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What software is best for QFD?

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While software is useful for archiving decisions and later retrieval, this can be done sufficiently in MS Excel (the templates are easy to create).

image of a bird feederThe key to successful QFD is knowing what is to be analyzed, and how. In other words, it is in these 'off-chart' efforts where expertise is needed. Like carpenter's tools, software can automate and assist, but without understanding what you want to make or how to make it, it is far too common to envision a bird-feeder but end up with an ashtray.

So why the hang-up with software? Documenting the relationships of large sets of data can be conveniently done, two data sets at a time, in a matrix. When these data sets exceed 20 or so members each, a matrix is probably the most efficient way for most people to mentally grasp the model. (Multi-attribute theory is also useful but requires model building that is difficult to master.)

Most books that cover QFD (including some new ones) are stuck in the 1980s view that QFD is the same thing as the House of Quality matrix (HOQ). This was never the intent of QFD (Dr. Akao, QFD's founder, has repeatedly stressed that QFD is not a HOQ). But for those who think that customer-driven product design requires a complex House of Quality, then, some matrix building software does seem required. Can we challenge this assumption?

The purpose of QFD is to focus designers, developers, builders, and deliverers (whether your business is product, service, process, or software) to assure that the quality of their efforts will create more value for the customers than the competitors' offerings. For most projects, it will be a small number of things that will ensure this competitiveness — everything else must be more or less equal. Further, most modern project teams are so time and resource constrained, they cannot do much more than a few things better than the competition, anyway. From this perspective, then, it is most efficient to focus on the few things that make a competitive difference.

In "Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries," astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson calls this an information trap:

"Most people assume that the more information you have about something, the better you understand it.... (but) One of the challenges of scientific inquiry is knowing when to step back — and how far back to step — and when to move in close."

image of a Monet paintingFor example, think of going to an art museum to enjoy a Claude Monet painting. "If you stand 10 feet away, you might see men in top hats, women in long shirts and bustles, children, pets, shimmering water. Up close, you'll just see tens of thousands of dashes, dots, and streaks of color."

While it may be important, if you are an aspiring artist, to study Monet' individual brush strokes, for most of us proximity brings too much information and it actually disables us from seeing the whole picture and appreciating the very art that the artist wanted us to do.

The House of Quality (HOQ), 4-house (4-phase) model and other matrices, cannot focus until they are fully filled in. In assessing the results, typically 95% of the data proves to be unimportant to competitive advantage (read about a failure example of this). Further, a large House of QFDI HOQ imageQuality (I have seen some that are 1,000 x 1,200 = 1.2 million intersecting cells), can exhaust a project teams resources before the charts are completed. And since the HOQ is just two juxtaposed data sets (customer needs vs. functional requirements), additional matrices are absolutely necessary to assure quality through the downstream data sets in the development, build, and delivery phases.

So, if 95% of the matrix is unimportant, is this the best use of a project team's constrained resources? It is for this reason, the Blitz QFD® approach was developed in the late 1990s. It more quickly helps a project team stand back and focus on the critical few and not the trivial many. Further, since matrices are no longer required, it solves most of the troublesome math issues still entrenched in most QFD books and software.

Join us in the next public class (see the links below), to learn how you, too, can do QFD faster and better without a HOQ, plus receive modern QFD templates in Excel.

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