Six Sigma Green Belt—Define Phase: Process Maturity Model

In the Define Phase of Six Sixma, defining the process that you are to improve is an essential first step in process management.  The Process Maturity model or Capability Maturity Model describes the five levels or stages in the evolution of process management, which are outlined below.

Level Process Characteristics Quality Level


Initial Processes not standardized, not documented, reactive to events. Processes chaotic, unstable. Ad hoc methods (workarounds), bottlenecks, quality is low, high cost of nonconformance (rework, defects, customer complaints, warranty).


Repeatable Processes are repeatable, with mostly consistent results, but still not documented. Focus on work unit, not individuals. On-time delivery, but mistakes sometimes made. Quality is good, but still sporadic. Reduced rework, but defects still occur that lead to customer complaints.


Defined Processes standardized, decomposed into work instructions, documented, and training offered for workers. Focus on entire business, not just work unit. Productivity growth seen. System in place to handle customer complaints effectively. Improvements in quality. Standardizing brings economics of scale into play.


Managed Metrics are used to monitor processes. Processes are now modularized, and capable of being adapted for new projects. Focus on connections with suppliers and customers. Variation reduced, lessons learned causes more efficient management. Quality high. Customer satisfaction high.


Optimizing Proactive improvement of processes, alignment with strategic goals of organization. Focus on connection between current operations and future strategic goals. Cost of nonconformance greatly reduced, benefits of superior quality exceed costs. Superior customer satisfaction creates repeat business.

There are different versions of this, but this gives the general idea of how processes are created, defined, managed, and then continuously improved upon or optimized. Even though Six Sigma’s full DMAIC methodology can probably only be used to its full extent after processes have been stabilized or standardized, some of its concepts such as process mapping can be used at the first two stages of process maturity listed above.

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