Structured Problem-Solving for Administrative Processes: A Case Study


Galvin, John M.   (1991, ASQC)   Bureau of Labor Statistics, Consumer Price Index Division, Washington, DC

Annual Quality Congress, Milwaukee WI    Vol. 45    No. 0
QICID: 9725    May 1991    pp. 692-697
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Article Abstract

Quality improvement in administrative processes has lagged behind improvement of "production" processes, where problem solving is easier. This paper discusses special characteristics of administrative processes and relates the experiences of a team's efforts to improve the performance of the employee separations process.

The special characteristics identified by Melan (1985) include (1) unclear ownership and ambiguous boundaries; (2) reactive rather than preventive corrective action; (3) lack of documentation and standard operating procedures; and (4) lack of measurement and feedback. The special characteristics identified by Scholtes (1989) include: (1) slower learning curve in applying statistical methods; (2) delicacy of "politics;" (3) inherently low product volume; (4) employees, rather than parts or machines, as sources of variation; and (5) lack of technological sophistication of employees.

When forming project teams to improve administrative processes, it is important to clarify boundaries, recognize that root causes of variation may arise from supplier processes in non-administrative areas, and heed political considerations in selecting problems to attack. The case study demonstrates six steps in the problem-solving model: (1) start up, (2) collect data, (3) identify root causes, (4) develop solutions, (5) plan and make changes, and (6) closure.

Within one month, the team presented in the case study significantly improved the separations process. They agreed to monitor data for four months and then assess whether further action was needed.


Administration,Case study,Problem solving,Quality improvement (QI),Quality management (QM)

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