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QFD by the book?  What should you do when your boss demands a House of Quality?

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From recent comments and questions to the QFD Institute:

"We are about to kick off a project and my boss insists we do a House of Quality. He's seen it in books and thinks we can do it by copying. No one here has any experience with QFD, including him."

"My new boss did QFD 20 years ago at another company and wants to implement it here. All he has is a training book by a consultant who has since retired."

"According to your newsletter, better QFD tools exist today that do not require a House of Quality matrix. What are they? Where can I learn them?"

(illustration - Learning QFD by bad books)The challenge that these readers face is more and more common.

Unfortunately, the entire library of English language books on QFD reference a traditional "House of Quality" matrix and "4-House model" created 30 years ago by auto parts suppliers building to print. These modesl, besides the wrong math used there, no longer address the tasks most product development teams face today, such as user needs, design, innovation, reliability, security, supply chain, technical support, sustainability, etc.

The new ISO 16355 makes these traditional approaches obsolete for a good reason. New product development professionals and DFLS/DFSS champions must take a notice and update their knowledge and skills now, in order for your business to be in compliance with the ISO.

This reminded us of a conversation we had recently with someone we met at a quality conference:

"We had extensive Voice of Customer (VoC) data. Our marketing group spent a lot of time collecting them. We prepared ourselves with many books, downloaded an online House of Quality with instructions and a college lecture YouTube. We thought we had a good head start.

"But as soon as we began transferring the VoC data into the downloaded template, we realized we were in trouble.

"We did not know which of the customer voices to pursue or discard, how to sort them, how to convert them into needs or specifications, etc. Some of the WHATs (customer needs) looked like HOWs (product specifications), and we had no WHYs (the customer's problem).

(illustration - Confusion of HOQ and 4-House methods)"Our confusion increased as we deployed to House 2.  Houses 3 and 4 didn't fit our project at all. The downloaded template and instructions sounded good on paper, but made no sense on a real project.

"We wasted so much effort that we ran short of the development time and were forced to jump to finalizing engineering specifications. Because our colleagues had high hopes for our QFD project, we ended up looking to the TRIZ list of inventive principles and matching them to some of the raw customer voice data, just so that we could make a big matrix to please our boss and get his approval to continue to fund the project.

"The irony is our superiors could not tell our 'by the book' matrix from a real HoQ even though they said they knew QFD. But now we are seriously worried about the outcome of the project, as it proceeds with this made-up analysis.."


Senior managers who learned QFD decades ago can and do respond to improvements.
Here are ways to help:

  1. Encourage your boss to take the QFD White Belt® Course. This seminar is designed for senior managers and executives who do not need to know specific QFD techniques nor become a hands-on expert. It introduces them to the benefits that QFD can bring to a customer-driven organization. The QFD White Belt® course is typically scheduled at your company to accommodate busy executives.
  2. Show a quick "win" by tackling small project. Use Blitz QFD® first to address what matters most to customer. Promise to follow up with a House of Quality afterwards. These mini grids in the Blitz QFD® will be your fast tools for grasping the most challenging, fuzzy front-end of customer needs analysis. The Blitz QFD® tools are taught in the QFD Green Belt® course, which includes the free templates for Modern QFD, including Customer Voice table, AHP, Maximum Value table, and a modernized House of Quality with correct math.
  3. ISO 16355 Compliance. This standard details with examples the best practice of QFD, including the correct situation and method to use a House of Quality. It identifies deployments for physical products, services (including healthcare), software and information systems, and internal business processes.

    ISO 16355-1:2015 was released in December 2015. Parts 2, 4, 5, and 8 are in pre-publication phase and expected by the end of 2016 or early 2017. The remaining parts should follow soon after.

    Quality professionals including Six Sigma, Lean Sigma, DfSS, and DfLS are uniquely qualified to implement this standard. Many of the methods and tools you use to improve your internal operations can now be re-purposed to improve your customer's operations and products. This shifts the financial impact from cost reduction to revenue creation, an almost unlimited opportunity. The QFD Institute public and in-house training details how to comply with the ISO 16355, while leading your project teams in their product/business development and DFLS/DFSS with the best tools for their purposes and correct steps.

The above steps will demonstrate that QFD "by-the-book" is rarely a workable approach in a modern business. While online tutorials, videos, and templates may look easy to follow, experience tells us that without the context and nuance of your company, your products, and your customers, this by-the-book QFD will yield lackluster, not blockbuster results.

Your real market opportunity costs and resource commitments far outweigh free downloads and one-size-fits-all templates.

Should a House of Quality still be required by your boss, please consider the following:

  1. The House of Quality matrix is constructed of WHYs and WHATs (not Whats and Hows).
  2. No priorities can be derived until the entire matrix is completed.
  3. The ordinal scale math (virtually all book examples use this bad math) is incorrect and skews the priority calculations, making invalid your downstream analysis and deployment.
  4. The House of Quality addresses only two design dimensions. Additional matrices are required to complete the QFD study whenever you use the House of Quality -- even though none of the QFD book authors mention this important fact.

Finally, in this age of Lean Thinking and constrained resources, doesn't it make more sense to get a quick start on innovating solutions to key customer needs by first using Blitz QFD®?

As projects change in scope, resources get reassigned, competitors disrupt our best plans, and technologies evolve, what our bosses really need is an agile approach to new product development.


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