Relating DMAIC tools to challenges outside the work environment can be an effective training approach. Here’s an example that many people can relate to: losing weight.
First we Define what we want to achieve in measurable terms. Example: “I want to improve my health. Reaching a healthy body weight will increase my energy level and prevent a number of problems down the road. The research I have done says that I need to lose ten pounds.”
So the Define step is wrapped up with the following goal: “I want to lose ten pounds.” Wasn’t that easy?
Next we Measure our baseline performance. Anyone who has spent time on the scale knows that body weight can fluctuate by a pound or more from one day to the next, so we decide to baseline our starting weight by averaging weigh-in’s for seven days.
If we really want to take it all the way, we can run a gage repeatability study on our scale at this point, to ensure that our scale is not introducing too much variation. This might be important if we were trying to control our weight within a tight tolerance, let’s say one or two pounds. But changing our average body weight by ten pounds shouldn’t require a gage repeatability study on the scale. Just to be safe, we step on the scale ten times and see that our weight repeats within a half-pound – very reasonable.
We wrap up the Measure phase with the following summary: “My baseline weight is 192 pounds, and my target weight is 182 pounds. The error in my measurement system (scale) is acceptable.”
We begin the Analyze phase while we are collecting our baseline weight values during the first seven days. Knowing that calorie intake affects body weight, we create a simple food log that shows each item we eat, what time we eat it, and how many calories are contained in it. There are a number of great tools we can use in the Analyze phase, but for this project we stick with the trusty pareto chart – one of the most simple and widely used analysis tools on the planet. We make two pareto charts – one showing what time of day we take in the most calories, and the other showing what types of food make up our calorie intake. For a true assessment of the underlying causes of overeating, we might also conduct a 5-Why analysis that might lead to such factors as job stress or other fundamental causes that could drastically reduce overeating.
We wrap up the Analyze phase with two important findings: we take in 24% of our daily calories with evening snacks, and another 19% by hitting the vending machine at work.
We now proceed to the Improve phase, where find ways to reduce our vending machine calories during the day and snacks at night. We decide to pack healthy snacks every day so we can satisfy our hunger without vending machine visits. We also pre-plan one evening snack and eat it at the same time each night to develop a good routine.
We have a few slip-ups, but overall we follow our routine for three months, and achieve our 182 pound goal. Fantastic!
Now comes the Control phase, which poses the following question: how will we keep the weight off?
For the disciplined individual -
- We will weigh-in once per week and track the results in a notebook.
- If our weight creeps above 185 pounds, we will begin logging our food intake and make adjustments as needed.
For the those who love snacks, we might need to resort to some mistake-proofing methods by (1) not bringing any money to work (takes care of the vending machine problem), and (2) keeping those tempting evening snacks out of the house.
So that’s one example of the DMAIC approach applied to an everyday challenge.