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A Toolbook for Quality Improvement and Problem Solving (contents)

Key needs of tools

The Quality Toolbook > Tools for Applications > Key needs of tools

Ease of use | Reliability of results


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There are two key needs that can be identified for quality improvement and problem-solving tools:

  1. Ease of use: Enabling anyone to make good use of the tools.
  2. Reliability: To give confident, repeatable results.

Ease of use

Quality improvement and problem-solving tools need to be usable by anyone in their normal working environment, and not just highly trained experts. Although it can be useful to know why the tool works, it is most important that people who use the tools know how to apply them and interpret the results. In practice, the usability of a tool is likely to be as great an influence on the decision to use it as the reliability of the results that may be achieved.

Another important factor in usability is the ease with which people can learn to use the tools. If this hurdle cannot be surmounted, then again the tool is not likely to be used, even if its eventual application is easy and its results are of significant value.

The reliability of the results gained from using a tool is also related to its ease of use. This is because easy tools give less scope for misunderstanding or misuse.

Many problem-solving situations require that people work as a team, either because of the amount of work to be done, or because individuals have specific skills or knowledge that is required. In such circumstances, tools should help people to work together towards the solution (teamwork is discussed in more detail in another chapter).

Reliability of results

Ad hoc problem solving, such as how to open a stuck door, can produce good results and is appropriate in many situations. However, in many situations there is a need for greater confidence that an effective solution will be found. A key reason for using tools is to provide this confidence.

There are two related areas of reliability in the use of tools. Firstly, their application needs to be predicable and controllable, so different people using the tools under different circumstances may get comparable results. Secondly, the tools should give results which can be confidently interpreted, enabling good decisions to be made.

To some extent, the need for reliability can work against the need for ease of use, such as when a good measurement is required quickly. In such cases the degree of reliability that is required must be understood and an appropriate tool selected.


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