplished by the sequence of process, outputs, customers, inputs, suppliers, sometimes it can also be known as POCIS diagram. The SIPOC is a vital  component to a process map. With this tool, you build your first organized view of your work process and set the base for applying the breakthrough DMAIC strategy. A SIPOC structure helps the process owner and those working on the process to shed light on the primary fundamentals of a process and agree with the limitations of what they will be working on.


What is Voice of Customer (VOC)?

Voice of Customer is the customer’s voice, expectations, preferences, comments, of a product or service in conversation. It is the statement made by the customer on a particular product or service. Mostly comments are based on the individual involvement with the product or services.


Customer Identification:

The customer is the person who is receiving the process outcomes in the form of Product or services provided by the Organization. 

There are two major categories of Customers:

  • Internal Customers: Internal Customers are the ones who are working in-house to the organization. They are Management, Employee(s) or Any Functional Department of any organization.
  • External Customers: External Customers has no direct association with the organization. They are either the ones who use our product(s) or service(s) or have entrusted in the organization. For e.g. Clients, End-Customers, Shareholders, among others.


Customer Needs and Requirements:

Need is a desire or expectations of a customer from a given product or service. Customers may have many stated needs which are to be satisfied by the company.

When a customer feels taken care of, they are more inclined to buy product /service again from you. This, in turn, gives loyal customers to the company. Hence, customer satisfaction is key to customer loyalty. 

For example, Customer requires a Refrigerator for its use in the kitchen. The real need of the customer is to keep food and liquid fresher for longer period. Similarly, the real want from the Refrigerator is it has to be quite, cost-effective and maintenance-free. When the customer states their requirements, we will often get to hear that the need is "Quick - Chill, Less Noise (quite), Spacious, Cost Effective and Free of Maintenance.” However, “Quick - Chill” is the need of the customer and the rest are just wants. It is important for the project team to understand the stated needs of the customer and separate them from wants. 

The central idea behind the separation of needs and wants are: Needs are important critical features, and Wants are expectations of the product or service over and beyond the needs. If the product/service is not able to fulfil “Wants” of the customer, the customer may only be extremely unhappy / dissatisfied. However, if the product/service is not able to fulfil “Needs” of the customer, he/she will not use the product/service, and there is a high possibility that they will switch to competitors product/service. Organizations reputation may also be at stake if “Needs” are not met. 

Customer requirement is product characteristics wanted or needed by the customer. The customer requirements are converted into customer specifications. The prestige of the company is determined by how well they meet all of the customer requirements 

In the above example of a refrigerator, customer’s requirement is “Quick - Chill” and the rest are “Good to Have” features. Customer will not buy the Refrigerator if all of “Good to Have” features are present but the “Requirement(s)” are not fulfilled. However, the customer may buy the product/service if the “Requirement” is fulfilled and “Good to Have” features are present or not present. 



At the end of the Define Phase, the team of employees fix the cause of the problem and giving the best suitable solution using Six Sigma Methodology. The team will include a few existing and real-time customers during the process. This team is also responsible for involving external vendors with the required technical skills as and when necessary to solve the problem. Remember at this phase you have to make a decision on using six sigma for solving the problem or not to solve a particular issue.