Get Connected LinkedIn facebook


Find out how to improve your work.


Bexcellence Site Map , Here you find all website pages.


Here you can join our E-zine and download our free tools and info..

Be an Expert

Become a contributing author and have your articles included on

Submit Your Question

You can ask your question here.

Define Six Sigma Road Map


The define six sigma is the first phase of six sigma's DMAIC stages. The D stands for define. Before reading this page, it is important to read and understand Introduction to six sigma methodology.

The Define Phase

To help define six sigma, all projects, no matter the problem, travel through the same series of tools in the Define phase. This phase ensures that we understand...

*The project scope.

*The customer/market value.

*The business value.

*The clear breakthrough measurable goals.

*The business support and the project leader, the team and all necessary resources to complete the project.

*The champions and process owners ensure all removal of project barriers.

*This is the right project for the business needs.

The Project Charter captures the preceding info. The Define Six Sigma phase exit criteria includes the completion and signoff within the project charter.

The Define Sequence

The following sequence of tools is applied during Define Six Sigma Phase:

To initiate the project, the Black Belt, Champion, and Process Owner meet to construct the preliminary Charter.

They determine the initial scope and the team members. The initial scope typically documents the process under study.

At this stage, the likely metrics and potential benefits are probably unknown.


After the completing the initial Project Charter, mobilize the project team, and conduct the first team meeting.

To help define six sigma phase for the whole process, use a SIPOC . This helps understand the scope and the purpose of the process. The SIPOC addresses, "What really is the question to be answered?"

Extract the central "Process" column of the SIPOC and rotate it 90 degrees to become a High-Level Value Stream Map (VSM). Use this map for linear representation of the process that helps slicing up the improvements into manageable pieces.


After completing the SIPOC, you need to determine the customer requirements for the whole process. This is done by using a number of tools to identify the major customer needs and metrics

To help frame the customer's questions regarding the process, spend time as a team brainstorming the issues. Use traditional brainstorming, or Murphy's Analysis.

The output of these tools may not absolutely be the Voice of the Customer (VOC).  Instead these are the team's internal insights. The output guides the structure of the VOC questioning in the subsequent steps.

Based on the output from the internal brainstorming, you build an Interview  Discussion Guide and Customer Matrix. Then you interview the customers or process owners.

Some processes have a multitude of customers. The team needs input to ensure they missed nothing.  However, interviewing time may be an issue. To spare time, use a survey. You could mail it, create handouts, or post on a wall where they can write directly on it.

Surveys are notoriously error prone, so do not entirely rely on this. Instead, combine the surveys with your customer interviews.

Distill the VOC  into useful information by applying an Affinity Diagram.


After completing the Affinity Diagram is complete, a simple extraction yields the Customer Requirements Tree. This tree represents a simple hierarchical structure of needs from the highest abstract level down to the individual facts and measures.

To continue the define six sigma phase, the team finalizes the primary metrics for the project success.

We call these Ys for the process. Ys are a key focus in the project through the equation Y=f(X1, X2,...Xn). The Xs are all the factors in the process that affect the Ys. See KPOVs and Data

The customer requirements tree outputs determines the Ys. Detail the operational definitions of each key metric. Conduct a baseline measure for each metric.

The define six sigma phase makes sure you chose right project. Oftentimes, belts make the mistake of moving too quickly into Measure six sigma phase.

Instead of completing a detailed process capability study, a simple quick measure of the baseline performance would suffice. The baseline study helps decide if the project is a real project. Later, the team examines the measurement systems and process capability and then cleans up the baseline metric.

The Belt and Champion returns to the Project Charter to finalize all the fields based on the team's work. At this point, they decide whether to continue or not.

This is the most important decision point in the whole DMAIC roadmap and is often overlooked. The early commitment to conduct a Define Six Sigma Stage does not commit to working the project. Only at this juncture do you have enough information to make the call.

  • Milestone Plan for the project

  • Risk Management Plan

  • Detailed Work Plan for each Milestone


After the Belt, Champion, and Process Owner signs off on the Project Charter, the project moves into the Measure phase.


At this point, the Team  knows much about the process and the problems from insight gained through the Voice of the Customer. The team does not need to know why the problem is occurring as root cause comes later in the Analyze phase.  Instead, they understand  the problem(s).

After reviewing this article on the define six sigma phase, click here to see a six sigma overview.