What are the 7 basic quality tools, and how can they change your business for the better?
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What are the 7 basic quality tools?
- Check sheet (tally sheet)
- Cause and effect diagram (fishbone or Ishikawa diagram)
- Pareto chart (80-20 rule)
- Scatter diagram
- Control chart (Shewhart chart)
The ability to identify and resolve quality-related issues quickly and efficiently is essential to anyone working in quality assurance or process improvement. But statistical quality control can quickly get complex and unwieldy for the average person, making training and quality assurance more difficult to scale.
Thankfully, engineers have discovered that most quality control problems can be solved by following a few key fundamentals. These fundamentals are called the seven basic tools of quality.
With these basic quality tools in your arsenal, you can easily manage the quality of your product or process, no matter what industry you serve.
Learn about these quality management tools and find templates to start using them quickly.
Where did the quality tools originate?
Kaoru Ishikawa, a Japanese professor of engineering, originally developed the seven quality tools (sometimes called the 7 QC tools) in the 1950s to help workers of various technical backgrounds implement effective quality control measures.
At the time, training programs in statistical quality control were complex and intimidating to workers with non-technical backgrounds. This made it difficult to standardize effective quality control across operations. Companies found that simplifying the training to user-friendly fundamentals—or seven quality tools—ensured better performance at scale
7 quality tools
Stratification analysis is a quality assurance tool used to sort data, objects, and people into separate and distinct groups. Separating your data using stratification can help you determine its meaning, revealing patterns that might not otherwise be visible when it’s been lumped together.
Whether you’re looking at equipment, products, shifts, materials, or even days of the week, stratification analysis lets you make sense of your data before, during, and after its collection.
To get the most out of the stratification process, consider which information about your data’s sources may affect the end results of your data analysis. Make sure to set up your data collection so that that information is included.
Quality professionals are often tasked with analyzing and interpreting the behavior of different groups of data in an effort to manage quality. This is where quality control tools like the histogram come into play.
The histogram represents frequency distribution of data clearly and concisely amongst different groups of a sample, allowing you to quickly and easily identify areas of improvement within your processes. With a structure similar to a bar graph, each bar within a histogram represents a group, while the height of the bar represents the frequency of data within that group.
Histograms are particularly helpful when breaking down the frequency of your data into categories such as age, days of the week, physical measurements, or any other category that can be listed in chronological or numerical order.
3. Check sheet (or tally sheet)
Check sheets can be used to collect quantitative or qualitative data. When used to collect quantitative data, they can be called a tally sheet. A check sheet collects data in the form of check or tally marks that indicate how many times a particular value has occurred, allowing you to quickly zero in on defects or errors within your process or product, defect patterns, and even causes of specific defects.
With its simple setup and easy-to-read graphics, check sheets make it easy to record preliminary frequency distribution data when measuring out processes. This particular graphic can be used as a preliminary data collection tool when creating histograms, bar graphs, and other quality tools.
4. Cause-and-effect diagram (also known as a fishbone or Ishikawa diagram)
Introduced by Kaoru Ishikawa, the fishbone diagram helps users identify the various factors (or causes) leading to an effect, usually depicted as a problem to be solved. Named for its resemblance to a fishbone, this quality management tool works by defining a quality-related problem on the right-hand side of the diagram, with individual root causes and sub-causes branching off to its left.
A fishbone diagram’s causes and subcauses are usually grouped into six main groups, including measurements, materials, personnel, environment, methods, and machines. These categories can help you identify the probable source of your problem while keeping your diagram structured and orderly.
5. Pareto chart (80-20 rule)
As a quality control tool, the Pareto chart operates according to the 80-20 rule. This rule assumes that in any process, 80% of a process’s or system’s problems are caused by 20% of major factors, often referred to as the “vital few.” The remaining 20% of problems are caused by 80% of minor factors.
A combination of a bar and line graph, the Pareto chart depicts individual values in descending order using bars, while the cumulative total is represented by the line.
The goal of the Pareto chart is to highlight the relative importance of a variety of parameters, allowing you to identify and focus your efforts on the factors with the biggest impact on a specific part of a process or system.
6. Scatter diagram
Out of the seven quality tools, the scatter diagram is most useful in depicting the relationship between two variables, which is ideal for quality assurance professionals trying to identify cause and effect relationships.
With dependent values on the diagram’s Y-axis and independent values on the X-axis, each dot represents a common intersection point. When joined, these dots can highlight the relationship between the two variables. The stronger the correlation in your diagram, the stronger the relationship between variables.
Scatter diagrams can prove useful as a quality control tool when used to define relationships between quality defects and possible causes such as environment, activity, personnel, and other variables. Once the relationship between a particular defect and its cause has been established, you can implement focused solutions with (hopefully) better outcomes.
7. Control chart (also called a Shewhart chart)
Named after Walter A. Shewhart, this quality improvement tool can help quality assurance professionals determine whether or not a process is stable and predictable, making it easy for you to identify factors that might lead to variations or defects.
Control charts use a central line to depict an average or mean, as well as an upper and lower line to depict upper and lower control limits based on historical data. By comparing historical data to data collected from your current process, you can determine whether your current process is controlled or affected by specific variations.
Using a control chart can save your organization time and money by predicting process performance, particularly in terms of what your customer or organization expects in your final product.
Some sources will swap out stratification to instead include flowcharts as one of the seven basic QC tools. Flowcharts are most commonly used to document organizational structures and process flows, making them ideal for identifying bottlenecks and unnecessary steps within your process or system.
Mapping out your current process can help you to more effectively pinpoint which activities are completed when and by whom, how processes flow from one department or task to another, and which steps can be eliminated to streamline your process.
Learn how to create a process improvement plan in seven steps.
How to improve process visualization
In this article we’ll talk about how to improve visualization, even if you are not a visual presentation expert.
Which process improvement methodology should you use?
Struggling to decide which process improvement methodology to use? Learn about the top approaches—Six Sigma, Lean, TQM, Just-in-time, and others—and the diagrams that can help you implement these techniques starting today.
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7 Powerful Problem-Solving Root Cause Analysis Tools
The first step to solving a problem is to define the problem precisely. It is the heart of problem-solving.
Root cause analysis is the second important element of problem-solving in quality management. The reason is if you don't know what the problem is, you can never solve the exact problem that is hurting the quality.
Manufacturers have a variety of problem-solving tools at hand. However, they need to know when to use which tool in a manner that is appropriate for the situation. In this article, we discuss 7 tools including:
- The Ishikawa Fishbone Diagram (IFD)
- Pareto Chart
- Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA)
- Scatter Diagram
- Affinity Diagram
- Fault Tree Analysis (FTA)
1. The Ishikawa Fishbone Diagram IFD
The model introduced by Ishikawa (also known as the fishbone diagram) is considered one of the most robust methods for conducting root cause analysis. This model uses the assessment of the 6Ms as a methodology for identifying the true or most probable root cause to determine corrective and preventive actions. The 6Ms include:
- Mother Nature- i.e., Environment
Related Training: Fishbone Diagramming
2. Pareto Chart
The Pareto Chart is a series of bars whose heights reflect the frequency or impact of problems. On the Chart, bars are arranged in descending order of height from left to right, which means the categories represented by the tall bars on the left are relatively more frequent than those on the right.
Related Training: EFFECTIVE INVESTIGATIONS AND CORRECTIVE ACTIONS (CAPA) Establishing and resolving the root causes of deviations, problems and failures
This model uses the 5 Why by asking why 5 times to find the root cause of the problem. It generally takes five iterations of the questioning process to arrive at the root cause of the problem and that's why this model got its name as 5 Whys. But it is perfectly fine for a facilitator to ask less or more questions depending on the needs.
Related training: Accident/Incident Investigation and Root Cause Analysis
4. Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA)
FMEA is a technique used to identify process and product problems before they occur. It focuses on how and when a system will fail, not if it will fail. In this model, each failure mode is assessed for:
- Severity (S)
- Occurrence (O)
- Detection (D)
A combination of the three scores produces a risk priority number (RPN). The RPN is then provided a ranking system to prioritize which problem must gain more attention first.
Related Training: Failure Mode Effects Analysis
5. Scatter Diagram
A scatter diagram also known as a scatter plot is a graph in which the values of two variables are plotted along two axes, the pattern of the resulting points revealing any correlation present.
To use scatter plots in root cause analysis, an independent variable or suspected cause is plotted on the x-axis and the dependent variable (the effect) is plotted on the y-axis. If the pattern reflects a clear curve or line, it means they are correlated. If required, more sophisticated correlation analyses can be continued.
Related Training: Excel Charting Basics - Produce Professional-Looking Excel Charts
6. Affinity Diagram
Also known as KJ Diagram, this model is used to represent the structure of big and complex factors that impact a problem or a situation. It divides these factors into small classifications according to their similarity to assist in identifying the major causes of the problem.
7. Fault Tree Analysis (FTA)
The Fault Tree Analysis uses Boolean logic to arrive at the cause of a problem. It begins with a defined problem and works backward to identify what factors contributed to the problem using a graphical representation called the Fault Tree. It takes a top-down approach starting with the problem and evaluating the factors that caused the problem.
Related Training: Fault Tree Analysis: A Risk Management Tool
Finding the root cause isn't an easy because there is not always one root cause. You may have to repeat your experiment several times to arrive at it to eliminate the encountered problem. Using a scientific approach to solving problem works. So, its important to learn the several problem-solving tools and techniques at your fingertips so you can use the ones appropriate for different situations.
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What are the 7 Basic Quality Tools?
Understand the 7 quality tools: your key to quality control.
The 7 basic Quality Tools, often known as the 7 QC, are graphical techniques proven effective for troubleshooting quality-related issues. These techniques are predominantly employed in continuous improvement initiatives such as Six Sigma, Lean, and Total Quality Management.
Quality Tools: Enhancing Your Problem-Solving Capabilities
The application of these seven tools can simplify your problem-identification processes, make understanding trends more accessible, and facilitate overall process improvement across diverse business environments. The benefits of using these tools are manifold, including enhanced problem-solving capabilities, improved data analysis, streamlined communication within teams, process optimization, and ultimately, greater customer satisfaction.
Essential Tools for Quality Control Professionals
If you're a quality control professional, project manager, or part of a process improvement team, these seven quality tools are indispensable. They include:
- Histogram: A frequency distribution chart.
- Pareto Chart: A bar graph identifying factors with the most significant cumulative effect.
- Cause and Effect Diagram (Fishbone or Ishikawa diagram): Identifies potential causes for a problem.
- Check Sheet: A structured, pre-designed form for efficient data collection and analysis.
- Control Chart: Monitors process performance over time.
- Scatter Diagram: Shows the relationship between two variables.
- Flow (Run) Chart or Stratification: Separates data from different sources to identify patterns.
Learn More about the 7 QC Tools
To further your understanding of the 7 QC Tools, consider exploring resources like "The Quality Toolbox" by Nancy R. Tague. For comprehensive learning, Gemba Academy offers online training on all of these seven quality control tools. Our courses cover not only the theoretical aspects but also guide you on practical applications in various project and quality improvement contexts.
Seven quality control tools course.
Quality Toolbox Book
7 Basic Tools of Quality for Process Improvement
Japan is known worldwide for its quality products and services. One of the many reasons for this is its excellent quality management. How did it become so? Japan has Dr. Kaoru Ishikawa to thank for that.
Postwar Japan underwent a major quality revolution. Companies were focused on training their employees in statistical quality control. But soon they realized that the complexity of the subject itself could intimidate most of the workers; so they wanted more basic tools.
Dr. Kaoru Ishikawa, a member of the Japanese Union of Scientists and Engineers (JUSE), took it to his hands to make quality control easier for everyone – even those with little knowledge of statistics – to understand. He introduced the 7 basic tools of quality. They were soon adopted by most companies and became the foundation of Japan’s astonishing industrial resurgence after World War 2.
This post will describe the 7 basic quality tools, how to use them and give you access to templates that you can use right away.
Quality Tools: What Are They?
How can teams and organizations use the 7 basic quality tools, cause and effect diagram, scatter diagram, check sheets.
- Control chart
- Pareto chart
The 7 basic tools of quality, sometimes also referred to as 7 QC tools – represent a fixed set of graphical tools used for troubleshooting issues that are related to quality.
They are called basic quality tools because they can be easily learned by anyone even without any formal training in statistics. Dr. Kaoru Ishikawa played the leading role in the development and advocacy of using the 7 quality tools in organizations for problem-solving and process improvement.
The 7 basic quality tools include;
- Cause-and-effect diagram
- Scatter diagram
- Check sheet
The 7 quality tools were first emphasized by Kaoru Ishikawa a professor of engineering at the University of Tokyo, who is also known as the father of “Quality Circles” for the role he played in launching Japan’s quality movement in the 1960s. During this time, companies were focused on training their employees in statistical quality control realized that the complexity of the subject could intimidate most of the workers; hence they opted for simpler methods that are easy to learn and use. 7 basic tools of quality were thus incorporated company-wide.
Quality tools are used to collect data, analyze data, identify root causes, and measure results in problem-solving and process improvement. The use of these tools helps people involved easily generate new ideas, solve problems, and do proper planning.
- Structured approach: They provide a systematic approach to problem-solving and process improvement, ensuring that efforts are well-organized and focused.
- Data-driven decision making: The tools enable data collection, analysis, and visualization, empowering teams to make informed decisions based on evidence.
- Improved communication and collaboration: Visual representations and structured tools facilitate effective communication and collaboration among team members, leading to shared understanding and alignment.
- Problem identification and prioritization: The tools help identify and prioritize problems or improvement opportunities, enabling teams to allocate resources efficiently and address critical issues first.
- Continuous improvement: By using these tools, teams can establish a culture of continuous improvement, as they provide a framework for ongoing monitoring, analysis, and refinement of processes.
7 Basic Quality Tools Explained with Templates
The 7 quality tools can be applied across any industry. They help teams and individuals analyze and interpret the data they gather and derive maximum information from it.
Flowcharts are perhaps the most popular out of the 7 quality tools. This tool is used to visualize the sequence of steps in a process, event, workflow, system, etc. In addition to showing the process as a whole, a flowchart also highlights the relationship between steps and the process boundaries (start and end).
Flowcharts use a standard set of symbols, and it’s important to standardize the use of these symbols so anyone can understand and use them easily. Here’s a roundup of all the key flowchart symbols .
- To build a common understanding of a process.
- To analyze processes and discover areas of issues, inefficiencies, blockers, etc.
- To standardize processes by leading everyone to follow the same steps.
Real-world examples of usage
- Documenting and analyzing the steps involved in a customer order fulfillment process.
- Mapping out the workflow of a software development lifecycle.
- Visualizing the process flow of patient admissions in a hospital.
Enhances process understanding, highlights bottlenecks or inefficiencies, and supports process optimization and standardization efforts.
How to use a flowchart
- Gather a team of employees involved in carrying out the process for analyzing it.
- List down the steps involved in the process from its start to end.
- If you are using an online tool like Creately , you can first write down the process steps and rearrange them later on the canvas as you identify the flow.
- Identify the sequence of steps; when representing the flow with your flowchart, show it from left to write or from top to bottom.
- Connect the shapes with arrows to indicate the flow.
Who can use it?
- Process improvement teams mapping and documenting existing processes for analysis.
- Business analysts or consultants analyzing workflow and process optimization opportunities.
- Software developers or system designers documenting the flow of information or interactions in a system.
To learn more about flowcharts, refer to our Ultimate Flowchart Tutorial .
A histogram is a type of bar chart that visualizes the distribution of numerical data. It groups numbers into ranges and the height of the bar indicates how many fall into each range.
It’s a powerful quality planning and control tool that helps you understand preventive and corrective actions.
- To easily interpret a large amount of data and identify patterns.
- To make predictions of process performance.
- To identify the different causes of a quality problem.
- Analyzing the distribution of call wait times in a call center.
- Assessing the distribution of product weights in a manufacturing process.
- Examining the variation in delivery times for an e-commerce business.
Provides insights into process performance and variation, enabling teams to target areas for improvement and make data-driven decisions.
How to make a histogram
- Collect data for analysis. Record occurrences of specific ranges using a tally chart.
- Analyze the data at hand and split the data into intervals or bins.
- Count how many values fall into each bin.
- On the graph, indicate the frequency of occurrences for each bin with the area (height) of the bar.
- Process engineers or data analysts examining process performance metrics.
- Financial analysts analyzing expenditure patterns or budget variances.
- Supply chain managers assessing supplier performance or delivery times.
Here’s a useful article to learn more about using a histogram for quality improvement in more detail.
This tool is devised by Kaoru Ishikawa himself and is also known as the fishbone diagram (for it’s shaped like the skeleton of a fish) and Ishikawa diagram.
They are used for identifying the various factors (causes) leading to an issue (effect). It ultimately helps discover the root cause of the problem allowing you to find the correct solution effectively.
- Problem-solving; finding root causes of a problem.
- Uncovering the relationships between different causes leading to a problem.
- During group brainstorming sessions to gather different perspectives on the matter.
- Investigating the potential causes of low employee morale or high turnover rates.
- Analyzing the factors contributing to product defects in a manufacturing process.
- Identifying the root causes of customer complaints in a service industry.
Enhances problem-solving by systematically identifying and organizing possible causes, allowing teams to address root causes rather than symptoms.
How to use the cause and effect diagram
- Identify the problem area that needs to be analyzed and write it down at the head of the diagram.
- Identify the main causes of the problem. These are the labels for the main branches of the fishbone diagram. These main categories can include methods, material, machinery, people, policies, procedures, etc.
- Identify plausible sub-causes of the main causes and attach them as sub-branches to the main branches.
- Referring to the diagram you have created, do a deeper investigation of the major and minor causes.
- Once you have identified the root cause, create an action plan outlining your strategy to overcome the problem.
- Cross-functional improvement teams working on complex problems or process improvement projects.
- Quality engineers investigating the root causes of quality issues.
- Product designers or engineers seeking to understand the factors affecting product performance.
The scatter diagram (scatter charts, scatter plots, scattergrams, scatter graphs) is a chart that helps you identify how two variables are related.
The scatter diagram shows the values of the two variables plotted along the two axes of the graph. The pattern of the resulting points will reveal the correlation.
- To validate the relationship between causes and effects.
- To understand the causes of poor performance.
- To understand the influence of the independent variable over the dependent variable.
- Exploring the relationship between advertising expenditure and sales revenue.
- Analyzing the correlation between employee training hours and performance metrics.
- Investigating the connection between temperature and product quality in a production line.
Helps identify correlations or patterns between variables, facilitating the understanding of cause-and-effect relationships and aiding in decision-making.
How to make a scatter diagram
- Start with collecting data needed for validation. Understand the cause and effect relationship between the two variables.
- Identify dependent and independent variables. The dependent variable plotted along the vertical axis is called the measures parameter. The independent variable plotted along the horizontal axis is called the control parameter.
- Draw the graph based on the collected data. Add horizontal axis and vertical axis name and draw the trend line.
- Based on the trend line, analyze the diagram to understand the correlation which can be categorized as Strong, Moderate and No Relation.
- Data analysts exploring relationships between variables in research or analytics projects.
- Manufacturing engineers investigating the correlation between process parameters and product quality.
- Sales or marketing teams analyzing the relationship between marketing efforts and sales performance.
Check sheets provide a systematic way to collect, record and present quantitative and qualitative data about quality problems. A check sheet used to collect quantitative data is known as a tally sheet.
It is one of the most popular QC tools and it makes data gathering much simpler.
- To check the shape of the probability distribution of a process
- To quantify defects by type, by location or by cause
- To keep track of the completion of steps in a multistep procedure (as a checklist )
- Tracking the number of defects or errors in a manufacturing process.
- Recording customer complaints or inquiries to identify common issues.
- Monitoring the frequency of equipment breakdowns or maintenance needs.
Provides a structured approach for data collection, making it easier to identify trends, patterns, and areas for improvement.
How to make a checksheet
- Identify the needed information.
- Why do you need to collect the data?
- What type of information should you collect?
- Where should you collect the data from?
- Who should collect the data?
- When should you collect the data?
- How should you measure the data?
- How much data is essential?
Construct your sheet based on the title, source information and content information (refer to the example below).
Test the sheets. Make sure that all the rows and columns in it are required and relevant and that the sheet is easy to refer to and use. Test it with other collectors and make adjustments based on feedback.
- Quality inspectors or auditors who need to collect data on defects or issues.
- Process operators or technicians responsible for tracking process parameters or measurements.
- Customer service representatives who record customer complaints or inquiries.
The control chart is a type of run chart used to observe and study process variation resulting from a common or special cause over a period of time.
The chart helps measure the variations and visualize it to show whether the change is within an acceptable limit or not. It helps track metrics such as defects, cost per unit, production time, inventory on hand , etc.
Control charts are generally used in manufacturing, process improvement methodologies like Six Sigma and stock trading algorithms.
- To determine whether a process is stable.
- To monitor processes and learn how to improve poor performance.
- To recognize abnormal changes in a process.
- Monitoring the variation in product dimensions during a manufacturing process.
- Tracking the number of customer complaints received per day.
- Monitoring the average response time of a customer support team.
Enables real-time monitoring of process stability, early detection of deviations or abnormalities, and prompt corrective actions to maintain consistent quality.
How to create a control chart
- Gather data on the characteristic of interest.
- Calculate mean and upper/lower control limits.
- Create a graph and plot the collected data.
- Add lines representing the mean and control limits to the graph.
- Look for patterns, trends, or points beyond control limits.
- Determine if the process is in control or out of control.
- Investigate and address causes of out-of-control points.
- Regularly update the chart with new data and analyze for ongoing improvement.
- Production supervisors or operators monitoring process performance on the shop floor.
- Quality control or assurance personnel tracking variation in product quality over time.
- Service managers observing customer satisfaction levels and service performance metrics.
The Pareto chart is a combination of a bar graph and a line graph. It helps identify the facts needed to set priorities.
The Pareto chart organizes and presents information in such a way that makes it easier to understand the relative importance of various problems or causes of problems. It comes in the shape of a vertical bar chart and displays the defects in order (from the highest to the lowest) while the line graph shows the cumulative percentage of the defect.
- To identify the relative importance of the causes of a problem.
- To help teams identify the causes that will have the highest impact when solved.
- To easily calculate the impact of a defect on the production.
- Analyzing customer feedback to identify the most common product or service issues.
- Prioritizing improvement efforts based on the frequency of quality incidents.
- Identifying the major causes of delays in project management.
Helps focus improvement efforts on the most significant factors or problems, leading to effective allocation of resources and improved outcomes.
How to create a Pareto chart
- Select the problem for investigation. Also, select a method and time for collecting information. If necessary create a check sheet for recording information.
- Once you have collected the data, go through them and sort them out to calculate the cumulative percentage.
- Draw the graph, bars, cumulative percentage line and add labels (refer to the example below).
- Analyze the chart to identify the vital few problems from the trivial many by using the 80/20 rule . Plan further actions to eliminate the identified defects by finding their root causes.
- Quality managers or improvement teams looking to prioritize improvement initiatives.
- Project managers seeking to identify and address the most critical project risks.
- Sales or marketing teams analyzing customer feedback or product issues.
What’s Your Favorite Out of the 7 Basic Quality Tools?
You can use these 7 basic quality tools individually or together to effectively investigate processes and identify areas for improvement. According to Ishikawa, it’s important that all employees learn how to use these tools to ensure the achievement of excellent performance throughout the organization.
Got anything to add to our guide? Let us know in the comments section below.
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FAQs about 7 Basic Quality Tools
Quality problems in an organization can manifest in various forms and affect different areas of operations.
- Product defects: Products may have defects or non-conformities that deviate from quality specifications, leading to customer dissatisfaction, returns, or warranty claims.
- Service errors: Service errors can occur when services do not meet customer expectations, such as incorrect billing, delays in delivery, or inadequate customer support.
- Process inefficiencies: Inefficient processes can lead to delays, errors, or rework, resulting in increased costs, decreased productivity, and customer dissatisfaction.
- Poor design or innovation: Inadequate product design or lack of innovation can lead to products that do not meet customer needs, lack competitive features, or have usability issues.
- Supplier quality issues: Poor quality materials or components from suppliers can affect the overall quality of the final product or service.
- Ineffective quality management systems: Inadequate quality management systems, such as lack of quality standards, processes, or documentation, can contribute to quality problems throughout the organization.
The basic quality improvement steps typically follow a systematic approach to identify, analyze, implement, and monitor improvements in processes or products.
- Clearly articulate the problem or identify the area for improvement.
- Collect relevant data and information related to the problem.
- Analyze the collected data to identify patterns, root causes, and opportunities for improvement.
- Brainstorm and generate potential improvement ideas or solutions.
- Assess the feasibility, impact, and effectiveness of the generated improvement ideas.
- Develop an action plan to implement the chosen solution.
- Continuously monitor and measure the results of the implemented solution.
- Based on the monitoring results, evaluate the effectiveness of the implemented solution.
- Once the improvement is successful, document the new processes, best practices, or standard operating procedures (SOPs).
- Iterate through the steps to continuously improve processes and products.
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Amanda Athuraliya is the communication specialist/content writer at Creately, online diagramming and collaboration tool. She is an avid reader, a budding writer and a passionate researcher who loves to write about all kinds of topics.
7qc tools for problem solving | what are 7 qc tools.
7QC Tools for Problem Solving technique are generally used in manufacturing, Non-manufacturing industries, and service sectors to resolve problems.
Download 7-QC Tools Template/ Format
Definition and History:-
The 7QC Tools (Also Known as “Seven Basic Tools of Quality”) originated in Japan. First emphasized by Kaoru Ishikawa, a professor of engineering at Tokyo University and the father of “quality circles”. These tools are used to solve critical quality-related issues. You can use the 7 basic tools of quality to help understand and solve problems or defects in any industry. With the help of Excel, you can plot the graphs / Diagram to resolve the daily quality problems. I will help you to understand the basic ideas and knowledge of 7QC Tools and its usage.
For solving problems seven QC tools are used as Pareto Chart, Cause & Effect Diagram, Histogram, Control Charts, Scatter Diagrams, Graphs/Process Flow Diagram and Check Sheets. All these tools are important tools used widely in the manufacturing field to monitor the overall operation and continuous process improvement. seven QC tools are used to find out the Root cause of the problem and implement the action plan to improve the process efficiency.
7QC tools are:-
- Pareto Chart
- Cause and effects diagram
- Scatter Diagram
- Control Chart
- Check Sheet
- PFD(Process Flow diagram)/Graphs
Benefits of 7QC Tools:-
- Improve management decisions.
- Simple and easy for implementation
- Continuous quality improvement
- Quick results
- Enhances customer satisfaction through improved quality product
- Reduce cycle time and improve efficiency
- Control cost of poor quality / Cost of quality
- Reduce defects and optimize the production
- Reduce variations and improve the quality of Products
- Encouragement of teamwork and confidence
- Enhancement of customer focus.
A Pareto Chart is named after the Italian Economist Vilfredo Pareto. It is a type of chart which contain both bars and a line graph, where the individual values represent in the bar graph in descending order (largest to smallest value) and the cumulative percentage is represented in the line graph.
Click here to know “How to Plot Pareto Chart In Excel”.
Understanding the Pareto Chart principle (The 80/20 rule):
The Pareto principle is also known as the 80/20 rule derived from the Italian Economist Vilfredo,
The principle is understood as –
20% of the input creates 80% of the results
80 % of the effects come from 20% of the causes.
In the above Pareto Chart[Figure-1], we can see the cumulative% in the line graph, According to the Pareto Chart principle 80/20 rule, the 80% cumulative in the line graph is filling under the low hardness, which means BH, Damage, SH and Low hardness defers are coving the 80% of contribution over total types of defects. And those 80 % contributions were due to the 20% caused.
The histogram is one of the 7QC tools, which is the most commonly used graph to show frequency distribution.
Helps summarize data from a process that has been collected over a period of time.
Click here to know the “How to Plot Histogram in Excel:
Fish-bone Diagram/Cause and Effects /Ishikawa Diagram:-
Cause and Effects Diagram looks like a fish that’s why it’s called Fish-bone Diagram, also called Ishikawa diagram.
It’s a visualization tool for categorizing the potential causes of a problem in order to identify its root causes.
CFT members are identifying the potential cause through the Brainstorming process of individuals and together.
The Potential cause is related w.r.t below as-
The scatter diagram graphs pairs of variable data, with one variable on each axis, to look for a relationship between them. If the variables will correlate, the points will fall along a line or curve. The better the correlation, the points will strongly cluster to the line. It’s is generally gives the idea of the correlation between the variables.
In the above figure-4, the positive and Negative correlation is only due to the direction, and in both the correlation, points are clustered to the line but in the last figure in figure-4, Points are not clustered to the line but spread over the X and Y-axis.
A line on a control chart is used as a basis for judging the stability of a process. If the observed points are beyond a control limit then it is evidence that special causes are affecting the process.
Control Chart can use to monitor or evaluate a process.
There are basically two types of control charts, those for variable data and those for attributes data.
Click here to know more about the Control Chart and Statistical Process Control.
Benefits: -Higher Quality, Lower Unit Cost, Higher effective Capability, etc.
Selection of Control Charts based on Attribute / Variable Type Data:-
Calculation of Average and Range Charts-
Click here to know the details.
The formula of Attributes Control Chart:-
Click here to know the formula and calculation.
Nomenclature of Control Chart:-
Check Sheet is a simple document used for collecting data in real-time. Variable or Attribute type data collects through a Check sheet. Check sheet generally helps to make the decision on a facts basis and to collect the data for analysis and evaluation.
Sample check Sheet:-
Process Flow diagram/Graphs:-
A process flow diagram is a diagram uses to indicate the general flow of plant processes and equipment.
The 7QC tools are the most commonly used tool in the industry for improvement, by the help of the 7QC tools you can understand the process/activities, analyze the data, and interpret the result/graph/output.
Which are the 7 QC tools?
The seven QC tools are
- Fishbone diagram
- PFD(Process Flow diagram)/Graphs /Stratification
why why analysis methodology | 5-why analysis step by step guide
Rework vs Repair |IATF Requirement for Control of Reworked/ Repaired Product
How to plot the Run Chart in Minitab
Run Chart Example | Concept & Interpretation of Result with Case Study | Industrial Example:
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The Author is an Expert in Quality Management System, Operation Management, Business Excellence, Process Excellence, IATF 16949, ISO 9001, ISO 14001, ISO 45001, ISO 17025, TQM, TPM & QA. He is Certified as an IA for ISO 9001, IATF 16949, ISO 14001, ISO 17025 & ISO 45001 Standard.
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7 Basic Quality Tools for Improvement | Templates Attached
The 7 basic quality tools are also known as ‘The Old Seven’ and ‘The First Seven.’ Kaoru Ishikawa, a professor at Tokyo University, is considered the father in quality and emphasized these quality tools.
These 7 basic tools are a set of graphical representations with statistical techniques. These are very helpful in solving queries related to quality. One can apply these tools after simple training. These tools helped Japan during the quality revolution.
Though these tools are old but are effective with the same popularity, quite interestingly, The Deming Chain (Reducing costs through process improvement), Six Sigma , Lean Project Management (waste reduction), etc., use these tools for improvement.
Cause and Effect (Fish Bone) Diagrams
Flow charts, checksheets, pareto charts (80/20 rule), control charts (shewhart chart), scatter diagrams, when to use the 7 qc tools, faq’s about 7 qc tools, featured posts, what are basic quality tools.
Nowadays, several organizations make sure to use these tools. This helps to monitor and ultimately manage quality initiatives.
In today’s market, we see many types of controlling tools. But the old seven tools for quality control that are very common as a different tool is used for different problem-solving techniques. Hence, you have to juggle and find the right one for any particular issue on a project or process.
Being a manager , if you are familiar with and know well how to implement these tools, then life is quite easy – on the job, at least!
These tools are namely;
- Cause and Effect Diagrams
- Control Charts or Shewhart Chart
Let us see one by one in detailed scenarios;
The Father in ‘Quality Circles’ Professor K. Ishikawa, was the first to develop the Cause and Effect Analysis in the 1960s.
Brainstorming is done, and then a diagram is developed after all of the possible causes of a problem. In this way, a thorough analysis is done of any specifics of the situation. This method is best when dealing with complicated issues. It is also known as the ‘fishbone diagram’ as the final shape looks like a fish Skelton.
How to Draw Fish Bone Diagram
The following steps are to follow to get a fishbone diagram;
Step – 1: Identify the problem you are trying to solve
Step – 2: Write it on the head of the fish
Step – 3: Write the significant causes of the problem on the spine of the fish
Step – 4: Make categories of people, processes, materials, and equipment.
Step – 5: Do brainstorming and find a group familiar with the problem
After you are done with all the above steps, analyze, modify if required in categories, and resolve the identified problem.
Make sure that there may many causes as your project like the client, management, environment, etc. The purpose of this fishbone diagram is to identify all the reasons behind an effect.
How to Use Fish Bone Diagram
Analyzing the diagram will help you to find out;
- To Identify the problem.
- To work out the major factors.
- Identify possible causes.
Note: You can download the template late from here. Cause and Effect Diagram Template Downloaded and modified from PowerPoint School .
Everyone is familiar with flow charts nowadays, as an organization’s hierarchy is the most common example of any flow chart. It gives the idea of reporting structure inside any organization.
But, here, we are going to discuss flow charts that are used for process flows. This tool is the best to find out any bottleneck in a process flow. It shows how a process looks like and going through the steps. These charts also help to improve the process as well.
Benefits of Flow Chart
- The Simplest of all flowcharts
- Use for planning new processes or examining an existing one.
- To keep people focused on the overall scenario.
- Displays what happening at each step
- Indicates what happens when non-standard events occur
- Graphically display any wasted effort.
How to Draw a Flow Chart
- First of all, enlist all major steps.
- Write them across the top of the chart.
- Now enlist sub-steps under each in the order they occur.
- Write the process step inside each symbol.
- Connect the Symbols with arrows showing the direction of flow
Information is collected in quantitative form. We listed down all the important checkpoints in a tabular form in checksheets and kept updating the status. This helps to understand the progress pattern and helps to find the causes of defects.
As an example, the Project management institute may track the number of questions by the student, per domain, per minute is answering. This will help them make a test that can be solved in a time-effective manner and is logical. If students take a particular question to crack, they will be eliminated from the database to make it more exam-proficient.
In the same pattern, other processes can be dealt with for improvement.
Benefits of Check Sheets
- The best tool for collecting and organizing measured data
- The data collected helps for input for other quality tools.
- Collect data in a systematic and organized manner
- It helps to determine the source of the problem
- Helps to facilitate classification of data (stratification)
Karl Pearson introduced a bar graph representing the frequency distribution on each bar with time. A histogram helps to see the density of data. Ultimately this distribution leads to find the causes of major incidents.
Difference between Histogram & Pareto Charts
A histogram is a bar chart representing each attribute in a column and its frequency occurring as the column’s height.
A Pareto chart always has an arc for the cumulative percentage of the issues. A Pareto helps to prioritize corrective actions.
Example of a Histogram
I will explain here all with an example, although it is quite clear from the histogram. You can see which is basically a delay analysis for the delay on a different project. If you see, data was collected from all over the project—segregated, keeping in view these top categories.
Once data was uploaded in Microsoft Excel, histogram peaks clearly show the procurement department’s major issue. It does not mean that no other one is hampering the situation but a clear indication that the top management will work on procurement issues.
Hence, a histogram helps to prioritize the issues to present to the top management to deal with as soon as possible.
There is a limitation to draw a histogram. You should have enough data to draw and drive the results. It may mislead if you don’t have enough data.
A Pareto chart is a bar graph of data showing the largest number of frequencies to the smallest and a cumulative percentage, as shown in the graph below.
In this example, we look at the number of product defects in each of the listed categories.
When you look at the number of defects from the largest to the smallest occurrences, it is easy to prioritize improvement efforts.
How to Draw a Pareto Chart
To draw a Pareto chart is quite simple. The major part is collecting the right data. Pareto Chart Template
Steps to make a Pareto Chart
In the below chart, I need to find the major root cause of my quality issues related to the steel industry during the casting process.
You can download the TemplateTemplate and follow along the below steps;
- First of all, I collected the data from Quality logs.
- On MS Excel, I entered the data in high to low order.
- It also calculated the cumulative percentage.
- Then draw the graph from the insert section.
- Segregate the data as per their categories.
- Analyzed and found Vital few and Trivial many.
When to Use Pareto
Pareto Charts can be valuable when
- Analyzing data about the frequency of problems in any process
- You have many issues and need to find the most significant.
- Analyzing major causes
- To make a report for top management.
As explained in Histogram, the Pareto charts should not be mixed with those. Pareto charts have a cumulative percentage curve as well, categorized from high to low level.
Pareto charts are like a thumb rule where you want to get an instant result to take action.
A control chart is a statical chart, also called Shewhart Chart, named after Walter A. Shewhart.
This is one of the best tools to understand the fluctuation in a process over time. It is also called a run chart or a time series plot. It helps to find when and how o take action on set limits. Contro charts help to find the consistency of any process.
How to Draw a Control Chart?
First of all, we have to get the calculations for that particular process. You can download the Control Chart Template .
- Find the Mean – Average of those calculations (Target)
- Then, set Upper Control Limit – UCL.
- After that, set Upper Control Limit – UCL.
How to Conclude?
A process is out of control and needs immediate attention when;
- Suppose there is a single point outside the limits of UCL or LCL. Like in the above graph, 3rd point is at the upper control limit.
- A run of eight in a row is on the same side of the mean.
- Persistent patterns that suggest something unusual about your data and your process.
You can see in the below graph; a run can help you find consistency in your process. We set the Control Limits to not bother about all the stuff of our process.
A scatter diagram or scatter plot is also a statistical tool. It uses variables like dependent variables on Y-Axis and Independent Variable on X-axis plotted as dots on their common intersection points. By joining these plotted dots, we can get any relationship between these variables or an equation in format Y = F(X) + C, where is C is an arbitrary constant.
A scatter diagram is used to find the root cause of any problem, but only if there is any relationship.
You can download here the Scatter Chart Template .
The above graph explains a positive relationship with the time a village is getting populated. These relationships can be linear, exponential, quadratic, logarithmic, polynomial, etc. The variables can be positively or negatively related, defined by the equation’s slope derived from the scatter diagram.
It is not an easy question, but if your concepts are clear enough, you will enjoy using all the tools. let see how and where we can use these tools effectively
Flow Chart: Defining a Process
Fishbone Diagram, Pareto Chart, and Control Charts: Measuring Phase
The Control Chart: Process Improvement Phase
The Scatter Diagram, Histogram, and Checksheets: Analyzing Phase
Question: What are the major causes of the fishbone diagram?
Answer: These are considered to be the major ones;
Question: These tools are only for the process industry?
Answer: No, these apply where ever quality is required.
Question: How to know which tools are to use for a job?
Answer: Experience, and if you know about the tools insight well, you can easily understand the process.
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2 thoughts on “7 Basic Quality Tools for Improvement | Templates Attached”
A great piece of content. I really liked the way you covered all the QC tools in an article. Thank you for your effort.
Thank you, Gerry
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N7 (New 7 Tools)
The N7 tools are problem-solving techniques developed by Japanese quality management experts in the 1970s. These tools were created to complement the 7 Basic Quality Tools (7QC Tools), focusing on addressing more complex and data-intensive problems.
- Affinity Diagram: A tool that organizes many ideas, issues, or data points into related groups or themes for better analysis and understanding.
- Relations Diagram: Also known as Interrelationship Digraph, it is a tool used to identify the cause-and-effect relationships among different factors or issues.
- Tree Diagram: A tool that breaks down broad objectives or problems into smaller, more manageable components or tasks, creating a hierarchical structure.
- Matrix Diagram: A tool to analyze the relationships between different factors, elements, or issues by organizing them into a matrix format.
- Matrix Data Analysis: A technique used to analyze and prioritize the relationships identified in a matrix diagram, determining their relative importance or impact.
- Arrow Diagram: Also known as the Activity Network Diagram, it is a tool used to visualize and manage the sequence of tasks or activities in a project, identifying the critical path and dependencies.
- Process Decision Program Chart (PDPC): A tool used to identify potential risks or problems in a process and develop appropriate contingency plans or countermeasures.
Purpose: The primary purpose of the N7 (New 7 Tools) is to provide a set of problem-solving techniques to address complex and data-intensive issues that may not be adequately resolved using the traditional 7 Basic Quality Tools. The N7 tools help organizations systematically analyze and understand problems, leading to better decision-making and continuous improvement.
Role: The N7 tools play a crucial role in enhancing the problem-solving capabilities of organizations by providing a structured approach to identify root causes, evaluate relationships between factors, plan and manage tasks, and develop contingency plans.
Components: The N7 tools consist of the following techniques:
- Affinity Diagram
- Relations Diagram (Interrelationship Digraph)
- Tree Diagram
- Matrix Diagram
- Matrix Data Analysis
- Arrow Diagram (Activity Network Diagram)
- Process Decision Program Chart (PDPC)
Importance: The N7 tools are essential in the modern business environment as they enable organizations to tackle complex problems that require a deeper understanding of relationships, dependencies, and cause-and-effect patterns. These tools help organizations make data-driven decisions, optimize processes, and achieve strategic objectives.
History: The N7 tools were developed by Japanese quality management experts in the 1970s to complement the existing 7 Basic Quality Tools (7QC Tools). The need for a more sophisticated set of problem-solving tools arose as organizations faced increasingly complex challenges that required a more systematic and data-intensive approach.
- Enhanced problem-solving: The N7 tools provide a structured framework for understanding and solving complex issues, leading to better decision-making and continuous improvement.
- Data-driven decisions: By using the N7 tools, organizations can make more informed decisions based on a thorough data analysis and relationships between factors.
- Continuous improvement: The N7 tools support identifying areas for improvement, facilitating a culture of continuous improvement within organizations.
- Versatility: The N7 tools can be applied to various industries and functions, making them a valuable asset for organizations seeking to address complex problems.
Pros and Cons:
- Improved problem-solving capabilities for complex issues.
- Facilitates data-driven decision-making.
- Encourages a culture of continuous improvement.
- Applicable across various industries and functions.
- May require significant time and effort to implement effectively.
- Some tools may not apply to all problems or situations.
- Requires training and expertise to use the tools effectively.
Examples to illustrate key concepts:
- A manufacturing company uses the Affinity Diagram to analyze customer feedback data, organizing the information into related categories that highlight areas for improvement. This helps the company prioritize issues and develop targeted solutions.
- An organization uses the Relations Diagram to identify the root causes of decreased product quality. By mapping the cause-and-effect relationships between factors, the organization can pinpoint the primary factors contributing to the issue and develop a targeted action plan.
- A project team utilizes the Arrow Diagram to visualize and manage the sequence of tasks in a complex project. This helps the team identify the critical path and dependencies, ensuring the project stays on schedule and allocating resources effectively.
In summary, the N7 tools provide a comprehensive set of problem-solving techniques designed to address complex and data-intensive issues. By implementing these tools, organizations can enhance their problem-solving capabilities, make more informed decisions, and promote a culture of continuous improvement.
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7 QC Tools | Seven Basic Quality Tools of “Problem Solving”: Quality and Productivity Improvement Tools Kindle Edition
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- Publication date : June 3, 2020
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To calculate the overall star rating and percentage breakdown by star, we don’t use a simple average. Instead, our system considers things like how recent a review is and if the reviewer bought the item on Amazon. It also analyzed reviews to verify trustworthiness.
Seven Basic Tools of Quality
The Seven Basic Tools of Quality are known to be a designation that is given to some fixed set of graphical techniques. Such techniques may be identified as the ones that are the most helpful in solving the troubleshooting quality-related issues. Being suitable for people with only some formal training in statistics, the Seven Basic Tools of Quality can be used for solving many quality-related issues, including the most important ones.
The mentioned seven tools are Ishikawa diagram, Check sheet, Histogram, Pareto chart, Control chart, Scatter diagram, and Stratification. They are known to be standing in contrast to more advanced statistical methods. Such methods are a survey sampling, statistical hypothesis testing, acceptance sampling, design of experiments, multivariate analysis as well as many other methods that are being developed in such field of business activity as an operations research.
Seven Basic Tools of Quality solution can be used by any ConceptDraw DIAGRAM user, giving them a particular set of different graphical techniques helping on focus on such activity as identifying the root cause of many quality-related issues.
This solution offers the well-known visual tools that can be helpful in representing all the data that relates to many different quality initiatives. Some of such tools are the pre-made templates that can be used for making different fishbone diagrams, Pareto charts, and histograms. Helping to visualize data from every department across an entire organization, the mentioned examples that were previously created by the IT specialists may be useful for making the unique-looking drawings. There are also the pre-designed icon libraries in the Seven Basic Tools of Quality solution that can be used by all the ConceptDraw DIAGRAM application’s users who want to manage quality control throughout an organization by using a modern tool.
The Seven Basic Tools of Quality solution must be useful for many quality assurance engineers, quality managers, and other quality-related specialists, as well as project managers and other projects’ participants.
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There are 9 libraries containing 78 vector objects in the Seven Basic Tools of Quality solution.
Design Elements — Cause-and-Effect Diagram
Design Elements — Check Sheet
Design Elements — Control Chart
Design Elements — Histogram
Design Elements — Pareto Chart
Design Elements — Process Flowchart
Design Elements — Run Chart
Design Elements — Scatterplot
Design Elements — Stratification Diagram
The Seven Basic Tools of Quality Solution, New From CS Odessa
There are a few samples that you see on this page which were created in the ConceptDraw DIAGRAM application by using the Seven Basic Tools of Qualityg solution. Some of the solution's capabilities as well as the professional results which you can achieve are all demonstrated here on this page.
All source documents are vector graphic documents which are always available for modifying, reviewing and/or converting to many different formats, such as MS PowerPoint, PDF file, MS Visio, and many other graphic ones from the ConceptDraw Solution Park or ConceptDraw STORE. The Seven Basic Tools of Quality solution is available to all ConceptDraw DIAGRAM users to get installed and used while working in the ConceptDraw DIAGRAM diagramming and drawing software.
Example 1: Cause-and-Effect Diagram
This diagram was created in ConceptDraw DIAGRAM using the Cause-and-Effect Diagram library from the Seven Basic Tools of Quality solution. An experienced user spent 10 minutes creating this sample.
Cause-and-effect diagrams (also known as fishbone diagrams) provide the opportunity to look at the various causes of a specific event. In quality control, they are commonly used to prevent defects in product design, by identifying potential factors that could result in output variance.
Example 2: Frequency Allocation Histogram
This diagram was created in ConceptDraw DIAGRAM using the Histogram library from the Seven Basic Tools of Quality solution. An experienced user spent 10 minutes creating this sample.
A histogram shows the distribution of numerical data. For instance, in this example we can show the most commonly reached wind speeds in a certain area, and this allows you to take an overall look at the data in a relative format.
Example 3: Histogram Example — Age of Presidential Ascension
This diagram was created in ConceptDraw DIAGRAM using the Histogram library from the Seven Basic Tools of Quality solution. An experienced user spent 15 minutes creating this sample.
Plotting the age of US presidents results in a symmetric histogram. Charts of this type make it easy to establish patterns (or the lack thereof), and to work out average results or identify outliers.
Example 4: Pareto Chart — Titanium Investment Casting Defects
This diagram was created in ConceptDraw DIAGRAM using the Pareto Chart library from the Seven Basic Tools of Quality solution. An experienced user spent 15 minutes creating this sample.
A Pareto chart combines elements of a line chart and bar graph, where individual values are shown as bars in descending numerical order, and the line represents the cumulative total of these values. In quality control, a Pareto chart commonly identifies the most common source of defects.
Example 5: Process Flowchart — QA Processes in HSRU
This diagram was created in ConceptDraw DIAGRAM using the Process Flowchart library from the Seven Basic Tools of Quality solution. An experienced user spent 20 minutes creating this sample.
Flow charts are an ideal solution for mapping any form of repeatable action or process within a business. They are versatile enough to show management processes, steps for product design, or data flow within a system.
More Examples and Templates
What I Need to Get Started
After ConceptDraw DIAGRAM is installed, the Seven Basic Tools of Quality solution can be purchased either from the Quality Management area of ConceptDraw STORE itself or from our online store . Thus, you will be able to use the Seven Basic Tools of Quality solution straight after.
How to install
First of all, make sure that both ConceptDraw STORE and ConceptDraw DIAGRAM applications are downloaded and installed on your computer. Next, install the Seven Basic Tools of Quality solution from the ConceptDraw STORE to use it in the ConceptDraw DIAGRAM application.
Start using the Seven Basic Tools of Quality solution to make the professionally looking quality control diagrams by adding the design elements taken from the stencil libraries and editing the pre-made examples that can be found there.
How to Draw Pareto Chart
How to Install Paid Solution
The Seven Basic Tools of Quality
Every business wants to run at its most efficient equilibrium, with maximum productivity from its workers, cost effective product design and manufacture, and smart strategic decision making regarding managements and HR processes. For this to occur there must be a constant monitoring of business activity, a way of breaking down an organization into its component parts in such a way that they can be analyzed and refined, where any faults, inefficiencies, or redundant processes can be determined and dealt with.
This is the essence of defining quality in the workplace, and the Seven Basic Tools of Quality were conceived as a generic, visual form of tackling these issues. They comprise of seven forms of diagram that are varied enough to be applied to any industry troubleshooting scenario, but simple enough that workers of all types can intuitively understand and implement them.
Despite the title, there are 3 possible options for the last diagram, making 9 in total:
So named because they resemble the bone structure of a fish, fishbone diagrams are also known as Ishikawa diagrams, after their creator and quality control pioneer, Kaoru Ishikawa. Yet another name is a cause-and-effect diagram, and this better explains their purpose — you start with an identified problem, or effect, and work backwards to figure out every causal influence on that effect.
Check sheets are a simple way of making sure that a quality process is followed and standards are followed. They take the form of a grid, where each row is a step that must be checked off in real time as data is gathered.
A check sheet made using ConceptDraw DIAGRAM, that takes note of faulty car parts
A control sheet records a certain statistic at different times throughout the day, and applies to it a mean data range. If data values fall well outside that range, it could be a sign of an inefficiency or some flaw in a business process.
A histogram is used to show the frequency distribution of a specific variable. Visually, they are arranged something like bar charts, but differ in that they don't compare disparate sets of data against each other — instead they take one value, and show its frequency within predefined intervals.
Pareto charts combines both a bar chart and a line graph, where the bar chart shows individual data values, and a cumulative total represented by the line. In quality control, it is a way of spotting the largest source of defects, complaints, flaws and so on.
This ConceptDraw DIAGRAM designed Pareto chart shows the frequency of each type of defect
By plotting against an X and Y axis, a scatter graph can show two variables of a set of data. You can then ascertain the relationship between the variables by how the data points are clustered on the diagram.
Stratification is a means of taking data from different sources, and instead of viewing it as a single group, the data is separated by source so as better to identify patterns. To make the data even more representative, the sample size changes according to source.
Made using ConceptDraw DIAGRAM, this stratification chart distinguishes sources by icon shape
Flow charts are common throughout business, as a way of representing steps in a process or workflow, shown on the page as boxes containing actions, instructions or decisions.
A run chart displays recorded data over a certain time period, where the X axis shows the passage of time, and data points are plotted along the graph as they are observed. The often show some form of measurable manufacturing output, making it possible to quickly identify outliers and shifts in scale and frequency.
These diagram tools have become invaluable to modern business, and with so many cases for their use, it's important that workers of all experience levels can produce clear and effective examples that can be shared across a team and understood at a glance.
CS Odessa are the first to bring all these techniques together under one office solution, and further extend the performance of their diagramming software, ConceptDraw DIAGRAM. The Seven Basic Tools of Quality solution provides an extensive set of vector stencil libraries and individual sample templates for each form of quality control diagram, allowing workers to chose which diagram works best for their situation without switching software or searching for multiple add-ons. To compliment the solution, CS Odessa have a dedicated online help resource, referencing specific quality diagram examples, teaching new users how to get started with their design, and offering tips and tricks to more experienced workers.
A company's success relies on quality assurance and quality output. With the Seven Basic Tools of Quality solution for ConceptDraw DIAGRAM, you have the diagramming power to reach that standard.
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35 problem-solving techniques and methods for solving complex problems
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All teams and organizations encounter challenges as they grow. There are problems that might occur for teams when it comes to miscommunication or resolving business-critical issues . You may face challenges around growth , design , user engagement, and even team culture and happiness. In short, problem-solving techniques should be part of every team’s skillset.
Problem-solving methods are primarily designed to help a group or team through a process of first identifying problems and challenges , ideating possible solutions , and then evaluating the most suitable .
Finding effective solutions to complex problems isn’t easy, but by using the right process and techniques, you can help your team be more efficient in the process.
So how do you develop strategies that are engaging, and empower your team to solve problems effectively?
In this blog post, we share a series of problem-solving tools you can use in your next workshop or team meeting. You’ll also find some tips for facilitating the process and how to enable others to solve complex problems.
Let’s get started!
How do you identify problems?
How do you identify the right solution.
- Tips for more effective problem-solving
Complete problem-solving methods
- Problem-solving techniques to identify and analyze problems
- Problem-solving techniques for developing solutions
Problem-solving warm-up activities
Closing activities for a problem-solving process.
Before you can move towards finding the right solution for a given problem, you first need to identify and define the problem you wish to solve.
Here, you want to clearly articulate what the problem is and allow your group to do the same. Remember that everyone in a group is likely to have differing perspectives and alignment is necessary in order to help the group move forward.
Identifying a problem accurately also requires that all members of a group are able to contribute their views in an open and safe manner. It can be scary for people to stand up and contribute, especially if the problems or challenges are emotive or personal in nature. Be sure to try and create a psychologically safe space for these kinds of discussions.
Remember that problem analysis and further discussion are also important. Not taking the time to fully analyze and discuss a challenge can result in the development of solutions that are not fit for purpose or do not address the underlying issue.
Successfully identifying and then analyzing a problem means facilitating a group through activities designed to help them clearly and honestly articulate their thoughts and produce usable insight.
With this data, you might then produce a problem statement that clearly describes the problem you wish to be addressed and also state the goal of any process you undertake to tackle this issue.
Finding solutions is the end goal of any process. Complex organizational challenges can only be solved with an appropriate solution but discovering them requires using the right problem-solving tool.
After you’ve explored a problem and discussed ideas, you need to help a team discuss and choose the right solution. Consensus tools and methods such as those below help a group explore possible solutions before then voting for the best. They’re a great way to tap into the collective intelligence of the group for great results!
Remember that the process is often iterative. Great problem solvers often roadtest a viable solution in a measured way to see what works too. While you might not get the right solution on your first try, the methods below help teams land on the most likely to succeed solution while also holding space for improvement.
Every effective problem solving process begins with an agenda . A well-structured workshop is one of the best methods for successfully guiding a group from exploring a problem to implementing a solution.
In SessionLab, it’s easy to go from an idea to a complete agenda . Start by dragging and dropping your core problem solving activities into place . Add timings, breaks and necessary materials before sharing your agenda with your colleagues.
The resulting agenda will be your guide to an effective and productive problem solving session that will also help you stay organized on the day!
Tips for more effective problem solving
Problem-solving activities are only one part of the puzzle. While a great method can help unlock your team’s ability to solve problems, without a thoughtful approach and strong facilitation the solutions may not be fit for purpose.
Let’s take a look at some problem-solving tips you can apply to any process to help it be a success!
Clearly define the problem
Jumping straight to solutions can be tempting, though without first clearly articulating a problem, the solution might not be the right one. Many of the problem-solving activities below include sections where the problem is explored and clearly defined before moving on.
This is a vital part of the problem-solving process and taking the time to fully define an issue can save time and effort later. A clear definition helps identify irrelevant information and it also ensures that your team sets off on the right track.
Don’t jump to conclusions
It’s easy for groups to exhibit cognitive bias or have preconceived ideas about both problems and potential solutions. Be sure to back up any problem statements or potential solutions with facts, research, and adequate forethought.
The best techniques ask participants to be methodical and challenge preconceived notions. Make sure you give the group enough time and space to collect relevant information and consider the problem in a new way. By approaching the process with a clear, rational mindset, you’ll often find that better solutions are more forthcoming.
Try different approaches
Problems come in all shapes and sizes and so too should the methods you use to solve them. If you find that one approach isn’t yielding results and your team isn’t finding different solutions, try mixing it up. You’ll be surprised at how using a new creative activity can unblock your team and generate great solutions.
Don’t take it personally
Depending on the nature of your team or organizational problems, it’s easy for conversations to get heated. While it’s good for participants to be engaged in the discussions, ensure that emotions don’t run too high and that blame isn’t thrown around while finding solutions.
You’re all in it together, and even if your team or area is seeing problems, that isn’t necessarily a disparagement of you personally. Using facilitation skills to manage group dynamics is one effective method of helping conversations be more constructive.
Get the right people in the room
Your problem-solving method is often only as effective as the group using it. Getting the right people on the job and managing the number of people present is important too!
If the group is too small, you may not get enough different perspectives to effectively solve a problem. If the group is too large, you can go round and round during the ideation stages.
Creating the right group makeup is also important in ensuring you have the necessary expertise and skillset to both identify and follow up on potential solutions. Carefully consider who to include at each stage to help ensure your problem-solving method is followed and positioned for success.
The best solutions can take refinement, iteration, and reflection to come out. Get into a habit of documenting your process in order to keep all the learnings from the session and to allow ideas to mature and develop. Many of the methods below involve the creation of documents or shared resources. Be sure to keep and share these so everyone can benefit from the work done!
Bring a facilitator
Facilitation is all about making group processes easier. With a subject as potentially emotive and important as problem-solving, having an impartial third party in the form of a facilitator can make all the difference in finding great solutions and keeping the process moving. Consider bringing a facilitator to your problem-solving session to get better results and generate meaningful solutions!
Develop your problem-solving skills
It takes time and practice to be an effective problem solver. While some roles or participants might more naturally gravitate towards problem-solving, it can take development and planning to help everyone create better solutions.
You might develop a training program, run a problem-solving workshop or simply ask your team to practice using the techniques below. Check out our post on problem-solving skills to see how you and your group can develop the right mental process and be more resilient to issues too!
Design a great agenda
Workshops are a great format for solving problems. With the right approach, you can focus a group and help them find the solutions to their own problems. But designing a process can be time-consuming and finding the right activities can be difficult.
Check out our workshop planning guide to level-up your agenda design and start running more effective workshops. Need inspiration? Check out templates designed by expert facilitators to help you kickstart your process!
In this section, we’ll look at in-depth problem-solving methods that provide a complete end-to-end process for developing effective solutions. These will help guide your team from the discovery and definition of a problem through to delivering the right solution.
If you’re looking for an all-encompassing method or problem-solving model, these processes are a great place to start. They’ll ask your team to challenge preconceived ideas and adopt a mindset for solving problems more effectively.
- Six Thinking Hats
- Lightning Decision Jam
- Problem Definition Process
- Discovery & Action Dialogue
Design Sprint 2.0
- Open Space Technology
1. Six Thinking Hats
Individual approaches to solving a problem can be very different based on what team or role an individual holds. It can be easy for existing biases or perspectives to find their way into the mix, or for internal politics to direct a conversation.
Six Thinking Hats is a classic method for identifying the problems that need to be solved and enables your team to consider them from different angles, whether that is by focusing on facts and data, creative solutions, or by considering why a particular solution might not work.
Like all problem-solving frameworks, Six Thinking Hats is effective at helping teams remove roadblocks from a conversation or discussion and come to terms with all the aspects necessary to solve complex problems.
2. Lightning Decision Jam
Featured courtesy of Jonathan Courtney of AJ&Smart Berlin, Lightning Decision Jam is one of those strategies that should be in every facilitation toolbox. Exploring problems and finding solutions is often creative in nature, though as with any creative process, there is the potential to lose focus and get lost.
Unstructured discussions might get you there in the end, but it’s much more effective to use a method that creates a clear process and team focus.
In Lightning Decision Jam, participants are invited to begin by writing challenges, concerns, or mistakes on post-its without discussing them before then being invited by the moderator to present them to the group.
From there, the team vote on which problems to solve and are guided through steps that will allow them to reframe those problems, create solutions and then decide what to execute on.
By deciding the problems that need to be solved as a team before moving on, this group process is great for ensuring the whole team is aligned and can take ownership over the next stages.
Lightning Decision Jam (LDJ) #action #decision making #problem solving #issue analysis #innovation #design #remote-friendly The problem with anything that requires creative thinking is that it’s easy to get lost—lose focus and fall into the trap of having useless, open-ended, unstructured discussions. Here’s the most effective solution I’ve found: Replace all open, unstructured discussion with a clear process. What to use this exercise for: Anything which requires a group of people to make decisions, solve problems or discuss challenges. It’s always good to frame an LDJ session with a broad topic, here are some examples: The conversion flow of our checkout Our internal design process How we organise events Keeping up with our competition Improving sales flow
3. Problem Definition Process
While problems can be complex, the problem-solving methods you use to identify and solve those problems can often be simple in design.
By taking the time to truly identify and define a problem before asking the group to reframe the challenge as an opportunity, this method is a great way to enable change.
Begin by identifying a focus question and exploring the ways in which it manifests before splitting into five teams who will each consider the problem using a different method: escape, reversal, exaggeration, distortion or wishful. Teams develop a problem objective and create ideas in line with their method before then feeding them back to the group.
This method is great for enabling in-depth discussions while also creating space for finding creative solutions too!
Problem Definition #problem solving #idea generation #creativity #online #remote-friendly A problem solving technique to define a problem, challenge or opportunity and to generate ideas.
4. The 5 Whys
Sometimes, a group needs to go further with their strategies and analyze the root cause at the heart of organizational issues. An RCA or root cause analysis is the process of identifying what is at the heart of business problems or recurring challenges.
The 5 Whys is a simple and effective method of helping a group go find the root cause of any problem or challenge and conduct analysis that will deliver results.
By beginning with the creation of a problem statement and going through five stages to refine it, The 5 Whys provides everything you need to truly discover the cause of an issue.
The 5 Whys #hyperisland #innovation This simple and powerful method is useful for getting to the core of a problem or challenge. As the title suggests, the group defines a problems, then asks the question “why” five times, often using the resulting explanation as a starting point for creative problem solving.
5. World Cafe
World Cafe is a simple but powerful facilitation technique to help bigger groups to focus their energy and attention on solving complex problems.
World Cafe enables this approach by creating a relaxed atmosphere where participants are able to self-organize and explore topics relevant and important to them which are themed around a central problem-solving purpose. Create the right atmosphere by modeling your space after a cafe and after guiding the group through the method, let them take the lead!
Making problem-solving a part of your organization’s culture in the long term can be a difficult undertaking. More approachable formats like World Cafe can be especially effective in bringing people unfamiliar with workshops into the fold.
World Cafe #hyperisland #innovation #issue analysis World Café is a simple yet powerful method, originated by Juanita Brown, for enabling meaningful conversations driven completely by participants and the topics that are relevant and important to them. Facilitators create a cafe-style space and provide simple guidelines. Participants then self-organize and explore a set of relevant topics or questions for conversation.
6. Discovery & Action Dialogue (DAD)
One of the best approaches is to create a safe space for a group to share and discover practices and behaviors that can help them find their own solutions.
With DAD, you can help a group choose which problems they wish to solve and which approaches they will take to do so. It’s great at helping remove resistance to change and can help get buy-in at every level too!
This process of enabling frontline ownership is great in ensuring follow-through and is one of the methods you will want in your toolbox as a facilitator.
Discovery & Action Dialogue (DAD) #idea generation #liberating structures #action #issue analysis #remote-friendly DADs make it easy for a group or community to discover practices and behaviors that enable some individuals (without access to special resources and facing the same constraints) to find better solutions than their peers to common problems. These are called positive deviant (PD) behaviors and practices. DADs make it possible for people in the group, unit, or community to discover by themselves these PD practices. DADs also create favorable conditions for stimulating participants’ creativity in spaces where they can feel safe to invent new and more effective practices. Resistance to change evaporates as participants are unleashed to choose freely which practices they will adopt or try and which problems they will tackle. DADs make it possible to achieve frontline ownership of solutions.
7. Design Sprint 2.0
Want to see how a team can solve big problems and move forward with prototyping and testing solutions in a few days? The Design Sprint 2.0 template from Jake Knapp, author of Sprint, is a complete agenda for a with proven results.
Developing the right agenda can involve difficult but necessary planning. Ensuring all the correct steps are followed can also be stressful or time-consuming depending on your level of experience.
Use this complete 4-day workshop template if you are finding there is no obvious solution to your challenge and want to focus your team around a specific problem that might require a shortcut to launching a minimum viable product or waiting for the organization-wide implementation of a solution.
8. Open space technology
Open space technology- developed by Harrison Owen – creates a space where large groups are invited to take ownership of their problem solving and lead individual sessions. Open space technology is a great format when you have a great deal of expertise and insight in the room and want to allow for different takes and approaches on a particular theme or problem you need to be solved.
Start by bringing your participants together to align around a central theme and focus their efforts. Explain the ground rules to help guide the problem-solving process and then invite members to identify any issue connecting to the central theme that they are interested in and are prepared to take responsibility for.
Once participants have decided on their approach to the core theme, they write their issue on a piece of paper, announce it to the group, pick a session time and place, and post the paper on the wall. As the wall fills up with sessions, the group is then invited to join the sessions that interest them the most and which they can contribute to, then you’re ready to begin!
Everyone joins the problem-solving group they’ve signed up to, record the discussion and if appropriate, findings can then be shared with the rest of the group afterward.
Open Space Technology #action plan #idea generation #problem solving #issue analysis #large group #online #remote-friendly Open Space is a methodology for large groups to create their agenda discerning important topics for discussion, suitable for conferences, community gatherings and whole system facilitation
Techniques to identify and analyze problems
Using a problem-solving method to help a team identify and analyze a problem can be a quick and effective addition to any workshop or meeting.
While further actions are always necessary, you can generate momentum and alignment easily, and these activities are a great place to get started.
We’ve put together this list of techniques to help you and your team with problem identification, analysis, and discussion that sets the foundation for developing effective solutions.
Let’s take a look!
- The Creativity Dice
- Fishbone Analysis
- Problem Tree
- SWOT Analysis
- Agreement-Certainty Matrix
- The Journalistic Six
- LEGO Challenge
- What, So What, Now What?
Individual and group perspectives are incredibly important, but what happens if people are set in their minds and need a change of perspective in order to approach a problem more effectively?
Flip It is a method we love because it is both simple to understand and run, and allows groups to understand how their perspectives and biases are formed.
Participants in Flip It are first invited to consider concerns, issues, or problems from a perspective of fear and write them on a flip chart. Then, the group is asked to consider those same issues from a perspective of hope and flip their understanding.
No problem and solution is free from existing bias and by changing perspectives with Flip It, you can then develop a problem solving model quickly and effectively.
Flip It! #gamestorming #problem solving #action Often, a change in a problem or situation comes simply from a change in our perspectives. Flip It! is a quick game designed to show players that perspectives are made, not born.
10. The Creativity Dice
One of the most useful problem solving skills you can teach your team is of approaching challenges with creativity, flexibility, and openness. Games like The Creativity Dice allow teams to overcome the potential hurdle of too much linear thinking and approach the process with a sense of fun and speed.
In The Creativity Dice, participants are organized around a topic and roll a dice to determine what they will work on for a period of 3 minutes at a time. They might roll a 3 and work on investigating factual information on the chosen topic. They might roll a 1 and work on identifying the specific goals, standards, or criteria for the session.
Encouraging rapid work and iteration while asking participants to be flexible are great skills to cultivate. Having a stage for idea incubation in this game is also important. Moments of pause can help ensure the ideas that are put forward are the most suitable.
The Creativity Dice #creativity #problem solving #thiagi #issue analysis Too much linear thinking is hazardous to creative problem solving. To be creative, you should approach the problem (or the opportunity) from different points of view. You should leave a thought hanging in mid-air and move to another. This skipping around prevents premature closure and lets your brain incubate one line of thought while you consciously pursue another.
11. Fishbone Analysis
Organizational or team challenges are rarely simple, and it’s important to remember that one problem can be an indication of something that goes deeper and may require further consideration to be solved.
Fishbone Analysis helps groups to dig deeper and understand the origins of a problem. It’s a great example of a root cause analysis method that is simple for everyone on a team to get their head around.
Participants in this activity are asked to annotate a diagram of a fish, first adding the problem or issue to be worked on at the head of a fish before then brainstorming the root causes of the problem and adding them as bones on the fish.
Using abstractions such as a diagram of a fish can really help a team break out of their regular thinking and develop a creative approach.
Fishbone Analysis #problem solving ##root cause analysis #decision making #online facilitation A process to help identify and understand the origins of problems, issues or observations.
12. Problem Tree
Encouraging visual thinking can be an essential part of many strategies. By simply reframing and clarifying problems, a group can move towards developing a problem solving model that works for them.
In Problem Tree, groups are asked to first brainstorm a list of problems – these can be design problems, team problems or larger business problems – and then organize them into a hierarchy. The hierarchy could be from most important to least important or abstract to practical, though the key thing with problem solving games that involve this aspect is that your group has some way of managing and sorting all the issues that are raised.
Once you have a list of problems that need to be solved and have organized them accordingly, you’re then well-positioned for the next problem solving steps.
Problem tree #define intentions #create #design #issue analysis A problem tree is a tool to clarify the hierarchy of problems addressed by the team within a design project; it represents high level problems or related sublevel problems.
13. SWOT Analysis
Chances are you’ve heard of the SWOT Analysis before. This problem-solving method focuses on identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats is a tried and tested method for both individuals and teams.
Start by creating a desired end state or outcome and bare this in mind – any process solving model is made more effective by knowing what you are moving towards. Create a quadrant made up of the four categories of a SWOT analysis and ask participants to generate ideas based on each of those quadrants.
Once you have those ideas assembled in their quadrants, cluster them together based on their affinity with other ideas. These clusters are then used to facilitate group conversations and move things forward.
SWOT analysis #gamestorming #problem solving #action #meeting facilitation The SWOT Analysis is a long-standing technique of looking at what we have, with respect to the desired end state, as well as what we could improve on. It gives us an opportunity to gauge approaching opportunities and dangers, and assess the seriousness of the conditions that affect our future. When we understand those conditions, we can influence what comes next.
14. Agreement-Certainty Matrix
Not every problem-solving approach is right for every challenge, and deciding on the right method for the challenge at hand is a key part of being an effective team.
The Agreement Certainty matrix helps teams align on the nature of the challenges facing them. By sorting problems from simple to chaotic, your team can understand what methods are suitable for each problem and what they can do to ensure effective results.
If you are already using Liberating Structures techniques as part of your problem-solving strategy, the Agreement-Certainty Matrix can be an invaluable addition to your process. We’ve found it particularly if you are having issues with recurring problems in your organization and want to go deeper in understanding the root cause.
Agreement-Certainty Matrix #issue analysis #liberating structures #problem solving You can help individuals or groups avoid the frequent mistake of trying to solve a problem with methods that are not adapted to the nature of their challenge. The combination of two questions makes it possible to easily sort challenges into four categories: simple, complicated, complex , and chaotic . A problem is simple when it can be solved reliably with practices that are easy to duplicate. It is complicated when experts are required to devise a sophisticated solution that will yield the desired results predictably. A problem is complex when there are several valid ways to proceed but outcomes are not predictable in detail. Chaotic is when the context is too turbulent to identify a path forward. A loose analogy may be used to describe these differences: simple is like following a recipe, complicated like sending a rocket to the moon, complex like raising a child, and chaotic is like the game “Pin the Tail on the Donkey.” The Liberating Structures Matching Matrix in Chapter 5 can be used as the first step to clarify the nature of a challenge and avoid the mismatches between problems and solutions that are frequently at the root of chronic, recurring problems.
Organizing and charting a team’s progress can be important in ensuring its success. SQUID (Sequential Question and Insight Diagram) is a great model that allows a team to effectively switch between giving questions and answers and develop the skills they need to stay on track throughout the process.
Begin with two different colored sticky notes – one for questions and one for answers – and with your central topic (the head of the squid) on the board. Ask the group to first come up with a series of questions connected to their best guess of how to approach the topic. Ask the group to come up with answers to those questions, fix them to the board and connect them with a line. After some discussion, go back to question mode by responding to the generated answers or other points on the board.
It’s rewarding to see a diagram grow throughout the exercise, and a completed SQUID can provide a visual resource for future effort and as an example for other teams.
SQUID #gamestorming #project planning #issue analysis #problem solving When exploring an information space, it’s important for a group to know where they are at any given time. By using SQUID, a group charts out the territory as they go and can navigate accordingly. SQUID stands for Sequential Question and Insight Diagram.
16. Speed Boat
To continue with our nautical theme, Speed Boat is a short and sweet activity that can help a team quickly identify what employees, clients or service users might have a problem with and analyze what might be standing in the way of achieving a solution.
Methods that allow for a group to make observations, have insights and obtain those eureka moments quickly are invaluable when trying to solve complex problems.
In Speed Boat, the approach is to first consider what anchors and challenges might be holding an organization (or boat) back. Bonus points if you are able to identify any sharks in the water and develop ideas that can also deal with competitors!
Speed Boat #gamestorming #problem solving #action Speedboat is a short and sweet way to identify what your employees or clients don’t like about your product/service or what’s standing in the way of a desired goal.
17. The Journalistic Six
Some of the most effective ways of solving problems is by encouraging teams to be more inclusive and diverse in their thinking.
Based on the six key questions journalism students are taught to answer in articles and news stories, The Journalistic Six helps create teams to see the whole picture. By using who, what, when, where, why, and how to facilitate the conversation and encourage creative thinking, your team can make sure that the problem identification and problem analysis stages of the are covered exhaustively and thoughtfully. Reporter’s notebook and dictaphone optional.
The Journalistic Six – Who What When Where Why How #idea generation #issue analysis #problem solving #online #creative thinking #remote-friendly A questioning method for generating, explaining, investigating ideas.
18. LEGO Challenge
Now for an activity that is a little out of the (toy) box. LEGO Serious Play is a facilitation methodology that can be used to improve creative thinking and problem-solving skills.
The LEGO Challenge includes giving each member of the team an assignment that is hidden from the rest of the group while they create a structure without speaking.
What the LEGO challenge brings to the table is a fun working example of working with stakeholders who might not be on the same page to solve problems. Also, it’s LEGO! Who doesn’t love LEGO!
LEGO Challenge #hyperisland #team A team-building activity in which groups must work together to build a structure out of LEGO, but each individual has a secret “assignment” which makes the collaborative process more challenging. It emphasizes group communication, leadership dynamics, conflict, cooperation, patience and problem solving strategy.
19. What, So What, Now What?
If not carefully managed, the problem identification and problem analysis stages of the problem-solving process can actually create more problems and misunderstandings.
The What, So What, Now What? problem-solving activity is designed to help collect insights and move forward while also eliminating the possibility of disagreement when it comes to identifying, clarifying, and analyzing organizational or work problems.
Facilitation is all about bringing groups together so that might work on a shared goal and the best problem-solving strategies ensure that teams are aligned in purpose, if not initially in opinion or insight.
Throughout the three steps of this game, you give everyone on a team to reflect on a problem by asking what happened, why it is important, and what actions should then be taken.
This can be a great activity for bringing our individual perceptions about a problem or challenge and contextualizing it in a larger group setting. This is one of the most important problem-solving skills you can bring to your organization.
W³ – What, So What, Now What? #issue analysis #innovation #liberating structures You can help groups reflect on a shared experience in a way that builds understanding and spurs coordinated action while avoiding unproductive conflict. It is possible for every voice to be heard while simultaneously sifting for insights and shaping new direction. Progressing in stages makes this practical—from collecting facts about What Happened to making sense of these facts with So What and finally to what actions logically follow with Now What . The shared progression eliminates most of the misunderstandings that otherwise fuel disagreements about what to do. Voila!
Problem analysis can be one of the most important and decisive stages of all problem-solving tools. Sometimes, a team can become bogged down in the details and are unable to move forward.
Journalists is an activity that can avoid a group from getting stuck in the problem identification or problem analysis stages of the process.
In Journalists, the group is invited to draft the front page of a fictional newspaper and figure out what stories deserve to be on the cover and what headlines those stories will have. By reframing how your problems and challenges are approached, you can help a team move productively through the process and be better prepared for the steps to follow.
Journalists #vision #big picture #issue analysis #remote-friendly This is an exercise to use when the group gets stuck in details and struggles to see the big picture. Also good for defining a vision.
Problem-solving techniques for developing solutions
The success of any problem-solving process can be measured by the solutions it produces. After you’ve defined the issue, explored existing ideas, and ideated, it’s time to narrow down to the correct solution.
Use these problem-solving techniques when you want to help your team find consensus, compare possible solutions, and move towards taking action on a particular problem.
- Improved Solutions
- Four-Step Sketch
- 15% Solutions
- How-Now-Wow matrix
- Impact Effort Matrix
Brainstorming is part of the bread and butter of the problem-solving process and all problem-solving strategies benefit from getting ideas out and challenging a team to generate solutions quickly.
With Mindspin, participants are encouraged not only to generate ideas but to do so under time constraints and by slamming down cards and passing them on. By doing multiple rounds, your team can begin with a free generation of possible solutions before moving on to developing those solutions and encouraging further ideation.
This is one of our favorite problem-solving activities and can be great for keeping the energy up throughout the workshop. Remember the importance of helping people become engaged in the process – energizing problem-solving techniques like Mindspin can help ensure your team stays engaged and happy, even when the problems they’re coming together to solve are complex.
MindSpin #teampedia #idea generation #problem solving #action A fast and loud method to enhance brainstorming within a team. Since this activity has more than round ideas that are repetitive can be ruled out leaving more creative and innovative answers to the challenge.
22. Improved Solutions
After a team has successfully identified a problem and come up with a few solutions, it can be tempting to call the work of the problem-solving process complete. That said, the first solution is not necessarily the best, and by including a further review and reflection activity into your problem-solving model, you can ensure your group reaches the best possible result.
One of a number of problem-solving games from Thiagi Group, Improved Solutions helps you go the extra mile and develop suggested solutions with close consideration and peer review. By supporting the discussion of several problems at once and by shifting team roles throughout, this problem-solving technique is a dynamic way of finding the best solution.
Improved Solutions #creativity #thiagi #problem solving #action #team You can improve any solution by objectively reviewing its strengths and weaknesses and making suitable adjustments. In this creativity framegame, you improve the solutions to several problems. To maintain objective detachment, you deal with a different problem during each of six rounds and assume different roles (problem owner, consultant, basher, booster, enhancer, and evaluator) during each round. At the conclusion of the activity, each player ends up with two solutions to her problem.
23. Four Step Sketch
Creative thinking and visual ideation does not need to be confined to the opening stages of your problem-solving strategies. Exercises that include sketching and prototyping on paper can be effective at the solution finding and development stage of the process, and can be great for keeping a team engaged.
By going from simple notes to a crazy 8s round that involves rapidly sketching 8 variations on their ideas before then producing a final solution sketch, the group is able to iterate quickly and visually. Problem-solving techniques like Four-Step Sketch are great if you have a group of different thinkers and want to change things up from a more textual or discussion-based approach.
Four-Step Sketch #design sprint #innovation #idea generation #remote-friendly The four-step sketch is an exercise that helps people to create well-formed concepts through a structured process that includes: Review key information Start design work on paper, Consider multiple variations , Create a detailed solution . This exercise is preceded by a set of other activities allowing the group to clarify the challenge they want to solve. See how the Four Step Sketch exercise fits into a Design Sprint
24. 15% Solutions
Some problems are simpler than others and with the right problem-solving activities, you can empower people to take immediate actions that can help create organizational change.
Part of the liberating structures toolkit, 15% solutions is a problem-solving technique that focuses on finding and implementing solutions quickly. A process of iterating and making small changes quickly can help generate momentum and an appetite for solving complex problems.
Problem-solving strategies can live and die on whether people are onboard. Getting some quick wins is a great way of getting people behind the process.
It can be extremely empowering for a team to realize that problem-solving techniques can be deployed quickly and easily and delineate between things they can positively impact and those things they cannot change.
15% Solutions #action #liberating structures #remote-friendly You can reveal the actions, however small, that everyone can do immediately. At a minimum, these will create momentum, and that may make a BIG difference. 15% Solutions show that there is no reason to wait around, feel powerless, or fearful. They help people pick it up a level. They get individuals and the group to focus on what is within their discretion instead of what they cannot change. With a very simple question, you can flip the conversation to what can be done and find solutions to big problems that are often distributed widely in places not known in advance. Shifting a few grains of sand may trigger a landslide and change the whole landscape.
25. How-Now-Wow Matrix
The problem-solving process is often creative, as complex problems usually require a change of thinking and creative response in order to find the best solutions. While it’s common for the first stages to encourage creative thinking, groups can often gravitate to familiar solutions when it comes to the end of the process.
When selecting solutions, you don’t want to lose your creative energy! The How-Now-Wow Matrix from Gamestorming is a great problem-solving activity that enables a group to stay creative and think out of the box when it comes to selecting the right solution for a given problem.
Problem-solving techniques that encourage creative thinking and the ideation and selection of new solutions can be the most effective in organisational change. Give the How-Now-Wow Matrix a go, and not just for how pleasant it is to say out loud.
How-Now-Wow Matrix #gamestorming #idea generation #remote-friendly When people want to develop new ideas, they most often think out of the box in the brainstorming or divergent phase. However, when it comes to convergence, people often end up picking ideas that are most familiar to them. This is called a ‘creative paradox’ or a ‘creadox’. The How-Now-Wow matrix is an idea selection tool that breaks the creadox by forcing people to weigh each idea on 2 parameters.
26. Impact and Effort Matrix
All problem-solving techniques hope to not only find solutions to a given problem or challenge but to find the best solution. When it comes to finding a solution, groups are invited to put on their decision-making hats and really think about how a proposed idea would work in practice.
The Impact and Effort Matrix is one of the problem-solving techniques that fall into this camp, empowering participants to first generate ideas and then categorize them into a 2×2 matrix based on impact and effort.
Activities that invite critical thinking while remaining simple are invaluable. Use the Impact and Effort Matrix to move from ideation and towards evaluating potential solutions before then committing to them.
Impact and Effort Matrix #gamestorming #decision making #action #remote-friendly In this decision-making exercise, possible actions are mapped based on two factors: effort required to implement and potential impact. Categorizing ideas along these lines is a useful technique in decision making, as it obliges contributors to balance and evaluate suggested actions before committing to them.
If you’ve followed each of the problem-solving steps with your group successfully, you should move towards the end of your process with heaps of possible solutions developed with a specific problem in mind. But how do you help a group go from ideation to putting a solution into action?
Dotmocracy – or Dot Voting -is a tried and tested method of helping a team in the problem-solving process make decisions and put actions in place with a degree of oversight and consensus.
One of the problem-solving techniques that should be in every facilitator’s toolbox, Dot Voting is fast and effective and can help identify the most popular and best solutions and help bring a group to a decision effectively.
Dotmocracy #action #decision making #group prioritization #hyperisland #remote-friendly Dotmocracy is a simple method for group prioritization or decision-making. It is not an activity on its own, but a method to use in processes where prioritization or decision-making is the aim. The method supports a group to quickly see which options are most popular or relevant. The options or ideas are written on post-its and stuck up on a wall for the whole group to see. Each person votes for the options they think are the strongest, and that information is used to inform a decision.
All facilitators know that warm-ups and icebreakers are useful for any workshop or group process. Problem-solving workshops are no different.
Use these problem-solving techniques to warm up a group and prepare them for the rest of the process. Activating your group by tapping into some of the top problem-solving skills can be one of the best ways to see great outcomes from your session.
- Doodling Together
- Show and Tell
- Draw a Tree
28. Check-in / Check-out
Solid processes are planned from beginning to end, and the best facilitators know that setting the tone and establishing a safe, open environment can be integral to a successful problem-solving process.
Check-in / Check-out is a great way to begin and/or bookend a problem-solving workshop. Checking in to a session emphasizes that everyone will be seen, heard, and expected to contribute.
If you are running a series of meetings, setting a consistent pattern of checking in and checking out can really help your team get into a groove. We recommend this opening-closing activity for small to medium-sized groups though it can work with large groups if they’re disciplined!
Check-in / Check-out #team #opening #closing #hyperisland #remote-friendly Either checking-in or checking-out is a simple way for a team to open or close a process, symbolically and in a collaborative way. Checking-in/out invites each member in a group to be present, seen and heard, and to express a reflection or a feeling. Checking-in emphasizes presence, focus and group commitment; checking-out emphasizes reflection and symbolic closure.
29. Doodling Together
Thinking creatively and not being afraid to make suggestions are important problem-solving skills for any group or team, and warming up by encouraging these behaviors is a great way to start.
Doodling Together is one of our favorite creative ice breaker games – it’s quick, effective, and fun and can make all following problem-solving steps easier by encouraging a group to collaborate visually. By passing cards and adding additional items as they go, the workshop group gets into a groove of co-creation and idea development that is crucial to finding solutions to problems.
Doodling Together #collaboration #creativity #teamwork #fun #team #visual methods #energiser #icebreaker #remote-friendly Create wild, weird and often funny postcards together & establish a group’s creative confidence.
30. Show and Tell
You might remember some version of Show and Tell from being a kid in school and it’s a great problem-solving activity to kick off a session.
Asking participants to prepare a little something before a workshop by bringing an object for show and tell can help them warm up before the session has even begun! Games that include a physical object can also help encourage early engagement before moving onto more big-picture thinking.
By asking your participants to tell stories about why they chose to bring a particular item to the group, you can help teams see things from new perspectives and see both differences and similarities in the way they approach a topic. Great groundwork for approaching a problem-solving process as a team!
Show and Tell #gamestorming #action #opening #meeting facilitation Show and Tell taps into the power of metaphors to reveal players’ underlying assumptions and associations around a topic The aim of the game is to get a deeper understanding of stakeholders’ perspectives on anything—a new project, an organizational restructuring, a shift in the company’s vision or team dynamic.
Who doesn’t love stars? Constellations is a great warm-up activity for any workshop as it gets people up off their feet, energized, and ready to engage in new ways with established topics. It’s also great for showing existing beliefs, biases, and patterns that can come into play as part of your session.
Using warm-up games that help build trust and connection while also allowing for non-verbal responses can be great for easing people into the problem-solving process and encouraging engagement from everyone in the group. Constellations is great in large spaces that allow for movement and is definitely a practical exercise to allow the group to see patterns that are otherwise invisible.
Constellations #trust #connection #opening #coaching #patterns #system Individuals express their response to a statement or idea by standing closer or further from a central object. Used with teams to reveal system, hidden patterns, perspectives.
32. Draw a Tree
Problem-solving games that help raise group awareness through a central, unifying metaphor can be effective ways to warm-up a group in any problem-solving model.
Draw a Tree is a simple warm-up activity you can use in any group and which can provide a quick jolt of energy. Start by asking your participants to draw a tree in just 45 seconds – they can choose whether it will be abstract or realistic.
Once the timer is up, ask the group how many people included the roots of the tree and use this as a means to discuss how we can ignore important parts of any system simply because they are not visible.
All problem-solving strategies are made more effective by thinking of problems critically and by exposing things that may not normally come to light. Warm-up games like Draw a Tree are great in that they quickly demonstrate some key problem-solving skills in an accessible and effective way.
Draw a Tree #thiagi #opening #perspectives #remote-friendly With this game you can raise awarness about being more mindful, and aware of the environment we live in.
Each step of the problem-solving workshop benefits from an intelligent deployment of activities, games, and techniques. Bringing your session to an effective close helps ensure that solutions are followed through on and that you also celebrate what has been achieved.
Here are some problem-solving activities you can use to effectively close a workshop or meeting and ensure the great work you’ve done can continue afterward.
- One Breath Feedback
- Who What When Matrix
- Response Cards
How do I conclude a problem-solving process?
All good things must come to an end. With the bulk of the work done, it can be tempting to conclude your workshop swiftly and without a moment to debrief and align. This can be problematic in that it doesn’t allow your team to fully process the results or reflect on the process.
At the end of an effective session, your team will have gone through a process that, while productive, can be exhausting. It’s important to give your group a moment to take a breath, ensure that they are clear on future actions, and provide short feedback before leaving the space.
The primary purpose of any problem-solving method is to generate solutions and then implement them. Be sure to take the opportunity to ensure everyone is aligned and ready to effectively implement the solutions you produced in the workshop.
Remember that every process can be improved and by giving a short moment to collect feedback in the session, you can further refine your problem-solving methods and see further success in the future too.
33. One Breath Feedback
Maintaining attention and focus during the closing stages of a problem-solving workshop can be tricky and so being concise when giving feedback can be important. It’s easy to incur “death by feedback” should some team members go on for too long sharing their perspectives in a quick feedback round.
One Breath Feedback is a great closing activity for workshops. You give everyone an opportunity to provide feedback on what they’ve done but only in the space of a single breath. This keeps feedback short and to the point and means that everyone is encouraged to provide the most important piece of feedback to them.
One breath feedback #closing #feedback #action This is a feedback round in just one breath that excels in maintaining attention: each participants is able to speak during just one breath … for most people that’s around 20 to 25 seconds … unless of course you’ve been a deep sea diver in which case you’ll be able to do it for longer.
34. Who What When Matrix
Matrices feature as part of many effective problem-solving strategies and with good reason. They are easily recognizable, simple to use, and generate results.
The Who What When Matrix is a great tool to use when closing your problem-solving session by attributing a who, what and when to the actions and solutions you have decided upon. The resulting matrix is a simple, easy-to-follow way of ensuring your team can move forward.
Great solutions can’t be enacted without action and ownership. Your problem-solving process should include a stage for allocating tasks to individuals or teams and creating a realistic timeframe for those solutions to be implemented or checked out. Use this method to keep the solution implementation process clear and simple for all involved.
Who/What/When Matrix #gamestorming #action #project planning With Who/What/When matrix, you can connect people with clear actions they have defined and have committed to.
35. Response cards
Group discussion can comprise the bulk of most problem-solving activities and by the end of the process, you might find that your team is talked out!
Providing a means for your team to give feedback with short written notes can ensure everyone is head and can contribute without the need to stand up and talk. Depending on the needs of the group, giving an alternative can help ensure everyone can contribute to your problem-solving model in the way that makes the most sense for them.
Response Cards is a great way to close a workshop if you are looking for a gentle warm-down and want to get some swift discussion around some of the feedback that is raised.
Response Cards #debriefing #closing #structured sharing #questions and answers #thiagi #action It can be hard to involve everyone during a closing of a session. Some might stay in the background or get unheard because of louder participants. However, with the use of Response Cards, everyone will be involved in providing feedback or clarify questions at the end of a session.
Save time and effort discovering the right solutions
A structured problem solving process is a surefire way of solving tough problems, discovering creative solutions and driving organizational change. But how can you design for successful outcomes?
With SessionLab, it’s easy to design engaging workshops that deliver results. Drag, drop and reorder blocks to build your agenda. When you make changes or update your agenda, your session timing adjusts automatically , saving you time on manual adjustments.
Collaborating with stakeholders or clients? Share your agenda with a single click and collaborate in real-time. No more sending documents back and forth over email.
Explore how to use SessionLab to design effective problem solving workshops or watch this five minute video to see the planner in action!
Over to you
The problem-solving process can often be as complicated and multifaceted as the problems they are set-up to solve. With the right problem-solving techniques and a mix of creative exercises designed to guide discussion and generate purposeful ideas, we hope we’ve given you the tools to find the best solutions as simply and easily as possible.
Is there a problem-solving technique that you are missing here? Do you have a favorite activity or method you use when facilitating? Let us know in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you!
thank you very much for these excellent techniques
Certainly wonderful article, very detailed. Shared!
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