Apply Design Thinking to Quality Practices

 

More and more organizations are using design thinking to assess business concerns, discover creative solutions, and to establish market opportunities. As this strategy gains more traction ASQ asks:

How can design thinking be integrated with, and applied to quality practices?   

 

Prem Ranganath: The Art of Quality

Design Thinking is an opportunity to humanize quality and continuous improvement

Background: Design Thinking is a collection of methods and mindset that evolved at Stanford University and has now entered the mainstream in almost every industry. While the design thinking stages and methods might appear to be a framework, the essence of design thinking is the focus on ‘empathy’ and ‘experimentation’ to design innovative, meaningful and people focused solutions.

Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.

-Tim Brown, CEO OF IDEO

Design Thinking for Quality Practitioners:

There is no dearth of frameworks, toolkits and methodologies for quality management and continuous improvement. For example, a methodology like DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) provides a structured set of methods for continuous improvement along with a set of problem-solving tools and techniques for each stage in the methodology. DMAIC provides an opportunity to assess the current state using quantitative methods and prioritize problems/ opportunities for which solutions have to be implemented.

Metrics to qualify the current state and for measuring effectiveness of the solutions implemented are typically tagged to business objectives which ensures that employees understand the alignment between improvement initiatives and the potential impact of outcomes on business objectives.

If we use the Visual-01 (below) from IDEO as a reference, traditionally quality and continuous improvement initiatives are largely driven by viability and feasibility considerations. Integrating design thinking with improvement initiatives brings the ‘human’ element into focus, by driving conversation on ‘desirability’ of the solutions being proposed for implementation.

Visual-01: Dimensions of Design Thinking (source: IDEO)

Innovation Dimensions

When desirability is considered alongside viability and feasibility on quality and continuous improvement projects, it significantly improves change management and adoption. This approach also significantly increases the odds of institutionalizing and sustaining changes and ensures the effectiveness of the changes. Use of empathy as a facet to characterize current state brings more focus on the users (internal or external customers). Applying empathy alongside prototyping to evaluate alternate solution options for the future state improves engagement from the user community and will have a positive impact on the pace and extent of adoption. An informed and engaged user is more likely to be a champion for the solutions being implemented. The combination of traditional metrics and qualitative data supporting the desirability dimension can provide a new perspective for prioritizing and driving improvements.

Visual-02: Integrating Design Thinking with DMAIC

Integrating Design Thinking with DMAICVisual-02 shows the integration of a Design Thinking flow represented by the steps Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test with the DMAIC approach for continuous improvement. Integration of design thinking methods to adopt a humanized approach to characterizing (challenges and opportunities) current state. On similar lines, engaging internal and external customers to experiment and improve in a culture of play can lead to solutions that are desired by the user community and enable the quality practitioners ability to sustain and scale the improvements.

I have used the design thinking approach and methods on large transformation initiatives and during Kaizen events and I have seen significant impact on participants’ enthusiasm and engagement. The ability to empathize and experiment puts a human face to quality and process improvements and I would highly recommend design thinking to quality practitioners. I look forward to hearing from my peers on their experience with design thinking.

 

Robert Mitchell: Quality Matters 

Use Design Thinking to Innovate Your Quality Improvement Journey

Design Thinking is a strategy-making process that focuses on customer behaviors rather than opinion (aka tribal knowledge) and market research.

There is a lot of press lately about Design Thinking concepts, applications and examples in the development of new products and opening new markets. Design Thinking was popularized by David M. Kelley and Tim Brown of IDEO and Roger Martin of the Rotman School. A very good, short video on the topic was recently published by the Harvard Business Review blog . For a more detailed explanation please read the paper, “Design for Action” written by Brown and Martin.

Design Thinking process:

Design Thinking Process
From a paper recently published by Creativity At Work, “Design Thinking is a methodology used by designers to solve complex problems, and find desirable solutions for clients. A design mindset is not problem-focused, it’s solution focused and action oriented towards creating a preferred future. Design Thinking draws upon logic, imagination, intuition, and systemic reasoning, to explore possibilities of what could be—and to create desired outcomes that benefit the end user (the customer)”.

So how might Design Thinking be applied to your Quality improvement frameworks and roadmaps? The three major stages of Design Thinking are:

  1. Observe customer behavior; define unarticulated needs
  2. Ideate, Prototype, experiment and test
  3. Bring the new concept to life; open new markets

What differentiates Design Thinking from traditional Voice of Customer collection approaches is the emphasis placed on observation of behaviors rather than relying on customers’ input to satisfaction surveys. Survey responses tend to validate Expected Quality and rarely reveal Exciting Quality opportunities (see “Kano Model”). In this way, Design Thinking is similar to Focus Panels and “Be the Customer” methods to better understand unarticulated customer needs. It is at this stage of Design Thinking that the Quality practitioner has the unique opportunity to innovate through the introduction and incorporation of Journey Mapping to document customer experiences throughout the value chain of the producer-customer relationship, from product awareness to purchase and after-sale touchpoints.

An example of customer journey map:

Customer Journey Layers

The stages in Design Thinking around Ideation and Prototyping should look very similar to your existing Product Development and Commercialization processes. Many such approaches use a stage-gate model to prototype, test, and refine product design to evaluate customer acceptance and verify production cost estimates. Quality’s role in this stage should be to coach and consult in the proper use of experimental design to minimize experimentation costs and identify potentially important interactions of inputs and process variables to optimize performance of customer needs.

Another unique opportunity in the Design Thinking process for the Quality professional is in the final stage of bringing the new concept to life. With the help of social media the properly trained Quality professional can analyze customer / consumer feedback to validate areas of satisfaction and dissatisfaction, focusing on opportunities to build loyalty and engagement.

One can debate whether Design Thinking is really all that new or novel an approach to the value creation process. Design Thinking reinforces the power of understanding customer behaviors and unarticulated needs to deliver Exciting, innovative new product and service offerings for improved customer satisfaction and engagement… and potentially opening whole new markets. Per Linda Naiman (Creativity at Work), “Design Thinking minimizes the uncertainty and risk of innovation by engaging customers or users through a series of prototypes to learn, test and refine concepts”. The Quality professional might also consider how Design Thinking and Journey Mapping can help him/her to innovate their professional services portfolio for increased customer satisfaction in teaching, coaching and consulting outcomes.

“The best way to predict the future is to create it” – Peter Drucker

 

Luciana Paulise: Biztorming

What is Design thinking

Design thinking is a systematic and collaborative creative problem solving approach focusing on customer needs, getting information by direct observation, and testing it in a disciplined way. Similar to the Lean startup approach, the key is to fail fast and fail often. Even Toyota production system promotes investigating as many alternatives as possible, to find the very best solution, and always urge to propose ideas and fail as fast as possible.

The three main stages

1) Invent the future: With design thinking you should imagine what could be, in the ideal world, with limitless boundaries. You need to think what your customer may want but don’t know. The way to do that is by “Camping out” with your customers, like Home depot does. They talk to customers, ask how their experience was, ask questions like “did you find what you expected, what about the price, was it easy to find?” Sometimes a customer just want something fast, meaning buying a product in your website in just three clicks. That is what you need to discover through observation, what is “unstated”. Customer know they want to Get from a to b, but don’t know how. You need to find out the best way by immersing in their lives, observing and asking questions.

Ideas for product changes may be related to new products, pricing or new store displays.

2) Test ideas. You can do Mindmapping to write down ideas after observation, and then test those ideas. Do first individually, and then test it with your team mates or even with your customers. Remember, don’t judge, simply think and write down.

Once you have your ideas mapped, you need to conduct experiments to test the ideas in the real world. You can also test new processes that maybe faster, easier or

Use cheap materials, or partial solutions or Rapid prototyping tools. It does’t have to look perfect at first. The idea is to go fast, to be able to adjust fast.

3) Bring the new product to life. Identify resources and activities to implement the new ideas. Plan how to produce, distribute and sell the product or how to change the process.

Some Case studies

Design thinking can be used in any type of industry. A health provider for example used it to re-engineer nursing-staff shift changes. Close observation of actual shift changes, combined with brainstorming and rapid prototyping, produced new procedures that radically streamlined information exchange between shifts. The result was more time for nursing, better-informed patient care, and a happier nursing staff.

The Innova School System, for example, with 23 schools thus far, is applying design thinking across its platform, from how the classrooms are built to the curriculum. and the UK’s Design Policy Unit  as described in Tim Browns’s first article on Design Thinking for HBR.

Samsung Electronics manufactured inexpensive, imitative electronics for other companies. Its engineers built products to meet prescribed price and performance requirements. In a company that emphasized efficiency and engineering rigor, the designers had little status or influence. Then, in 1996, Lee Kun-Hee, the chairman of Samsung Group, frustrated by the company’s lack of innovation decided that in order to become a top brand, Samsung needed expertise in design, and set out to create a design-focused culture that would support world-class innovation. It took a long way until getting everyone in the company on-board, but they finally made it. Now Samsung innovation process begins with research conducted by multidisciplinary teams of designers, engineers, marketers, ethnographers, musicians, and writers who search for users’ unmet needs and identify cultural, technological, and economic trends. Design thinking for them means three major things: empathy, visualization, and experimentation in the marketplace.

Tech companies are using quality tools to organize their innovation cycles, likewise automotive, manufacturing, or even consulting industries more focused on standardization should start using quality together with design thinking so as to get a disciplined empathetic approach to customer requirements.

Are you ready?

How Does Knowledge Management Complement Quality?

Arun Hariharan is a quality, knowledge management, and performance management practitioner. He has worked with several large companies and is the founder and CEO of The CPi Coach.

 

His latest book, The Strategic Knowledge Management Handbook, provides “hands on” advice for implementing Knowledge Management (KM) – not merely with technology, but with the more challenging leadership, strategic, and culture / behavior aspects of KM. The primary purpose of this book is to enable the reader to implement a strategic KM program in an organization and derive business results. This book is particularly addressed to CEOs and senior management to help them understand how they can use KM as a strategic tool to achieve their business objectives.  Purchase The Strategic Knowledge Management Handbook from ASQ.

 

Arun spoke with ASQ about Knowledge Management, how it can be used effectively, and best practices.

What is Knowledge Management (KM)?

KM is an enabler to achieve an organization’s objectives better and faster through an integrated set of initiatives, systems and behavioral interventions – aimed at promoting smooth flow and sharing of knowledge relevant to the organization, and elimination of re-invention.

KM seeks to facilitate the flow of knowledge from where it resides, to where it is required (that is, where it can be applied or used), for achieving the organization’s objectives.

In your experience, what are the challenges that prevent some organizations from achieving results from Knowledge Management? How can these challenges be avoided or overcome?

The root of the challenge is that some organizations and their leaders seem to think that KM is all about technology. Examples abound of companies that have sunk truckloads of money in KM technology such as portals and collaboration tools, but did not get the results that they expected.

In my experience, there are four groups of factors, which I call the four pillars of KM, which will determine whether you get substantial and sustained results from your program. These are – in order of importance – (1) Leadership, people, and culture; (2) Keeping KM relevant to your business; (3) Measurement of KM (you need to measure both the enablers and results); and (4) Standardized KM processes and technology.  Your KM program will give you sustained results only if all four pillars are in place.

Does KM, with its emphasis on knowledge storing and reuse, kill innovation?

No, it doesn’t – KM only kills re-invention. And re-invention is not the same as innovation. If a particular type of work has been done by someone somewhere in the organization (or, ideally, even outside), another person re-inventing it or trying to get results through trial and error methods is not being innovative, but merely wasting their own and the company’s time and resources.

KM seeks to actively promote innovation by encouraging sharing of new ideas and at the same time eliminating re-invention. In fact, KM, by ensuring that your existing organizational knowledge is available in an organized fashion, facilitates further knowledge creation (in other words, innovation).

Our experience shows that every time existing knowledge from the organizational knowledge-base is reused, some new knowledge is created in the process of applying or customizing the existing knowledge to the present situation. Some companies that I work with also have KM initiatives such as IdeaExpress (a scheme for generating innovative ideas from employees), which are nothing but innovation factories.

Can quality and KM complement each other?

Absolutely. While Knowledge Management and quality are distinct disciplines, my experience working with both taught me that there are several ways in which the two can complement each other. Companies that have both a KM program and a quality program have the unique opportunity to get them get in tune with one another.

How KM can help quality: In several companies that I worked with, the KM program frequently helped us to identify potential quality-improvement projects. For example, some of our high-impact Lean Six Sigma projects were identified as a result of our KM program bringing in relevant knowledge in the form of competitor benchmarking information. Some of our best quality-improvement projects started as employee-ideas from our structured idea-generation initiative, a part of the KM program.

Also, successful quality-improvement projects were often done as pilot-projects in one part of the company. Once successful, these projects could be quickly replicated across the company through the best-practice sharing process that is in place thanks to the KM program.

How quality can help KM: On the other hand, we were able to quickly institutionalize best practices identified through the KM program by making them part of standardized business processes. This was possible because the company’s quality program ensured that it had a strong foundation of standardized processes, subject to continuous improvement. Secondly, the quality program ensured that critical business processes are clearly identified and mapped, making it easy to prioritize and focus KM efforts on these processes.

In companies where we implemented lean management, I added “re-invention of the wheel” to the list of different types of waste that lean commonly talks about. And, clearly, re-invention is one of the evils that KM seeks to eliminate.

In several companies, KM and quality are both important components of the business excellence program, and they complement each other beautifully.

The synergy between KM and quality is also borne out by the fact that, several years ago, well known excellence models such as Baldrige and EFQM added KM-related criteria. The revised ISO 9001:2015 also emphasizes the importance of KM in a new clause.

Is KM primarily about technology, or is there a strategic and/or culture aspect to it?

The differences between KM as a strategy and a limited technology-only approach is that a strategic KM Program has the following:

•    Senior management involvement
•    Link with broader organizational priorities
•    KM initiatives (such as knowledge bases, communities of experts and collaboration) centered around pre-defined “mission-critical” areas
•    KM roles clearly defined
•    Close-looped processes for knowledge-sharing and replication in mission-critical areas – not left to choice or chance
•    Technology as an important enabler, but clearly one component  of a larger KM program

On the other hand, a technology-only approach to KM is a narrow view that treats the implementation of some form of technology (usually an intranet / portal with features of document management, storage and collaboration) as the be-all-and-end-all of KM. In such an approach, KM is not linked to organizational priorities or employees’ performance.

Not surprisingly, organizations that take the technology-only view end up getting hardly any results from KM. What is the use of the best technology if we have an organizational culture where people are reluctant to share their knowledge with others, or unwilling to “copy” even proven best practices?

Learning About Quality From Counter-culture

This is a guest post by Nicole Radziwill, an assistant professor in the Department of  Integrated Science and Technology at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. She writes about research in the quality field, quality consciousness, and innovation on her blog, Quality and Innovation. Nicole is also an ASQ Influential Voices blogger.

What can you learn about quality in the middle of a counter-cultural gathering in the desert? A lot. And that’s just the start.

Quality and innovation can be managed, but transformation must be catalyzed by new insights and experiences. It’s the process of inner transformation that allows us to see possibilities for creating future value.

On August 24, my partner and I embarked on our annual trek to the Burning Man festival to be transformed. Burning Man is a yearly gathering of hundreds of thousands of people in the harsh wilderness of the Black Rock Desert in northwestern Nevada, U.S.

Temple of Grace at Burning Man 2014. Image Credit: John David Tupper (photographerinfocus.com)

We joined 70,000 others in the creation of Black Rock City, a temporary community dedicated to art, technology, and radical self-expression that is dismantled (leaving no trace) a week later. The entire city is decommodified. No money is exchanged at all; however, gifts are given frequently. If you need something, it’s expected that you ask around. Someone will provide it! The community is guided by 10 Principles that include participation, communal effort, and civic responsibility.

A Quality-Minded Approach: A quality-minded approach is essential. You’ll be in the desert for several days, so you need to bring sufficient food and water. Your shelter must withstand mud, extreme heat, hypothermia-inducing cold, and dust storms with hurricane-force winds. You need to make sure you don’t forget anything; you can’t just run to the store and quickly pick something up.

Basic Quality Tools: Some of our camp mates learned this the hard way. When we arrived, they were building a 30-footdiameter geodesic dome. It would serve as the base of operations for a neurogaming event, which challenges two players wearing EEG headsets to see who can get into a meditative state the fastest. As they unpacked their gear, the discussion became heated.

“Where’s the projector? It’s the most important part of our installation!”

Without a projector, the competitors’ scores could not be displayed to the crowd. No one could find the projector.

The project manager asked, “Who was in charge of the checklist?”

Team members glanced quizzically at each other.

“What checklist? What do you mean?”

Unfortunately, basic quality tools weren’t part of their pre-trip planning.

“Didn’t you make a checklist so you’d be sure not to forget mission critical things like… the projector?!”

Fortunately, they found another camp willing to provide a projector on loan for a couple days.

Waste and Value: Burning Man also trains me to think about waste in a totally different way. There are no trash cans, so what you bring in you must pack out. You can’t dump gray water on the ground due to Bureau of Land Management requirements — it has to be packed out, too. Loose hairs are also considered MOOP (Matter Out Of Place).  I found myself choosing canned drinks instead of bottles (which are easier to safely crush and recycle), sparingly transferring dishwater of varying hues between dishes of varying dirtyness, preparing only enough food for each meal (and eating it all!), and being extra careful combing out my hair. In a socially and environmentally conscious community, I didn’t want to leave any MOOP.

The “out of place” component of the MOOP term is also very instructive because it encourages you to consider whether you’re dealing with true waste, or something that just needs to be somewhere else to add value. (Could MOOP become an established term in the quality profession?)

Embracing Variation and Innovation: What I love most about Burning Man, though, is that you are continually surrounded by technological innovation and beauty — all contributed by the participants. Interactive art installations are scattered throughout the city. For example, one night we sat in a “binaural beats therapy” pod, the size of a cargo van, that provided a light and sound show that stimulated a sensory deprivation environment. The environment encourages you to temporarily embrace variation, experience freedom from marketing and economic transactions, and practice giving, receiving, and expressing gratitude.

To quote another attendee: “To celebrate the collective expression and actualization of an entire city is nothing short of transformational. That’s what happens every second of every day on the playa. No one is just pushing paper or wasting time doing something they don’t want to be doing.”

Key Takeaway For Quality: This exploratory culture has been spreading around the globe for the past few years. Regional events can provide anyone with the opportunity to participate in this experiential, transformational culture that catalyzes innovation.

But you don’t need to attend an event as radical as Burning Man. You can find hints of quality and even transformation in any offbeat event near you. Quality isn’t something restricted to an office or manufacturing floor.

How can we implement liberating environments like this — that drive purpose, value, and meaning–while retaining a focus on quality?

August Roundup: What's The Future of Quality?

Last month, ASQ’s Influential Voices bloggers wrestled with a big question: What road will quality take in the future? In his August blog post, ASQ CEO, Bill Troy laid out two scenarios—one evolutionary and one revolutionary.  Some bloggers took one view or the other, while others explored how the counterpoints merge or complement each other. Take a look.

Evolutionary: Anshuman Tiwari writes that quality is evolutionary by nature, not revolutionary, and that’s fine. Edwin Garro notes that “we quality professionals surely are the basic units of an autopoietic system“–that is, one that can reproduce and maintain itself as necessary. Jennifer Stepniowski writes that a cautious revolutionary approach that doesn’t forget its roots generally thrives. And John Priebe adds that an evolutionary approach is superior to a revolutionary one.

Revolutionary: Aimee Sigler proposes that sustainability is the truly revolutionary idea in quality. Rajan Thiyagarajan makes the case that the future of quality will be revolutionary–as does Nicole Radziwill.  “We’re going to need new models for business, new models for education, and new models for living if we are to satisfy the stated and implied needs of an increasingly interconnected Internet of people and things,” she writes. And Don Brecken sees the future of quality as a battle.

Both/And: Manu Vora predicts that the future of quality will be 80% evolutionary and 20% revolutionary. Jimena Calfa argues that the future of quality will be both revolutionary and evolutionary. Bob Mitchell also says the future of quality will be both–resulting in “resulting in uneven incremental, breakthrough and disruptive levels of performance improvement.”

Neither? Scott Rutherford asks if conditions exist for a quality revolution, finding that they do not, as quality is rarely part of educational curriculum.

John Hunter writes that the key to predicting the future of quality lies in the decisions made in the executive suite. Lotto Lai looks at the future of quality through the lens of the film “The Matrix.”

Guy Wallace writes about the role of marketing principles in the future of ASQ.

Dan Zrymiak believes that quality is moving from control and performance excellence to emphasizing innovation.

Michael Noble notes that the consumer has a key role in defining the future of quality: “But let me argue that ultimately change will not be driven just from within the professional community because the real driver of change comes from public demand on one issue or another.”