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A Toolbook for Quality Improvement and Problem Solving (contents)

Stocking the toolkit

The Quality Toolbook > Making tools work > Stocking the toolkit

First and second seven tools | Useful resources


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When starting out, it is a good idea to have a basic toolkit, and then to add tools as applications occur.

First and second seven tools

A very common basic toolkit is known as the 'first seven tools':

  1. Cause-Effect Diagram
  2. Pareto Chart
  3. Check Sheet
  4. Scatter Chart
  5. Bar Chart and other graphs
  6. Histogram
  7. Control Chart

These are mostly easy to use and understand, although control charts usually take more effort (which is worth it). It has been said that 90% of all problems can be solved with these tools.

The first seven tools originated in manufacturing industries, and are most suited to problems where quantitative measurement is possible. When dealing with more uncertain and qualitative situations, selections from the 'second seven tools' can often be very useful:

  1. Relations Diagram
  2. Affinity Diagram
  3. Tree Diagram
  4. Matrix Diagram
  5. Matrix Data Analysis Chart
  6. Process Decision Program Chart
  7. Activity Network

Of these tools the Affinity Diagram, Relations Diagram and Tree Diagram are most common, and the Matrix Data Analysis Chart is so complex that some descriptions of the seven tools replace it with other tools, such as the Prioritization Matrix.

Other tools which are often useful early choices include Flowcharts or other ways of mapping processes, Prioritization Matrices or Voting for choosing what to do, and Brainstorming or Nominal Group Technique for divergent identification of new items.

As discussed above, it helps if you can get help and practice the use of the tool in a 'safe' environment before using it in real situations. Even then, be prepared for a few false starts.

Useful resources

When working with improvement tools, particularly in groups, there are a number of resources that can be used to make their application easier and more effective. These may include:

  • Comfortable meeting rooms provide an atmosphere more conducive to concentrated group work than an informal cluster around an office desk.
  • Large vertically mounted sheets of paper and appropriate marker pens can be used to make writing visible to a group of people. These are commonly known as flipcharts, easelcharts or butcher paper.
  • Blackboards or whiteboards are like flipcharts, with the added advantage of being erasable. A problem with these is that they cannot be removed and must be erased when full. Whiteboards with built-in photocopiers help to get around this limitation.
  • 3" x 5" cards add another dimension of flexibility, allowing individual 'chunks' of information to be moved around relative to others or some underlying structure. Pinboards can be used to hold cards in one position.
  • Adhesive memo notes, such as 3M's Post-its, are a less durable alternative to 3" x 5" cards, but do not need a pinboard to keep them in one place.



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