Understanding Data – A Core Quality Skill

A critical skill of a quality professional (of any professional), and a fundamental part of Quality 4.0, is managing data — knowing how to acquire good data, analyze it properly, follow the clues those analyses offer, explore the implications, and present results in a fair, compelling way.

As we build systems, validate computer systems, create processes we need to ensure the quality of data. Think about the data you generate, and continually work to make it better.

I am a big fan of tools like the Friday Afternoon Measurement to determine where data has problems.

Have the tools to decide what data stands out, use control charts and regression analysis. These tools will help you understand the data. “Looks Good To Me: Visualizations As Sanity Checks” by Michael Correll is a great overview of how data visualization can help us decide if the data we are gathering makes sense.

Then root cause analysis (another core capability) allows us to determine what is truly going wrong with our data.

Throughout all your engagements with data understand statistical significance, how to quantify whether a result is likely due to chance or from the factors you were measuring.

In the past it was enough to understand a pareto chart, and histogram, and maybe a basic control chart. Those days are long gone. What quality professionals need to bring to the table today is a deeper understanding of data and how to gather, analyze and determine relevance. Data integrity is a key concept, and to have integrity, you need to understand data.

Lessons in Lean – Structured Problem-Solving: Rarely Given the Attention it Deserves

There is little argument regarding the critical role that structured problem-solving plays in a lean transformation. Besides the business results associated with solving problems, developing problem-solving skills increases learning, drives the desired change in thinking, and helps people more clearly understand how lean works as a system. With this said, however, it is amazing how little effort many organizations put into developing effective problem-solving skills. It seems like more time is spent on things like 5S, value stream mapping, and other tools that are generally considered easier to apply and less likely to be met with resistance.  As a result, transformation does not occur, improvements are not sustainable, and the big gains possible through lean thinking are never achieved.

Lessons in Lean: Structured Problem-Solving: Rarely Given the Attention it Deserves
by Greg Stocker

Good discussion on the importance of rigorous, sustained problem-solving as part of Lean initiatives. I think many of us have experienced this in our own organizations.

Utilizing problem solving tools in a structured way helps us better understand what is happening, how it is happening and most importantly, why it is happening. Armed with this understanding we can then engage in those improvements. Problem solving is key to getting those improvements because it allows us to discover why a problem is actually happening and not to just treat symptoms.

Problem Solving needs to reach a level of detail that accurately identifies an actionable cause that can then be addressed.

Quality is about teaching

One of the core skills for a quality professional is teaching. We teach skills, ways of thinking, methodologies. “Great Employees Want to Learn. Great Managers Know How to Teach” by Daniel Dobrygowski nicely covers some key points that every quality professional should think through as we go through out day advocating for quality in our organizations.

Define goals and communicate them clearly

Part of this is an evangelical role. Quality needs to be able to explain the quality goals, whether of the organization of a specific system or process. People in your organization want to know why they are doing things. Spend some time having clear talking points, be ready to give your pitch. Speak proudly of your quality systems. And be ready to understand how other’s goals intersect with your own.

Identify and build skills

Understand the skills necessary for quality, develop a plan to assess and build them and then execute to it. Knowledge management is crucial here.

Create opportunities for growth

Quality raises the prospects of all. Quality professionals who realize that our core job is building skills and growing the people in our organization benefit from teaching will drive continuous improvement and make folks happier using our systems. Growth is a reward loop, and people feeling they are rewarded by your system will want to use it more.

In short take each and every opportunity to use your interactions as a way to grow skills and capabilities. Quality will only grow as a result.