32 ISE Magazine | www.iise.org/ISEmagazine
After days of listening to black
belts pontificate, Daniel Mekis
likes to relax in a hotel bar with
a beer, friends, a grand piano and
croon about DMAIC.
For most folks, that venture into
Frank Sinatra-land would be the end. The
sweet refrains of define, measure, analyze,
improve and control would dissipate into the
hotel rafters. But unlike other process im-
provement experts, Mekis, a lean Six Sigma
black belt and regional assistant plant manager
for Granite Construction in San Francisco,
has a friend, Ben Sobaje.
And this friend has a home studio.
Which led to their smash hit “The DMAIC
Song” – at least if you consider 14,000 You-
Tube views smashing, and why shouldnt
we? After all, that’s not exactly what Mekis
and Sobaje expected when they harmonized
“Control your world/Create a plan you can
“I remember thinking ‘I wonder if any-
body will even watch this,’” said Sobaje, who
owns the Nerd by Night information tech-
nology contracting company in Aptos, Cali-
Their wonderings were answered with a
black belt level of support, which definitely
gratified the creators, Mekis noted.
“I remember thinking after all the views
that it’s finally cool to be a black belt,” he said.
“Some project managers and some craft team members men-
tioned how good the production was.
The pair belt out the words to the tune of “A Whole New
World” from the Disney movie Aladdin. They picked the song
because, well, everybody knows it.
What everybody (except for industrial and systems engi-
neers, black belts, etc.) doesn’t know, Mekis and Sobaje sing
“DMAIC is cool/A structured approach I never knew.” De-
ning and measuring the problem, knowing the goal and ob-
jectives, using data derived from lean tools such as VSMs (value
stream maps) and time studies, analyzing, asking questions and
piloting solutions can drop the cost “so much it’ll soon be free.
Then, their big conclusion:
“Control your world (control your world)
Sustain the gains (sustain the gains)
DMAIC is … a whole new world for you and me.
Or, as Mekis quipped, “If you listen to black belts for three
straight days and end the day enjoying beers with your friends,
thats what happens!
Mekis narrated the song’s genesis by explaining how black
belts conduct and attend numerous training sessions through-
Mekis, Sobaje do DMAIC their way
A song about solving problems brings a whole new world of lyrics
to continuous process improvement
By Michael Hughes
Daniel Mekis belts out “The TIMWOOD Song.”
Ben Sobaje does post-production on a process improvement song.
October 2018 | ISE Magazine 33
out the year. Mekis, Luke Peterson and Logan Cantrell, fellow
black belts who also work for Granite, have teamed up to write
funny songs in the past. While in Dallas after a hard few days
of training, they sat around the hotel, watched a baseball game
and came up with “The DMAIC Song” in about an hour and
a half.
Then they commandeered a grand piano in the hotel bar for
the inaugural performance.
“We thought, ‘Oh man, we have got to record this some-
time,’” Mekis said.
That’s where Sobaje’s home studio came in. The IT-
executive-by-day-producer-by-night has recorded about 100
songs. A lot of times, he said, the concept is good, but the lyrics
are not a great match to the cadence of the song. So the pair
tweaked four or five lines to, as the black belt world would
chant, make it flow.
“My contributions were three words, production and pass-
able vocals,” Sobaje said.
The reaction was awesome. As one senior manager at Logi-
tech wrote: “When you started to sing, I was smiling from my
heart and couldn’t stop my joy during the whole song. You are
a genius.” That manager thinks problem-solving teams could
use the ditty as a cheer song.
The cascade of positivity, some coming from project man-
agement veterans who were “a bit rough around the edges,
had them back in the studio a few weeks later.
Their latest, “The TIMWOOD Song,” took on the seven
wastes of lean. Other than tackling time, inventory, move-
ment, waiting, over-processing, overproduction and defects,
their newest ode includes a killer kazoo solo by Mekis, more
hilarity and more beer, all to the tune of “L-O-V-E,” the fa-
mous serenade by Nat King Cole.
And as long as people keep watching, they might just keep
the canticles of praise coming. Stay tuned, fans of process im-
provement musicals (or should that be musical process im-
provement?) – 5S might be up next.
Daniel Mekis (left) and Ben Sobaje have teamed up for a
pair of odes to process improvement – “The DMAIC Song”
and “The TIMWOOD Song” – and plans for more tunes are
in the pipeline.
Lean Six Sigma green and black belt practitioners loved
“The DMAIC Song.”
On the web
“The DMAIC Song”
“The TIMWOOD Song”