The right tool makes all the difference
I'm a weekend warrior when it comes to home repair. I've done fairly basic projects including installing laminate flooring, laying tile, refinishing countertops, and building a work bench to name a few. What I've always found entertaining about the process of maintaining a home, minus the sucking sound I hear from my bank account, is the number of tools you need to buy to get a project done. It's not a project unless I've taken four trips to Home Depot in the span of three hours and purchased two different specialized tools and three different types of hardware. The items purchased are necessary to get the project done correctly.
Laying tile? You're going to need a wet saw.
Installing a closet organizer kit? You're going to need wall anchors.
The most interesting thing to me about these projects are the tools you pick up along the way that aren't absolutely necessary. The wants, not the needs. A multi-bit ratcheting screwdriver isn't necessary, but it's convenient and makes hardware installation much more efficient. This weekend I was reminded of another treasure I found doing project work in the past.
A magnetic arm band that can hold drill bits, screws, washers, and other loose hardware is clutch when you're on the top of a ladder installing a ceiling fan. It also makes you look like a professional to your spouse and kids that question your ability to screw in a light bulb correctly. Beware, it only makes you LOOK like a professional. Your incompetence will not stay hidden for long.
So what does this have to do with quality?
The Seven Basic Quality Tools (referred to as 7BQT going forward) for Quality are like your screw driver, hammer, and hack saw for home improvement. With the 7BQT, you can solve most quality problems and make significant improvements to your process. Sure, there may be some additional tools and approaches that can round out your quality toolbelt. They may be for specific applications or better suited to the problem at hand. But the 7BQT are the trusty tools that never leave a serious practitioners toolbelt and get the most use out of anything in their arsenal. As a reminder, the 7BQT are:
Cause and effect diagram - helps visualize the relationship between different elements and provides a structure for documenting effects (what happened) and brainstorming potential causes (why it happened).
Check sheet - a simple method of data collection that can help quickly identify your biggest opportunities for improvement. Check sheets can also be used for tracking positive things that happen that may be contributing to a good result. They can be used for high level data or to drill down into specifics.
Histogram - helps visualize the number of data points that fall within defined intervals. For example, the number of students that earned test grades from 30-40 points, 40-50 points, and up through 90-100 points.
Pareto chart - makes it obvious the top contributors to an issue both in quantity (number of occurrences) as well as contribution towards the whole (percent of occurrences).
Flow chart - helps visualize the different steps in a process. It can reveal inefficiencies and unclear steps. It can also clarify what’s expected and of whom. It can be especially helpful during problem solving sessions.
Scatter plot - helps visualize the relationship between two variables. Think of it like match.com for data - without the awkward dates. It will reveal the compatibility of two variables to each other.
Control chart - helps you understand if a process is in a state of statistical control. In other words, it shows you if the process is behaving like it did in the past and if it will behave predictably in the future.
Master the 7BQTs and you're well on your way to being a master craftsman of quality. However, even master craftsman can benefit from new and novel ways of doing things. Keep your eyes open for new tools that make the job more efficient and effective.
If you're interested in learning more about the Seven Basic Quality Tools and how to apply them, check out our E-book The 7 Basic Quality Tools.