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A Toolbook for Quality Improvement and Problem Solving (contents)

A Framework for Process Improvement

The Quality Toolbook > Applications for Tools > A Framework for Process Improvement

Basic framework | Loops | History | Variants


Identify | Define | Problem | Cause | Solution | Implement | Review | Follow-up


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There are probably as many process improvement frameworks as there are companies with improvement programs, although many tend to be very similar. The process improvement framework described here is not intended to replace your framework; its main aim is to provide a general context in which the applications for tools may be identified.

Basic framework

The basic framework for problem solving is as follows (click on boxes to go to each section detail):



Fig. 1. The Framework for Problem Solving



There are several situations where stages of the framework may need to be repeated, either within a stage where an assumption is proved to be incorrect, or as a follow-up action, as shown below.

The project may also have a widely varying size and scope, ranging from a one-person, one-hour project to a project with a multi-departmental team working for several months (or even years) on a significant problem. In each case, the framework can be used at the appropriate level.


The framework is based on what is often called the PDCA cycle (or Deming cycle after its popularizer or Shewart cycle, after its originator). This uses a repeating cycle of Plan, Do, Check and Act as a simple framework for a learning system, as in the diagram below. A key point about this cycle is that incremental actions are measured and compared with expectations in order to learn what does and does not work.



Fig. 2. Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA)


PDCA in the process improvement project framework is shown in Fig. 3. The 'plan' stage takes a large portion, because it is focused on reducing the chance of the implementation failing. In addition, each individual stage may follow a PDCA cycle. For example, potential causes are identified and then checked as valid before solutions are sought.



Fig. 3. PDCA and the Framework



There are many variants on the project framework, all of which cover more or less the same topics, although with some different levels of focus (for example, TOPS-8D includes a separate stage for implementing a short-term fix before looking at a longer-term solution).

Variants include:


The stages of the framework are described in greater detail in the following sections.


Identify | Define | Problem | Cause | Solution | Implement | Review | Follow-up


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