Wednesday, June 6, 2012

How Quality Tools Present Value

So during my lunches i'm studying the Certified Manager of Quality/Organization Excellence Handbook in order to hopefully take my test for my CMQ/OE certification in the future.  I'm still in the pretty early stages and it's going to take a while since i essentially dedicate 1/2 hour per day to it.  Today i was reading about Change Management in the Leadership section and I came to a conclusion that, while it can't be generalized over all Quality Tools, i think holds for a large number of them. 

The generalization is that these tools maximize their value mainly for the participants in the creating of the forms and not so much for after-the-fact consumers of them.   I came to this conclusion while looking at an Interrelationship Digraph.   The interrelationship digraph is a method of representing multiple elements of a process and capturing how they interrelate.  Below is an sample of one that i randomly found via google.

sample interrelationship digraph (random)

The thing is, a picture like this probably has some value to everyone who understands it but the value is going to be on different scales.  When i look at many of the tools that make up quality, like the DFMEA, or a Pareto diagram or this diagram the way to maximize the quality of your graph by far is to be one of the participants that are in the room while you're working together to produce the content.  When you sit in a chair and actively contribute to the analysis that produces the diagram you're not only part of the discussion that draws each of the shapes on the diagram you're likely also coming up with some of the ideas yourself.   There's simply no better way to learn and understand than to be involved in the creation of the idea. 

As with any model, it's the reduction of a large pool of contextual and factual information into a simpler form.  But for a person who reviews the document later, if they were in that room, their brain still retains remnants of that context and can bring it back up.  To a person who wasn't in the room, even if they are highly involved in the subject matter, a diagram like the one viewed above loses a dimension.  I think that's a good way of looking at it, it really does flatten out to the 2 dimension you can capture on the page but for a person with a personal involvement to the creation, there's enough collateral information floating around in their thought processes that it really lifts up off the page to become multi-dimensional. 

In the example i've been using, the interrelationship digraph, in the text of my book, they showed how it was utillyzed to come to a number of conclusions about the best process to use in implementing a suggestion system.  As i read through the conclusions i realized that if you stepped away and tried to use the digraph itself to build your argument for the conclusion that it really didn't support it very well.  It pointed in the right direction, for sure, but it was only skeletal support at best.  However, by taking into account the user stories mentioned in the creation of the digraph, it really supported the conclusions well.  The book provided the context to bring the digraph into the extra dimension for the reader.  

So what am i trying to tell you?  Am i trying to tell you that you shouldn't review the outputs of Quality Tool investigations?  Certainly not.  What i'm trying to instill in people, managers especially, is that the higher the participation you put in utilizing these tools does not only result in a higher value for the output of the tool but it also results in a much higher personal value.   You will never get the value as a consumer of this output as a non-participant as you would for being there and contributing.   Don't sluff off those meetings because they're boring and your team can handle being a member, not only do you bring value to the process but you bring value to yourself. 

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