As hopefully many quality professionals are aware, this year’s World Quality Week theme focusses on ‘doing the right thing’. For me, there is some important groundwork that we should all be doing, and that is determining if our perception of the ‘right thing’ aligns with that of our organisation, as well as the expectations of stakeholders. I believe that the departmental purpose analysis tool, which evolved out of the total quality management era, helps facilitate this groundwork by asking the following questions:
- Are we doing the right things?
- Are we doing them right?
- Can we do them better?
Quality and problem-solving tools can and should be used to ensure that we do the right things and, as C. S. Lewis once alluded to, not just when people are looking.
Quality tools to help determine what is right
Quality function deployment, or the voice of the customer, is a great tool for identifying our customers and interested parties’ ‘take’, or perspective. In addition, there are a number of process tools to ensure that our quality conscience is clear by doing the right things.
A good inspection and test plan, although not necessarily labelled as a ‘tool’, is an ideal method for ensuring that suitable controls are in place wherever possible. An organisation should look at implementing governance processes like inspection and test plans, which if structured properly, should reduce the chances of someone doing the wrong thing. Alternatively, a poka-yoke-type approach to an activity can set parameters in a decision-making process that make it impossible for a wrong action or deed to be taken.
Sadly, there will always be a human element in the instances of doing the wrong thing. I suspect that if you employed an identifying and eliminating tool like an inter-relationship analysis on why we do the wrong things, the solution would likely be to ‘eliminate’ the human factor, which is a somewhat unpalatable outcome.
So, some solace can be found in the application of quality tools to, at the very least, identify what is – and that we are doing – the right thing. The Quality Tool Selector would be a good starting point. Although it is dynamic and arguably still in its embryonic stage, it has been developed to provide a compendium of quality-related tools to assist the quality professional in selecting the right tools for the right job, time, and environment.