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9 Steps to Higher Quality

Jan 5, 2007

Hank Marquis



FOCUS is an acronym for Find, Organize, Clarify, Uncover, and Start. FOCUS sets the stage for PDCA. Combining FOCUS with PDCA can dramatically improve results. FOCUS-PDCA is a nine-step process with five FOCUS steps, and four PDCA steps. The five FOCUS steps are:

Find an opportunity for improvement. You need to select a process or activity that you want to modify. Examples might include how you handle major incidents, or trying to improve script accuracy for routing of tickets.

Answer the question, “What is wrong?” For example, regarding scripts, the questions might be, “Why do 65% of all scripts coded as ‘A1’ route to network instead of database?”

Organize a team. Always approach the solution to the question from a team perspective — this is the only way to really improve. The best ideas come from those doing the work, so involve them. Find those that understand the opportunity and related systems or processes. Ask yourself, “Who knows about this?” and make them part of the team.

Clarify the opportunity. Using team leadership skills, work to really understand the opportunity, have the team dissect what currently happens, and brainstorm possible new ways of working. Use Ishikawa "fishbone" diagrams and other means. Have the team seek to answer the question, “What is involved?”

Understand the causes. After clarifying the opportunity, seek to identify why, where, or how the undesired activity or result occurs. Lead the team in answering the question, “Why isn't it working?”

Start the PDCA cycle by choosing a single modification to the process. Working with the team, choose the most likely cause of the undesired result and develop a new approach to doing that work. Answer the question, “Where should the change occur?”

Try using the FOCUS method with PDCA. Use tools and techniques such as Fault Tree Analysis (FTA), Component Failure Impact Analysis (CFIA), Pareto Analysis and others to Plan to improve operations by determining what is going wrong and developing potential solutions.

Use small groups and group management techniques to solve the problems on a small or experimental scale first. This minimizes disruptions to routine work while the testing is underway.

Trend analysis, critical success factors (CSF) and key performance indicators (KPI) are critical to Check if the small scale or experimental changes are achieving the desired result or not.

Continuously check key activities (regardless of any experimentation) to assess output quality at all times in order to identify new or potential problems.

If the experiment was not successful, skip the Act stage, go back to the Plan stage to determine new ideas for solving the problem, and repeat the cycle.

Act to document and implement the changes on a larger scale if the experiment is successful. Standardize the changes and make the changes the “new normal.” Involve stakeholders (staff, departments, suppliers, or customers) affected by the changes whose cooperation you need to implement on a larger scale.

Structured usage of PDCA can produce amazing results but you have to you use it, and use it properly.

Hank Marquis is a managing partner and CTO at itSM Solutions. You can contact Hank at hank.marquis@itsmsolutions.com.

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