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QFD Applications in the Public Sector

Governmental and non-governmental (NGO) organizations share many of the same challenges as for-profit corporations. Instead of the profit incentive, their goal is to deliver the best to their customers (clients) that their budget will allow. Innovation, of course, is often a key opportunity to get more bang for the buck. With a few changes, QFD can bring the power of Voice of the Customer (VOC) to helping these projects develop faster, better, and cheaper solutions.

One of the presentations at the 2007 International Symposium on QFD introduced the integration of QFD and Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) in the transportation industry. For many years, the selection of transportation routes, design of roadway features, etc. were based mostly on engineering considerations.

image of highways construction projectAccording to the Maryland State Highway Administration, "Context sensitive design asks questions first about the need and purpose of the transportation project, and then equally addresses safety, mobility, and the preservation of scenic, aesthetic, historic, environmental, and other community values. Context sensitive design involves a collaborative, interdisciplinary approach in which citizens are part of the design team."

The research by Glenn H. Mazur, QFD Red Belt® (QFD Institute) and Theodore Hopwood II, P.E. (Kentucky Transportation Center, University of Kentucky) adapted the VOC tools to address the many conflicts any civil project faces when trying to satisfy a broad range of economic, political, social, and functional needs of their constituents. Such challenge is not unique to transportation routing; it occurs regularly with military base, park, community, and other types of construction. At the conference, the authors presented examples from real road construction projects.

It is common for a civil project team to first gather innovative solution concepts from groups familiar with the project, such as architects, road commissioners, land management specialists, ecologists, etc. Each group promotes solutions that are friendly to the position they represent. The civil project team will then conduct focus groups and surveys to get feedback from other constituents, such as land owners, residents, businesses, etc. on these various concepts. Conflict then ensues.

For example, on one recent project to rebuild a scenic road along a river, several concepts such as closing the road to vehicular traffic, narrowing it to a single one-way lane, and other ideas were developed by city experts and then presented to citizens of the area. Attendees of the meetings included residents, cyclists, commuters, emergency care professionals, and others. Immediately, they began to argue that the merits of each solution would have adverse impacts on different groups. There seemed to be no single solution that would satisfy everybody.

QFD's VOC tools promptly revealed that not all constituents were equally impacted by the scenic road and that some should have a stronger voice in the projects. If the constituents were weighted and then interviewed accordingly, it would be possible to gather their divergent opinions and translate them into "needs" that are independent of the solutions.

From there, each constituent group could prioritize their needs according to their group's weight, and the result would be a set of needs that reflects the cross-tabulated priorities of the larger population. QFD tools, then, could be used to convert the needs into road characteristics, which could then be used to generate additional concepts, and eventually to select the best ones.

If public, NGO, or civil projects challenge you, if you must conform to CSS guidelines, then the public QFD courses(see the links below) will give you the VOC tools to translate and prioritize needs, as well as the tools to break and resolve many of the conflicts you face.

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