Which project structure should we choose?

Which project structure should we choose?

Read Storms consultant Marcus Sørensens article about ‘Which project structure should we choose?’

When companies decide to go from a reactive problem solving process to a proactive problem solving process, they often need to decide which project structure should be used. The decision can be based on various factors;

  • Do we have any requirements regarding a specific structure for problem solving from our customers?
  • Do we already have a structure in the company which we can use?
  • What is best practice in our industry?

A various number of project structures are already available, but our work with different clients has showed that especially two structures have been adapted with great success; the DMAIC and 8D structure.


Project structures


The DMAIC structure is the abbreviation of Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve and Control, referring to the five steps in the structure (fig 1).

Which project structure should we choose?

Figure 1 DMAIC structure (Click on the picture to see it more clearly).


Behind the DMAIC philosophy is Motorola, who established the structure in 1986 as a quality development program.



The 8D structure was created in 1974 by the U.S. Department of Defense as a result of poor supplier performance. It was then issued as a Military Standard (MIL-STD 1520, Corrective Action and Disposition System for Non confirming Material), but was abolished later in 1995.


Which project structure should we choose?


Figure 2 8D structure (click on the figure to see it more clearly)


DMAIC or 8D – what is the difference?

The two structures are in many ways identical and serve the same purpose of problem solving. They both offer a step-by-step approach and some well defined phases. This if often very helpful to the project management, e.g. planning and following progress.


However, especially two differences separate the structures; the interim containment actions and the tools offered in each phase.


In the DMAIC structure, no actions related to interim containment actions are mentioned, while in 8D it is mentioned as a separate step. The interim containment actions are especially relevant if you act reactively, and if your customer is already affected by the problem you are trying to solve.


Another important difference is the applied tools and their link to the models. While 8D only offer a structure, DMAIC offer a complete toolbox for each phase. The tools offered in the DMAIC structure is a mix of concepts and statistical tools for e.g. analysis and optimization. Besides being “just” a project structure, DMAIC is part of the Six Sigma management philosophy, which has a very data driven focus. Because of this, DMAIC is not only serving as a structure, but is often part of a data driven culture and mindset and can be used as a tool for facilitating the change to become a fact orientated company.


The third difference is the availability of international standards. While 8D is not covered by any such standards, a variety of international standards support the DMAIC structure (e.g. ISO13053-1 and ISO13053-2).

When deciding which structure to use, the table below can be used as a guideline, depending on the company’s requirements.


Provides project structureYesYes
Provides containment action evaluationYesNo
Provides concepts and toolsNoYes
Data drivenNoYes
ISO standards availableNoYes

Table 1 8D vs DMAIC


As it can be seen in the table, the DMAIC structure is providing a wider scope compared to 8D, and if adding the containment action evaluation to DMAIC, the structure may be the most useful structure for working with proactive problem solving.


So, to the question regarding the use of either 8D or DMAIC, the short answer would be; use the structure requested by the customer. If the customer has no specific request, the DMAIC would maybe be the preferred structure as it also combines the tools and data driven mindset.

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