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Seven Basic Tools of Quality

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Identify when and why you would use these tools on an information technology project.

The old seven, the first seven, the basic seven are all terms used by quality pros to identify the seven basics tools for quality (Seven, n.d.). Cause-and-effect diagrams, control charts, run charts, scatter diagrams, histograms, Pareto charts, and flow charts can be used to plan projects more efficiently. The seven tools are defined below (Tague, 2004, p. 15):

Cause-and-effect diagram (also called Ishikawa or fishbone chart): Identifies many possible causes for an effect or problem and sorts ideas into useful categories.
Check sheet: A structured, prepared form for collecting and analyzing data; a generic tool that can be adapted for a wide variety of purposes.
Control charts: Graphs used to study how a process changes over time.
Histogram: The most commonly used graph for showing frequency distributions, or how often each different value in a set of data occurs.
Pareto chart: Shows on a bar graph which factors are more significant.
Scatter diagram: Graphs pairs of numerical data, one variable on each axis, to look for a relationship.
Stratification: A technique that separates data gathered from a variety of sources so that patterns can be seen (some lists replace "stratification" with "flowchart" or "run chart").

Explain, giving two examples, how the use of these tools can improve the quality of an information technology project.

These tools like any tool in a toolbox are only as effective as the craftsman using them. All seven have different uses much like a hammer and screwdriver. A few examples might be:

The cause-and-effect diagram can be used to play the "what if" game. If we do this, this will be the result. As a tool, this would be an effective way to plan future strategies.
A Pareto chart could be used to track data relating which factors are more important. This week's assignment was to build a Pareto chart to indicate which complaints customers complained the most about. From this data, a plan can be developed to reduce the issues identified.

Identify one difficulty of using each of these tools in an information technology project.

Tools are created for a specific purpose. As an aircraft maintenance technician, I learned early which tools were used for which job. This is also true in using the seven tools of quality. First, if you aren't using the correct tool, you will not get the desired results or worse, results that lead the team in the wrong direction. The team must also understand how to properly use the tools in the toolbox. The team should be asked if they have familiarity with the specific tools and training should be considered when necessary. Beyond using the correct tool, below are some problems associated with using each specific tool:

Cause-and-effect diagram - if the causes cannot be properly identified through the 5-whys, this method will not be effective.
Check sheet - If the project is small, enough data may not be available to establish a plot identifying trends
Control charts - If the project has a short duration, enough data will not be collected to establish a trend.
Histogram ­- If a history is unknown, this tool would not be effective enough to build a graph.
Pareto Chart - A type of histogram, would provide insufficient data if historical data is not available.
Scatter diagram - This tool would not work if the project only has one variable.
Flowchart - This type of chart requires a lot of data. If multiple data types are not available or if the user inputs the data incorrectly, the report will indicate false results.

Solution Preview

The seven basic tools for quality are important for organizations to use to ensure projects run smoothly with quality outcomes. The cause and effect diagram or fishbone chart does help to identify causes for a problem and sort ideas in a graphic manner. This can be helpful way to show everyone involved the problem, as well as get more people involved in solutions.
The check sheet is useful in its generic nature. It can be used to collect ...

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