Organizations can use seven basic quality tools to monitor and control the progress of their projects. These tools are described in the PMBOK(r).
These tools can be used in projects of any size and across all industries. They have become a standard in quality management. For the PMP(r), candidates need to be able to explain what each of the quality tools do and when they can be used.
The 7 Basic Quality Tools (or “7QC Tools”) are, in short,:
Diagrams of Cause and Effect
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Let’s take a closer look at each one of these seven quality tools.
Flow charts help project managers understand the sequence and relationships between events. They allow you to visualize the relationships and dependencies among events. The flow charts are useful for helping the project team visualize complex processes in a simple manner.
The Flow Chart has three components: events, decision points, and arrows. To show their order or sequence, the arrow connects the events. Some events can occur simultaneously. The decision points, represented by diamonds and dividing events into 2 distinct paths, determine the path you take, and are indicated by the decision you make.
Project managers can create flow charts with tools like MS Visio. Here’s an example of a flow chart:
Histograms can be used to show frequency distributions or how often a value occurs in a data set.
Histograms are column charts with 2 variables. The goal is to measure one variable within the context of another.
If the distribution of points in the dataset is normal, the graph will look like a bell-curve with the most frequent occurrence being the median. The graph will look different depending on the data set if the distribution is not normal.
Here’s an example:
Download this Excel template to create a histogram of your project.
Cause and Effect Diagrams/ Fishbone Diagrams/ Ishikawa Diagram
This diagram was named “fishbone” due to its similarity to a fish skeleton. It was created by Kaoru Ishikawa (Japan), the father of quality circles.
Organizations need a methodological approach to identify the root cause of problems on projects and then correct it immediately. The “bandaid solution” of fixing the surface problem will only solve the root problem.
The main benefits of cause and effect diagrams include:
It encourages teamwork. Diagrams are often created in brainstorming sessions and rarely in silos.
It encourages structured analysis and thinking. The fishbone diagram must be MECE (Mutually Exclusive Collectively Exhaustive). It must contain all causes of the problem, and no one can duplicate them.
It allows the project team to see the root cause of the problem, and eliminate bottlenecks.
Here’s an example:
This free Excel template will help you create your own Ishikawa diagram.
4) Check Sheets
The most common of the 7 Basic Quality Tool is a check sheet or checklist. It is a form that is used to organize and collect data.
Before the digital revolution, checksheets were created with pen & paper. They are now created and maintained using MS Excel. It can also be used to extract more analysis through its graph and macro functions.
The owner of the checksheet must place a value next each task to ensure that the check sheet is complete. If he/she sees that a task is missing a value, the owner of the check sheet will promptly complete the task.
A quick and efficient way to ensure that all tasks are completed in a process is to use check sheets (it’s kind of like a to do list).
Here’s an example of a checksheet:
To get started creating your