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Concept Screening

Quality Tools > Tools of the Trade > 56: Concept Screening

 

When making decisions about alternatives systems that may be used in various situations in the workplace, a problem that is often faced is that there are many different people with many different opinions. This can result in long meetings and protracted arguments that lead to unsatisfactory or compromise choices.

 

Concept Screening uses a simple matrix to help you choose between a number of options, as in the table below, and is typically done with a representative team of cross-functional people.

 

Criteria

Base option

Option 1

Option 2

Option 3

Material cost

0

-1

+1

-1

Reliability

0

+1

-1

-2

Production cost

0

-2

+3

+3

Production time

0

+1

-1

+1

Total

0

-1

+2

+1

 

The first step in using Concept Screening is to identify the criteria you will use and can itself generate significant debate. This is usually a good sign, especially if it surfaces underlying issues that can be discussed and resolved. There may be anything up to 20 criteria, although you should be careful not to hide the trees of important criteria in the wood of less important ones.

 

A base option (or ‘baseline concept’) is then chosen, against which all other options will be compared. This is a very helpful process, as it is much easier to compare two options than allocate a stand-alone score to a single option. The base option may be a competitor product, an industry benchmark or other standard.

 

The team then examines each option (or ‘concept’) and compares it against each criterion to give it a relative score. The scoring scheme for this may simply be +1, 0 and -1 to show ‘better, same, worse’ or may have values to indicate how much better or worse it is.

 

Each option then has its score totalled to show its overall score relative to the base option. If one option scores much higher, then this is clearly likely to be the best choice. However, before rejecting other options, you can consider how they may be improved. For example a low-scoring choice may have its score significantly increased at relatively low cost.

 

A consideration that should always be held in the mind with this approach is that it is a ‘garbage in – garbage out’ process, and poor criteria or inaccurate scoring will give a poor result.

 

A major benefit of this that should not be forgotten is the impact on teamwork. A structured approach, no matter what it is, can help bring the team together and create a more equitable and more rationally considered decision than an unstructured argument.

 

Next time: Four Fields Mapping

 

This article first appeared in Quality World, the journal of the Institute for Quality Assurance

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