The 7 Quality Tools Class Activity

7 Quality Tools

The “Seven” Basic Quality Tools

No quality process class is complete without a nod to Deming and Ishikawa.  The idea of the seven basic quality tools is fundamental not only to the assertion of quality, but to turning measurements into metrics – i.e. making them useful for analysis and ultimately decision making.

In explaining the seven basic quality tools (often added to, substituted, or simply used as a reference for an list), one area I fear may be overlooked by students is how they are complimentary, or used together.  Thinking of them in this way, you can easily divide them into groups, keeping in mind that some may fall into more than one category:

  1.  Monitoring – With the result being a suspected issue
    • Check Sheet
    • Run Chart
    • Control Chart
  2. Analyzing – Digging into the problem more
    • Cause-and-Effect (Ishikawa, Fishbone) Diagram
    • Scatter Diagram
    • Histogram
  3. Prioritizing – Deciding where to concentrate effort
    • Pareto Chart
  4. Planning & Executing – Enacting lessons learned
    • Flowchart
    • Checklist
    • Forms with Required Fields

In order to reinforce this, I’ve used the following class activity successfully with underclass students, directly after a 15-20 minute lecture covering the tools and important concepts.

First, divide the students into teams of 3 or 4, and have them choose a non-software situation that everyone in the group can relate to, and what the intent of the situation is.  If they are unable to come up with one, ask the class for ideas or inject some of your own.  Some examples:

Thanksgiving Fishbone Diagram

Exploring what it takes to have a great Thanksgiving holiday

  • Having a great holiday
  • Avoiding a car accident
  • Throwing a birthday party
  • Quickly cleaning a house
  • Having a productive team meeting

Once each group has settled upon or has been assigned a topic, have them complete a fishbone diagram – encouraging them to go several layers in.  A classroom whiteboard is a perfect medium for this, as it allows easy edits.

Next, have the group complete some comparative analysis/prioritization on the diagram:

Thanksgiving Pareto Diagram

Choosing the Thanksgiving elements with the highest impact

  1. Choose between 5 and 10 “bones” from the cause-and-effect diagram.  This can be done by having each team member choose a few or by consensus
  2. Rate them against each other.  An easy way to do this is to have each team member assign them percentages so that they add up to 100, then average them together.
  3. Complete a Pareto analysis of these items, ranking them from most important to least.

Finally, with analysis complete, a quality plan needs to be created.  Have the students choose one of the Pareto items and formulate a checklist, flowchart, or form with required fields.  The output is intended to allow users to learn from their analysis (although only a small portion of it) and heighten the impact of lessons learned.

Thanksgiving Checklist

Using a checklist to ensure flawless execution of Thanksgiving

Once the activity is complete, you may wish to have students present their findings to the rest of the class or turn it in for grading.  If whiteboard were used and grading is required, tell the students to take a picture using a smartphone and confirm receipt and clarity of the image before erasing.

There will be some interesting variance in what the students come up with for this activity – some of the topics or resulting analysis may surprise you or even make you laugh.  Ultimately, the students will learn how the 7 basic quality tools can be used together to close the quality loop – from monitoring to analysis to prioritization to planning and execution.

Agile Principles Class Activity

Continuous attention to technical excellence

Continuous attention to technical excellence

One of the fundamentals of teaching any agile methodology, such as scrum, is the principles of the Agile Manifesto.  These concepts go to the core of agile: relying on the strength of the individual team member rather than that of the process.

In previous classes I have included these concepts as slides and required reading, sometimes going as far as having each student read a principle to the class.  Last semester, I decided to try something new to get a little more engagement in my upper-level agile process class.

First, introduce the manifesto and the principles.  These should be assigned reading, the students told of their importance, and some illustrations pertaining to individual methodologies given.  Next, have students divide into teams, put the principles on the projector (or share the URL) and give the following conditions:

  1. Choose one of the principles (so that there are no duplications within the class).
  2. Present that principle creatively to the class – the more creative the better.  Interpretive dance, a skit, slides, whatever – as long as it demonstrates the principle effectively.
  3. You have anything in the room at your disposal – computers/projector, white boards, other students, anything you happen to have in  your bag, etc.
  4. The presentation must be under 5 minutes, and you have 10 minutes to prepare.
Simplicity - the art of maximizing the amount of work not done

Simplicity – the art of maximizing the amount of work not done

Most of my students have chosen some sort of skit, using things like the rolling white boards as props.  Others have chosen to draw on whiteboards (two examples are illustrated in this post), and some have used online resources or videos.  I believe that this activity has increased retention at test time, homework, and activities later in the semester.

Although some team’s presentations are likely to be better than others, the hope is that engaging the students directly in the ideas will improve retention, and perhaps even recreate – in a small way – the original meeting of “The Agile Alliance“.