Quality Toolbox by Nancy R. Tague
In the ten years since the first edition of this book was published, much has changed and much has stayed the same in quality improvement. The fundamental tools continue to be essential, but the value of other tools, especially statistical ones, has become more widely acknowledged. Thanks to Six Sigma, statistical tools such as hypothesis testing, regression analysis, and design of experiments, which have always been powerful tools for understanding and improving processes, are being used more regularly within quality improvement projects. A variety of previously lesser-known nonstatistical tools has also been taught by Six Sigma, lean, and other methodologies that have become widespread over the last ten years.
In updating this book, I have added 34 tools and 18 variations. Many of these tools existed when the first edition was published but were not yet used widely, or by the typical quality improvement team, or (I must confess) by me and my organization. Some of these new tools were used in other fields, such as the social sciences, but had not yet been adopted into quality improvement. As I wrote this edition, I discovered that I could spend years discovering the many varieties of quality improvement methodologies and the many creative applications of tools for improving work processes. At some point, however, I had to say “Enough!” and send the book to print.
Some of the added tools—for example, design of experiments and benchmarking— are too complex to be learned from the description in this book, but an overview is provided so that the reader will know when the tool is appropriate or even essential to the improvement process and be encouraged to use it, with expert assistance. Many of the new tools, however, are not difficult and can be learned easily from this book. That has always been the intent: to help team members and facilitators find and use the right tool at the right time in their improvement processes.
Another decade of Baldrige Award winners has continued to show us that there are many paths to excellence and that the tools and methods of quality improvement apply well to nonindustrial areas such as education and healthcare. This edition includes examples from a wider range of applications. Readers of the first edition asked for more case studies. The “Quality Improvement Stories” chapter has been expanded to include detailed case studies from three Baldrige Award winners.
A new chapter, “Mega-Tools: Quality Management Systems,” puts the tools into two contexts: the historical evolution of quality improvement and the quality management systems within which the tools are used.
The last ten years have also seen increasing use of computers, especially the prevalence of software for all sorts of quality improvement tasks and the explosion of the Internet. This edition recognizes the computer as a valuable assistant to remove drudgery from many of the tools’ procedures. However, it is critical to know the tool well enoug to set up the computer’s task and to understand and act on the results the computer provides, and this edition gives the reader that knowledge. Computers have taught us all how valuable icons can be for instant understanding.
This edition liberally uses icons with each tool description to reinforce for the reader what kind of tool it is and where it is used within the improvement process. Before beginning work on this second edition, I used a basic quality principle: I asked my customers (readers) what the first edition did well and what could be improved. The needs of both seasoned quality practitioners and those just beginning to learn about quality were kept in mind as the book was written. I hope the improvements to The Quality Toolbox delight you by exceeding your expectations!
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