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A Toolbook for Quality Improvement and Problem Solving (contents)

Understanding the application

The Quality Toolbook > Making tools work > Understanding the application

Finding the objectives | Identifying the benefit | Understanding the constraints


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In order to choose the right tool for a task, the context of its use must first be understood. Determining the real objectives can help to find the actual constraints and benefits of solving a problem, and thus guide the tool resource to be used.

Finding the real objectives

In the same way that finding root causes can help to solve a problem, finding the real 'root objectives' can help in the understanding of a task. For example, a task which on the surface is to 'improve the way invoices are sent' may turn out to have a root objective of 'increase customer satisfaction' or 'reduce the time it takes to get payment from customers'. Taking time to discover these 'real objectives', for example by repeatedly asking 'Why?', can give clear directions for selecting and using an appropriate tool.

Identifying the benefit to be gained

If solving a problem can result in significant savings or gains, then it will be worth putting a lot of time and effort into it. On the other hand, it is not worth using a tool that requires much painstaking work, when the potential benefit does not merit this effort.

Understanding the constraints

The right quality improvement tool to use in any situation depends not only on the task to be completed, but also upon the constraints of the situation. These can be multiple and are not always obvious. They can fall into broad areas, often to do with time and resource.

Time constraints typically limit the overall time available to work on a problem. For example, if a problem must be solved within a one hour meeting, then there is no point in using a tool that will take several hours.

Resource constraints are often to do with the ability or availability of people. If people with particular knowledge or authority must be involved with the use of the selected tool, then they need to understand it. Resource also includes machines and other costs; for example, some tools are best applied through the use of a computer.



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