Improve Restaurant Functioning Using Lean Six Sigma’s DMAIC methodology

March 22, 2020


Lean Six Sigma improves efficiency in restaurants by driving change towards quality-driven services through the top management commitment, leaders training, clear goals selection, team building, and effective communication. Professionals, who look for leadership opportunities in business, maybe willing to develop a more in-depth understanding of Six Sigma’s DMAIC methodology.

However DMAIC is an integral part of Lean Six Sigma process, it can be implemented as a standalone quality improvement process.

What is DMAIC methodology?


DMAIC is a five-phase, structured, customer-focused, and data-driven approach to problem-solving that drives Lean Six Sigma. Used to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of organizational processes across the industry, “DMAIC” is an acronym for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control business performance. “DMAIC” is pronounced “duh-may-ik.”

Collectively, the five phases represent an improvement cycle to identify best practices and move closer to stronger performance standards and perfect processes. It is meant to be repeated frequently in an effort to streamline resources and clarify business goals.

Each phase of the cycle has a different set of tasks and objectives. Here is a closer look at each phase one by one.

1. Define

Define is the first phase of the Lean Six Sigma improvement process. You need to start by identifying the target business problem you would like to fix and clarifying the scope of the intended improvements. You also have to select high-impact opportunities for improvement.

This phase is also about determining the objectives of improvement and mapping out a picture of success. The involved team has to gain process knowledge by conducting Process Walks and talking to process participants.

The critical steps during Define are:

  • Form a team to implement this improvement
  • Draft a Project Charter
  • Identify and validate the opportunity for improvement
  • Define the scope of the project
  • Clarify the process of customer needs and requirements
  • Document business opportunity
  • Assess project impact
  • Identify all stakeholders
  • Plot a high-level map of the process.

The main component of this phase is preparing Project Charter. A Project Charter is a living document for the improvement team that outlines the presenting problem and the objective of the improvement process.

A Project Charter points out the following essential elements, according to the six-sigma institute:

  • Business Case: It helps to understand the overall business reasons to do this project.
  • Problem Statement: describes the problem or issue to improve.
  • Goal Statement: the target of the improvement process in accordance with all elements of SMART- Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant & Time-bound.
  • Project Scope: This considers what is in and what is out for this project, outlining the project boundary.
  • Team: define the people involved in the project along with their responsibilities and roles during the project.
  • Timeline/Milestones: clarify when each phase of the project will be completed to achieve progress as scheduled.

Before moving on to the Measure Phase, the team refines the project focus and plans carefully toward a structured improvement.


2. Measure

As DMAIC is a data-driven approach to improvement, you need to have baseline measurements that can be compared to the results after improvement. Measurement is very important throughout the life of the project since it provides key indicators of the process. Measurements might include process duration, the number of defects, process cost, or other relevant metrics. The team should agree on how frequently the measurement will happen where a member or more should be responsible for measurement.

When collecting data, the team should focus on the process lead-time or the quality of the service provided to customers.

Critical activities at measure phase include:

  • Develop the methods of collecting data to evaluate the success
  • Identify input, processes, and output indicators
  • Gather the Baseline Data and analyze current state data
  • Analyze failure and effects to update project charter


3. Analyze

Once the data is collected, it is now the time to analyze and understand the root causes of the business problem to determine the underlying reason(s) before jumping to the solution. 5 Whys technique and process maps are helpful ways to structure the process. It is important to focus on the causes, not the symptoms so that solutions would be clearer and to avoid blaming people. Moreover, the team needs this phase to analyze the problem properly to avoid wasting time, consuming resources, increasing variation and causing new problems.

At this phase, the improvement team should:

  • Look for what might be causing the problem
  • Develop the problem statement
  • Verify the root cause(s) of the problem
  • Develop a plan for improvement and update project charter


4. Improve

Only after careful measurement and thoughtful analysis, the improvement team can implement proposed improvements plans to resolve the root cause(s). At this phase, the team creates countermeasure ideas, experiment process changes, applies solutions, and gathers data to confirm there is measurable improvement.

A structured improvement effort makes innovative and elegant changes. These changes enhance the baseline measure and the customer experience.

The following activities are typical:

  • Generate possible solution that might fix the problem
  • Select the practical solutions
  •  Develop maps of processes based on different solutions
  • Select the best solution(s)
  • Implement the solution(s)
  • Measure to ensure improvement


5. Control

The final step in a DMAIC cycle is Control. It is an essential piece of the equation to make sure the improvements have achieved the project goals, maintain the gains and the successful improvements, and make it easy to update best practices. At this point, the team constructs a Monitoring Plan to track the updated process success and develops a Response Plan in case the performance degrades.

At this phase, the team will:

  • Ensure the process is properly managed and monitored
  •  Document the improved process
  • Apply improvements to other areas
  •  Continuously Improve the process using Lean Principles
  • Determine if additional improvements are required to achieve the project goal
  • Identify and document the new Standard work
  • Integrate and share the lessons learned

The Control phase continues until the team identifies a new opportunity for improvement and the cycle begins again.


Restaurant owners can use the methodology of DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control) to learn what works and what does not in their restaurants instead of making decisions based on guesswork and reacting to new challenges. The total impacts of the change are efficiency improvement, cost reduction, quality improvement, and customer satisfaction.