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A Toolbook for Quality Improvement and Problem Solving (contents)

Applications in Process Improvement

The Quality Toolbook > Applications for Tools > Applications in process improvement projects


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Within this process improvement framework, the broad activities of collecting, organizing and interpreting information in various forms appear regularly, reflecting the general approach of basing decisions and actions on a good understanding of the best available data. These three areas are expanded in a Tree Diagram in Fig. 1 and discussed further below in order to identify activities which may be addressed with specific tools.



Fig. 1. Applications for Tools


Collecting information

The first step in information-based decision making is to collect the best data available, whether numeric (quantitative) or textual (qualitative). If this data is made up of verifiable facts, then this will enable confident decisions to be made with it. Unfortunately, this certainty is not available in many problem situations where unverifiable information may be classified as 'opinion'.

Typically, opinions come from people who have a good working knowledge of the situation and they often give very useful and credible data. Sometimes, however, opinions may be affected by personal prejudice or pet theories and the vehemence with which opinions are voiced should not affect the impartiality of anyone using them.

A third situation exists where the opinions are deliberately creative, such as where possible solutions to a known problem cause are being devised.

The tools used to collect data must thus be able to cope with demands for different levels of certainty and assist in creating an appropriate environment for that collection.

Note: The Tool Finder chapter has a page on Tools for collecting information.

Structuring information

The effort required for collecting information varies greatly between different situations; some projects start with much available information whilst others require laborious data collection processes. Whichever way the information is acquired, it still must be organized into a format which enables appropriate decisions and actions to be identified.

The structuring of information is largely divided by the type of information being organized. Traditional quality control information is numeric, reflecting accurate measurement and enabling certain decisions to be made. In many other problem situations, the information is more qualitative and the working unit is typically a sentence or phrase describing some aspect of the problem. In this case, these chunks of information must be organized into a form which sheds further light on the problem.

The tools for organizing information thus need to convert what is often a mass of unintelligible data into a format where key decision points are easily identified and good decisions may be confidently made.

Note: The Tool Finder chapter has a page on Tools for organizing information.


Using information

The third stage is using the information found through collection and structuring, to make confident decisions.

The first stage of usage is to identify the actual decision points, and tools may help to highlight these. For example, a tool might highlight that several problems exist. This may be followed by selection of items to carry forward, from a list of possibilities. Finally, in order to ensure these happen as required, the implementation may be carefully planned, including identification and management of risks.

Note: The Tool Finder chapter has a page on Tools for using information.



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