Step 5: Data Collection

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Steps 1 through 4 of the Quality Improvement Process leads you through process simplification and getting lean. Little if any data is used. 

In these early steps all decisions are based on experience, qualitative knowledge of the process, and perceptions of the best way to do things.

Redundancy and waste were identified and eliminated thereby simplifying the process.

For the remaining steps in the quality improvement process, a more scientific approach is used to understand how the process is behaving. 

Steps 5 through 14 of the quality improvement process relies on statistical data which, when collected and analyzed, are used to make decisions about the process. In Step 5, you develop a data collection plan. 

The quality improvement objectives established in Step 1 are based on customers’ expectations and needs regarding the product or service produced by the process.

When you develop a data collection plan, you must first identify the characteristic of the product or service that have to be changed in order to meet the objective established in Step 1. 

Here's an example:

A local food court prepares coffee and sells it to patrons. The coffee is brewed in a separate urn in the kitchen, then transferred to an urn on the food line. Lately, customers have been complaining that the coffee is too cold when dispensed in the food line.

A team interested in improving this situation developed a quality improvement objective that the coffee would be delivered to customers at a temperature between 109 and 111 degrees Fahrenheit.

They then looked at their simplified flowchart to identify individual steps where measurements should be taken. Some members of the team thought that the water temperature should be measured as it boiled prior to the actual brewing of the coffee. Others thought that such a measurement might be easy to obtain, and even interesting, but it would not help them understand why cold coffee was found on the serving line.

Creating a Data Collection Plan

Quality Improvement Process

The key is to use process knowledge and common sense in determining where to take measurements. Ask - will the data collected at this point help us decide what to do to improve the process?

In our example the team investigated the process further and opted to take measurements of the temperature of the coffee at the urn on the serving line. 

Once a team determines what data to collect—and why, how, where, and when to collect it—they have the rudiments of a plan. 

To implement the plan, develop a data collection sheet. This collection sheet must include explicit directions on how and when to use it. Make it as user friendly as possible.

Collect data when, and only when, a plan is in place and a collection sheet has been developed, and the collectors have been trained in the procedures to use.

Quality Improvement Process

Step 1: Select the process to be improved and establish a well-defined process improvement objective. The objective can be established by the team or come from management.

Step 2: Organize a team to improve the process. This involves selecting the “right” people to serve on the team; identifying the resources available for the improvement effort, such as people, time, money, and materials; setting reporting requirements; and determining the team’s level of authority. These elements should be formalized in a written charter.

Step 3: Define the current process using a flow chart. This will generate a step-by-step map of the activities, actions, and decisions which occur between the starting and stopping points of the process.

Step 4: Simplify the process by removing redundant or unnecessary activities. It's likely that people may be seeing the process on paper in its entirety for the first time from Step 3. This can be a real "eye-opener" which will prepare them to take the first steps in improving the process.

Step 5: Develop a plan for collecting data and collect baseline data if it's not already being collected. This baseline data will be used as a "yardstick" later in the quality improvement process. This begins the
evaluation of the process against the process improvement objective established in Step 1. The flowchart in Step 3 is used to help determine who should collect data and where in the process data should be collected.

Step 6: Assess whether the process is stable. Create a control chart or run chart out of the data collected in Step 5 to gain a better understanding of what is happening in the process. Future actions of the team are dictated by whether special cause variation is found in the process.

Step 7: Assess whether the process is capable. Create a histogram to
compare the data collected in Step 5 against the process improvement objective established in Step 1. Usually the process simplification actions in Step 4 are not enough to make the process capable of meeting the objective and the team will have to continue on to Step 8 in search of root causes. Even if the data indicate that the process is meeting the objective, the team should consider whether it is feasible to improve the process further before going on to Step 14.

Step 8: Identify the root causes which prevent the process from meeting the objective. Use a cause-and-effect diagram or brainstorming to generate possible reasons why the process fails to meet the desired objective.

Step 9: Develop a plan for implementing a process change based on the possible reasons for the process’s inability to meet the objective set for it. These root causes were identified in Step 8. The planned quality improvement involves revising the steps in the simplified flowchart created after changes were made in Step 4.

Step 10: Modify the data collection plan developed in Step 5, if necessary.

Step 11: Test the changed process and collect data.

Step 12: Assess whether the changed process is stable . Same as Step 6, use a control chart or run chart to determine process stability. If the process is stable, the team can move on to Step 13; if not, you should return the process to its former state and plan another change.

Step 13: Assess whether the change improved the process. Using the data collected in Step 11 and a histogram, the team determines whether the process is closer to meeting the process improvement objective established in Step 1. If the objective is met, the team can progress to Step 14; if not, the team must decide whether to keep or discard the change.

Step 14: Determine whether additional process improvements are feasible. The team is faced with this decision following process simplification in Step 7 and again after initiating an improvement in Steps 8 through 13. In Step 14, the team has the choice of embarking on continuous process improvement by reentering the model at Step 9, or simply monitoring the performance of the process until
further improvement is feasible.

14 Step Quality Improvement Roadmap

Quality Improvement Process Roadmap

From Data Collection to Quality Improvement

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