Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Personal Quality Improvement

Recently, I shared a post on the history of quality improvement.  Quality improvement is now a vital part of operations in business and healthcare.  Departments that focus on quality are also present in manufacturing, education, government, and anywhere there is a desire to improve the outcomes of products and services.

Models of quality

Three popular models of quality improvement are PDSA, TAMMCS, and DMAIC.  Many books and training courses of varying length and intensity have been written - and continue to be written - about these models.  This is an extremely brief summary ...

PDSA = Plan, Do, Study, Act (Deming's quality model)
PDCA = Plan, Do, Check, Act (variation of PDSA)
TAMMCS = Team Aim Map Measure Change Sustain (a government model for quality)
DMAIC = Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control (from Six Sigma)

Personal Quality Improvement

Personal Quality Improvement (PQI) is an application of the principles of quality improvement applied to the individual.  Most quality efforts focus on changing organizations and redesigning systems for better performance.  Change will occur when you apply the same principles to your life!

The PQI model is centered around the individual.  In order for change to occur there must be personal effort.  There is no team in PQI.  Any processes, evaluations, and changes result from the amount of personal investment.

PQI consists of a four-step process that includes identifying something that needs to be changed, developing a plan of action, executing the plan, and assessing the outcome.  The keywords of each step form the acronym IDEA - identify, develop, execute, assess.

Phase 1:  Identify an area to change

Before change can be realized, some kind of evaluation must take place that identifies something that needs to be changed.  For PQI, examples of change might be weight loss, spending less money, or devoting more time to children or hobbies.  The steps to identify an area of change include:

  • Take an initial measurement of 3-4 areas that might be suitable to the PQI process.
  • Create visual, graphic summaries of the recorded measurements.
  • Select one problem area to address.
  • Explore the details related to that problem including actions that you take, processes you follow, and possible root causes.

Phase 2:  Develop a plan of action

Once a problem has been selected, it is time to set a goal for change, brainstorm possible solutions or steps for improvement, how to implement solutions, and test - on a small scale - strategies that will result in the desired changes.

During this phase of PQI, long-term and short-term goals are established.  A variety of brainstorming methods are applied to design ways to achieve goals.  A plan of action is created that you will follow for a second measurement period referred to as "action measurement."  The plan of action undergoes a brief trial run in order to evaluate if it will work and to make any changes in the plan.

Phase 3:  Execute the plan

Implementing the plan of action is probably the easiest phase of the PQI process.  You simply follow the plan you developed previously and record measurements.  During this phase, you are not even concerned about whether change is occurring.  At the end of the action measurement period, you create visual, graphic summaries that will be used to compare the initial and action measurement periods.

Phase 4:  Assess the outcome

By comparing graphic summaries from the initial and action measurement phases, the degree of change is assessed.  If change did occur, it is also compared to the goals specified in Phase 2.  A future direction is also determined, which can include whether the plan of action needs to be revised or a new problem identified.  Experience from failures as well as successes can result in better outcomes.

Over the next few months, I will be describing each of the phases and steps in more detail.

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