What is Quality?

I know i am opening the can of worms again on trying to define as what is quality. This discussion is as old as the term quality. We are still unable to define if this is  a noun or an adjective.
This is a term which has a variety of definitions. In fact if you ask 10 people in a group  and get ready for at least 15 unique answers.
If you look at the popular dictionaries you will find the following definitions
Oxford Dictionary : 1. the standard of something as measured against other things of a similar kind; the degree of excellence of something: 2. a distinctive attribute or characteristic possessed by someone or something:
Merriam-Webster’s : 1. A peculiar and essential character 2. an inherent feature 3. A degree of excellence 4. A distinguishing attribute.
These definitions are not of help if you are looking as a quality professional.
Also the Gurus on this subject define it differently Now let us see what the Gurus on the subject matter say.
Anon  “Common sense set down on paper”
Joseph M. Juran: “Fitness for use.” Fitness is defined by the customer.
“Quality” means those features of products which meet customer needs and thereby provide customer satisfaction”
“Quality” means freedom from deficiencies-freedom from errors”
Subir Chowdhury: “Quality combines people power and process power.”
Philip B. Crosby: “Conformance to requirements.”
Robert Pirsig: “The result of care.”
Genichi Taguchi, with two definitions:

a. “Uniformity around a target value.” The idea is to lower the standard deviation in outcomes, and to keep the range of outcomes to a certain number of standard deviations, with rare exceptions.
b. “The loss a product imposes on society after it is shipped.” This definition of quality is based on a more comprehensive view of the production system.

Peter Drucker: “Quality in a product or service is not what the supplier puts in. It is what the customer gets out and is willing to pay for.”
W. Edwards Deming: concentrating on “the efficient production of the quality that the market expects,”
Gerald M. Weinberg: “Value to some person”.
let us see what other say on this
ISO 9000: “Degree to which a set of inherent characteristics fulfills requirements.”
Six Sigma: “Number of defects per million opportunities.”
American Society for Quality: “A subjective term for which each person has his or her own definition. In technical usage, quality can have two meanings: a. The characteristics of a product or service that bear on its ability to satisfy stated or implied needs; b. A product or service free of deficiencies.”
JAA (Joint Aviation Authorities – Currently EASA) : “The totality of features and characteristics of a product or service that bear on its ability to satisfy stated or implied needs” 
Now let me attempt my own
“Quality can be defined as the best and continuous effort of an organization or individual, to prove their capabilities to meet the expectations of those who are interested in it”
I tried to cover many of the definitions above. The interested parties can be the Organization themselves, their customers, the regulators everybody is interested parties.
I covered the needs by using the word “to meet the expectations”. customer wants value for money, or safety organization expects Profits, less defects, no complaints etc. the regulators want compliance and conformance.

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Originally posted 2011-03-18 17:09:00.

How to set improvement goal for Six Sigma Project

Improvement-goalThis is a general question asked especially when Six Sigma approach is used for Improvement is what is supposed to be my improvement goal for Six Sigma Project. In cases where the project is taken up for Problem Solving, the goal setting is straight forward. In this case the goal is to solve the problem. (or Meet the Requirements)

However, it is very tough in case of Improvement Projects. Various methods are available for setting the goal. However, there is some pre work to be done in this case.

1. Collect all the metrics which are generated f
rom the process you want to improve, (Example – Delivery rate, Quality, Defects, Customer Satisfaction, Effort ……)
2. Prioritize and identify the Primary Metric. Primary could be anything where you can improve upon. (Start with what is important to customer)
3. Baseline the Primary Metric and its relation with the secondary metrics. (This is needed to know what will happen when your primary metric moves and optimize the goal setting.)

Now the billion dollar question ” How much we should set the target” “How much we can Improve” ” How much improvement we Need”. 
There are no standard set of rules for setting improvement goals. However, below are few guidelines.

  1. As a minimum, the goal shall be set in such a way that the difference between the current performance and the goal is statistically significant.
  2. The goal must be in line with the business expectations and the improvement shall be a breakthrough one instead of incremental one. a 5% improvement is incremental but 50% improvement is Breakthrough
  3. The goal shall take you towards the benchmark for the same process performance. Ideally the benchmark need to be considered is the industry best practice.
  4. The goal need to cover the gap between the entitlement and the current performance by atleast 70%. Entitlement is the performance which is expected for the investments already made or the best capability of the process internally.
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Originally posted 2015-10-04 19:50:00.

Getting the Ideas from the team and building a solution – Nominal Group Technique (NGT)

The nominal group technique is used to generate ideas from team in Problem identification, solution generation and decision-making. It can be used for teams of any size but ideally limited between 5 to 9 members. This number is ideal to get diversity and easy to find consensus among the team. Nominal group technique is particularly useful when few of the team members are more vocal than others. Generally a facilitator leads the team and manages the interaction. the steps are below.
  • The Facilitator introduces the team and presents the problem to the team after explaining the purpose and procedure during the meeting
  • All the team members are advised to create their ideas silently and individually on a sheet of paper. No consultation or discussion allowed
  • The Facilitator then requests and records all the ideas from all the members in a sequential way till all the ideas are exhausted. ( No discussion is allowed till all the ideas are exhausted). This will allow all the team members to present their ideas.
  • Building on the existing ideas is permitted during the presentation
  • The ideas are then evaluated and discussed among the team. Duplicate ideas are eliminated or merged with the team consensus. Seeking other information from the idea generator is allowed. Facilitator ensures that focus is not concentrated on single or very few ideas.
  • Voting for the best solution is then conducted to get the group consensus using the multi voting in the following way.
  • All the members rank the final list of ideas according to their choice silently.
  • The total votes are tallied and ideas with lowest votes are eliminated. This process can be repeated till best solution is generated.

One of the main advantages of nominal group technique is that the team gets equal chance to take part and force the silent participants to be active. Second major advantage is that this method generates more ideas than an interactive session.

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Originally posted 2014-05-26 16:50:00.

Pareto Principle – A tool to focus your efforts on the Vital Few

Pareto Principle - A tool to focus your efforts on the Vital Few 1The Pareto Principle, named after the Italian economist Wilfred Pareto is also called famously as 80-20 rule. As far back in 1906 Pareto observed that 80% of the land in Italy is actually owned by just 20% of the people. Much later, Joseph M. Juran popularized this observation in his book titled “The Quality Control Handbook”and called this as the law of Vital Few. He observed that you could massively improve the quality by resolving the tiny fraction of the problems.
This law can be applied beyond the resolving the quality problems. In fact it can be applied across all spheres of human life. It is a powerful and fundamental principle which can be used to improve even personal productivity.
While Juran observed that 80% of the quality problems are caused by 20% of the problems.
Some of the examples of this application in various businesses are below.

  • 80% of the profits actually come from 20% of the customers or 20% products
  • 80% of the time spent by the customer services is on 20% of customer complaints
  • 80% of customer complaints originate from 20% of the causes.
  • 80% of your business productivity loss results from 20% of the causes
  • 20% of your staff is responsible for 80% of the business outputs and results
  • 80% of the value in the business is generated by 20% of the processes

In the personal life also this can really be applied. In-fact i have tried this myself over a long weekend and noted the time spent by few friends on a weekends. We decided to list the weekend activities which are pending for some time. We have listed the time taken for closing these actions. In fact it was only 16% of the time spent on these long pending activities.

I would stress the fact of time spent on vital few activities are only 20% or less. We need to unlearn the 50-50 rule and start scanning the environment. You tend to find the non-essentials and focus on the essentials.

Adoption of this rule really changes the way we think, work and do business as well. Imagine a situation where you spend 20% of time in office and produce 80% results, or focus your effort on 20% of business and scale it up by 80%.

Some of the great examples of successful application can be seen from Warren Buffet. Early in his career he decided it would be impossible for him to focus on hundreds of investments and decided the focus on Vital Few businesses he knew of. In fact at some point, Buffet owned 90% of his health from very few investments. It’s not only about working smarter, what is really important is working smartly on the right things.

You can use this rule to revolutionize your business and the limit is SKY.
The only point is simple focus on the vital few.

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Originally posted 2014-04-18 04:56:00.

Risk Management – II – Risk Occurrence and Response

The Picture above depicts typical response needed for the occurrence of Risk at various project stages and impact on the Project Goal.risk management Before getting in to the response needed, few definitions here.

Risk – An undesirable situation or circumstance that has both a likelihood of occurring and a potentially negative result. This is typically a likely future event based on various project variables and not yet occurred. The impact is not being experienced yet.
Risk Mitigation – Risk Mitigation plan include the
techniques followed to avoid, reduce and control the chance of occurrence of the likely future event called risk. These may include changes to the requirements, actions to reduce the occurrence such as assignment of more responsibilities etc.

Contingency Plan – A contingency plan is essentially the planned actions in the event of failure of mitigation. All efforts are put on the reduce the chance of occurrence, but the despite best efforts, the risk may occur. The contingency plan depicts, the course of action when the risk occurs. This is essentially the plan B.
Issue Management – Issue is an event or condition that has already occurred and has negligible or little impact on the goals. The impact is negligible as a work around possible and the project goal can still be achieved. The issue management will depict the actions to be taken in these condition to bring normalcy to the program.

Risk Management  is the collective term used to describe the actions taken to avoid the risk or decrease the impact of the risk

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Originally posted 2014-02-23 11:11:00.

Basic Statistics – III – Introduction to Probability

Basic Statistics - III - Introduction to Probability 2 Probability is a concept which is simple but powerful if applied correctly. A Very Simple example is that when there is coin tossed up,there are two outcomes possible. HEAD and Tail. If the coin has no bias, both the out comes are equally possible. We say that there is a possibility of 50% (0.5) each. Let us extend this to another commonly used game. If we throw a dice, there is a possibility of one out of the six outcomes. The dice will have 6 sides with numbers 1-6 on each side. Here the Probability is 1/6. Meaning each side has a 16.666% (0.01666) chances. In both these cases, assume that each outcome is an event, and  chance of occurrence is called probability.
There are many definitions to Probability.
The simplest is that “The measure of likelihood of occurrences“.The classical definition of probability is stated as below.
If there are “n” Exhaustive, Mutually exclusive and equally likely events, and “m” of them are favorable to an event “E” then the probability of occurrence of event “E”, denoted by Pr[E] is 

Pr[E] = m/n
Here N need to fulfill 3 conditions 1 – Mutually Exclusive (The events are Mutually Exclusive if there is no possibility of them occurring together. Ex : Head and Tail of a same coin.),  2- Collectively Exhaustive (All the possible events are to be taken into account. ex: in the coin it is 2 ) and 3 – Equally Likely ( there shall not be any bias towards any event.)
Statistical (Empirical) definition of Probability:
If an experiment is repeated many times, under identical conditions, then the limit of the ratio of number of times that an event happens(m) to the total number of trials(n), as the umber of trials increases indefinitely, is called as probability of happening of the event. 
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Originally posted 2014-02-23 11:10:00.

Basic Statistics – II What is a Variable and What are variable types

Variable is a characteristic, number, or quantity that increases or decreases over time, or takes different values in different situations. The variables are the basic units used in statistics for measuring , collecting and analyzing. Variables can be classified in to different categories depending on the usage at the point of analysis. The different variable types are

Dependent and Independent Variable types 

An independent Variable can take any value and can be controlled and measured. These are the inputs used for the study. These are also called factors.
A Dependent Variable cannot be controlled. it can only be measured. these are generally output of the changes done to the independent variables. The value of the dependent variable is dependent on the relation on the independent variable. These are called as responses.
It is notable that the dependent and independent variables are not fixed. a dependent variable in one experiment or study may become factor in a different experiment or study. 
For Example, The heat generated is dependent on the amount of fuel burnt. (in this case, heat is a dependent variable and amount of fuel is an independent variable. 
In a different experiment, the time taken for completely evaporate a substance is dependent on the amount of heat supplied. in this case, the time taken is the dependent variable and amount of heat is an independent variable. It is notable here that amount of heat is dependent in one experinment and independent in another experiment.

Qualitative and Quantitative Variable types

Variables are also classified according to the type of the data they represent. This classification depends on the type of the value associated with the variable.
A Qualitative variable describes the characters in a non numerical form. They are also called as categorical variables. Examples of the values which a categorical variable can take are Good, Bad, Red, Blue, Light, heavy, etc. The variables are result, color, weight etc. This is also called as nominal variable.
A Quantitative variable has a numerical value associated with it. This would be a counted or a measured value. These are also called as Numerical variables. Examples of the values a variable are in numbers, 0, -1, 1,2 etc. the variables are height, weight etc. 
Notable that the same variable can be a qualitative or quantitative depending upon the value it takes. for example, if height is give a measured value such as 1.72 Meters, height is a quantitative variable. If the same height is expressed in a comparative value such as tall, short, height is a Qualitative Variable.

Discrete and Continuous Variables.

A discrete variable is something which is an output of counting. This can take only a set of values including negative and fractional values. Examples for a discrete variable are Number of people, charge on electron, etc…. . As a thumb rule, if there a prefix “number of” to the variable, it can be treated as a discrete variable.
A continuous variable can take any value within a specified range. This is generally a measured value. examples of continuous variables are speed, height, distance etc.
Discrete and continuous variables are subset of Numerical variable types

Binomial, Nominal and Ordinal Variables.

A binomial variable can take only two possible values. There is no third option available. For example, result of a test (pass or Fail), Result of tossing a coin (head or tail) etc
A Nominal variable can take several un-ordered values. Examples such as color red, blue, green), Type of bank account( savings, checking etc).
An ordinal variable can have any of the several ordered values. There is clear distinction between the order of the values which are assigned example such as height (tall, short), or response in a survey of satisfaction (excellent, good, poor, etc)
Binomial, Nominal and Ordinal variables are subset of the Qualitative variable types
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Originally posted 2014-01-01 18:25:00.