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Need to solve a problem? Use DMAIC.

Updated: Mar 25

DMAIC is a great Lean tool for problem solving that comes from manufacturing. Why should I care, you may ask? It's such a universal tool that you can apply it to any problem. For example, to beat procrastination.

The DMAIC model stands for the five steps you will take to resolve a problem. You will want to: Define Measure Analyse

Improve Control

your problem.

If DMAIC doesn’t work, it’s most likely because the challenge is out of your influence zone (e.g., bad weather). I’ve used DMAIC for various down-to-earth challenges, such as losing weight, and it work very well. Happy to share some more insights if you're struggling with it - just let me know.


In this post, let's look at a different challenge though. I'll use a story of John. Let's take John through the five steps of DMAIC.

Define

John: I’ve been feeling a bit dissatisfied with my life recently. I’m not entirely sure why. Perhaps I’ve got a bit lazy, or simply, too busy? I just feel I’m not performing to my full potential and the energy isn’t there. Am I getting old? Let's be honest, I do pretty much the bare minimum – family, work, go to bed, get up, work, family etc., maybe with a bit of web browsing and tv every night. I just need a way to switch off after a busy day and tv and browsing work really well. Then, I’d like to think life is about more than that. I’ve always wanted to try X. And work is killing me. I feel like I could get a better job that I would actually care about and it would be better paid (or, I wish my business would make more money). I hardly ever read books these days – I used to love reading when I was at school. I don't seem to have the time for anything I really want to do. I don’t exercise even though I know this would help me live a better quality life and be here for my children when they grow up. I also want to lead by example for my children and have them see me succeed in my career. I want them to have an easier life than me. I don't see my friends as often as I would like to... Time just seems to disappear!

My life is pretty predictable. On most days, I don’t feel I’ve achieved a lot. There are so many distractions at work and home.

I also don’t know why I leave things until the last moment … I promise myself after each time I’ve had a nightmare having to turn over all the work at the last moment that next time, I’ll be better at doing it in advance and this was definitely the last time... I’ve been telling myself this for 10 years!

Another thing is, I don’t feel very passionate about life. I just thought there was more to life than this, but maybe I set my expectations too high?


Measure

Someone’s told me about the Wheel of Life, it actually looks interesting. I'm thinking I’ll give it a go.

Overall, I feel like my life is a 6 out of 10. It’s hard to measure life satisfaction, right? Apparently, I need to score each of the main areas of my life on a sale 1-10 and see how balanced my life is overall, which will demonstrate my level of balance and fulfilment (i.e., happiness).



Analyse

Ok, I can see now that my health and career stand out as the ones I’m struggling with the most. Work is 5 and Health is 3 out of 10. This is a bit worse than I actually expected. It looks like my relationship needs more attention being at 6 out of 10. And I’m fed up with no time for the things I actually really want to do. Now, this is a bit of an eye-opener.


Improve

What tools are there to help me improve the situation?


Someone's told me to try to journal about my quandaries and see what I come up with. I must admit I've found it effective, but I somehow have never managed to do it regularly. I know I will never find the time for it unless someone threatens to take my children away if I don’t.


Maybe I can read some books? Audible is another amazing idea! I can listen to books while driving. Hang on, how am I going to remember anything without writing it down? I tend to forget what I read very quickly, so I can't see it work. I’m not sure now this is an option for me.


This is pretty demotivating. I'm tired. Let’s think about it another time …


3 weeks later...

I’m feeling a bit low. Is it to do with the lack of exercise? I will exercise!



Another 3 weeks later...

I really should exercise. But I’d rather spend the time with my children and also have so much work to do – It’s like catch 22 ... I’m not going to think about it now. I don’t have the time to waste on thinking.


A few days later ...

I’ve spoken to Mike and he’s apparently having some coaching. I've heard about it before, but I wasn't sure it was for me. He said it works, so he’s happy to invest even though it sounds insanely expensive to me. He said he doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life feeling guilty for not living the life he's always wanted...


That’s it. I’ve got to find out for myself how it works. I can have a free session to see how it works, so I have nothing to lose and I will at least see how I feel about it. One step at a time, they say! Plus, I've got nothing to lose.


Control

2 months later ...

I’ve had three coaching sessions so far and I must admit I don’t know why it was so hard in the first place. I wish someone had told me about coaching years ago. I feel like a VIP now – someone actually cares to listen to me properly! Anne has already got so much on her plate with the house and the kids, and I feel like she’s the one who needs more support in his family. Strangely, I can understand her better now!


So here’s an even stranger thing. The coach doesn’t actually tell me what to do but somehow gets me to do what I need to do. And I don’t know how it works, but it’s so empowering to be finally moving forward. I guess it’s because I know my priorities now, and I never knew what I really wanted in the first place. I feel so much better. In some areas, I’ve already done more work in 2 months than in the last 2 years! I’ve still got a long way to go, I think, but I’m happy for the first time in a while. My coach says if I keep at it, it will become easier over time as I will develop more helpful habits and thinking strategies.  At the moment, it’s all exciting, but the novelty will wear off, she’s warned me. Apparently, it’s about having accountability, consistency and keeping it fresh with ideas and flexibility. All it takes is little tweaks here and there, which are easy and small enough, but equally, they ensure I’m moving in the right direction by making incremental change. And I am moving forward! What's not to like about that!



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