Quality Tools are Legos of Development (and Their 7 Uses)
How are quality tools Legos of development?
We talk about two philosophies of brick building and our use of the family of quality tools.
We also talk about seven uses of quality tools in product development.
You have my permission to be a little like Wildstyle when using SOME quality tools. If it’s organizing information, categorizing, creating some sort of model of a physical thing or a logical thing – helping people better understand an idea – then try it. Quality tools are proven frameworks that have worked for many people. They’ve been used by so many people that they have best practices. In that way, you can rely on them. But don’t let not knowing a little detail stop you from using them. They’ll likely help you. You’ll get good at it through using it.
Be Careful! Just Like some Lego bricks are only useful with a planned construction project, some Quality tools are more useful with careful planning and execution. If it’s used with rankings, to highlight important things, or has a basis in statistics, then be like Emmit and follow the rules of construction. Thoughtfully execute and get advice from a knowledgeable practitioner.
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Those plastic building blocks, Legos! Kids play with them in imaginative ways. In fact, they’re one of the modern day model building kids for adults too. They’re used to build robots with a community that competes robot-a-robot. A man uses them to fill in gaps in buildings and sidewalks in his neighborhood, replacing brick and mortar bricks with Lego bricks and filling potholes and gaps in sidewalks with Lego bricks. A woman builds wheelchair accessible ramps for stores so that she can shop there, partnering with the shopkeepers to provide accessibility.
Legos are adaptable, seemingly timeless, readily available to many and useful, sort of like the family of quality tools. Even with all these uses, there’s two philosophies of a Lego build that tie-in with two philosophies of quality tool use. Let’s talk more about Legos and quality tools after this brief introduction.
Hello and welcome to Quality During Design, the place to use quality thinking to create products, others love for less. Each week we talk about ways to use quality during design engineering and product development. My name is Dianna Deeney. I’m a senior-level quality professional and engineer with over 20 years of experience in manufacturing and design. Listen in and then join us. Visit quality during design.com.
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I watch cartoons. I mean, I have kids, but even if I didn’t have kids, I would probably watch cartoons. I watched the Lego movies with my family. I would’ve watched it on my own. One of its songs is my ringtone on my phone because it makes me smile.
If you haven’t seen it (and you should) let me tell you a bit about it without giving spoilers.
The Lego movie star character named Emmett Brokowski, a construction worker who lives in Bricksburg. Bricksburg is a place where everything is built to specification. Emmett builds things following a carefully laid out blueprint and he’s great at it. He has a routine life and Emmett thinks everything is awesome.
Playing opposite of Emmett is WildStyle, a master builder who doesn’t wanna follow the blueprints and sort of rails against the idea that everything needs to be meticulously planned out.
I can’t really tell you much more about it without giving away some of its fun twists, and the movie is fun.
It highlights philosophical differences in building with Legos. One thing we can do is to follow a plan, following the Lego instructions to build from the construction manual. The other philosophy is to creatively assemble a build, piecing together what we’ve got in hand.
The Lego Group Company was clever in recognizing these two different philosophies with their product. In the Lego store in a mall near me, they sell those fancy kits that people assemble. with a blueprint, from kits made for adults with thousands of pieces to kits made with larger blocks for smaller kids. They also have a whole wall, floor to ceiling, of loose Lego bricks organized by color, size, and special shapes.
What does this have to do with quality tools?
Well, quality tools can be like Lego bricks. With some, we follow a plan, meticulously building out an analysis to draw a conclusion. With others, we grab some building blocks, invite our friends and create something out of ideas. Both are okay and both have a place in the product development process.
Really what we need to do is we need to keep the end in mind. Do we want a tidy record of analysis that feeds into other analyses that we can build upon? As we develop ideas, iterate on it and use it to make conclusions, then we’ll want to be like Emmett and follow a blueprint. Or do we wanna use a quality tool to be able to work with our team to be creative and come up with new ideas, identify problems, or figure out next steps? Then we might treat a quality tool like Wildstyle.
I’ve created a list of seven ways that quality tools can be used for projects. As I’m going through this list, think about for yourself, which ones do you think we should use like Emmett, and which ones are more like Wildstyle?
Number one is that quality tools can be used to build out ideas with other people. They help us collaborate around a framework. We can use them as a prompt for brainstorming. Instead of coming up with wild ideas out of nowhere, we have a framework that we can work within. Generally, these tools are accessible to many people. We don’t have to have a specific job or a specific background or learning to be able to use it and participate with our team in using it.
Number two is that we can use quality tools by ourselves. They can help us understand the big picture or hone in on a specific detail. We can use them to see patterns not seen before and also help us to organize lots of information. These are different ways that we could use quality tools by ourselves or at least get them started by ourselves to help us inform decisions.
Number three, quality tools we can share with others. This is where we can get alignment about ideas is what we’re thinking, what the other person is thinking the way reality is, too? Let’s get on the same page. We can also get confirmation. Is this right or am I missing a step? Quality tools used in this way can also prompt us to ask questions about gaps and get input from others.
Number four is that we can openly share quality tools within the project and outside of a project. Sharing the results of a quality tool activity outside of a project can give us new perspectives from other people. They can also teach others on how to do something. Maybe they would wanna adopt one of your ideas and it can also help celebrate the team wins. Teamwork is hard and it’s beneficial. Share it outside with others to celebrate the team win.
Number five, we can study quality tools to derive actions. We can look at them to find problem areas, those misalignments and misunderstandings, but then also identify opportunities for changes and improvements.
Number six, we can iterate quality tools as we learn more, especially through a project development process or a continuous improvement effort.
And the last one, number seven is that we can compile quality tools to tell a story to share lessons learned. We can share that we started with this problem and use this kind of quality tool to get these results and develop these questions that we thought needed to be answered, so then we followed through with some investigation and used another quality tool to investigate, analyze, and come up with more answers or more opportunities. We can share our process for what we did in the project. Four lessons learned for other people and other projects. We can share what worked and what didn’t work, and it serves as a baseline of how we made decisions through the project.
At the beginning of the episode, we talked about the two philosophies of Lego builds. How one, you could be like Emmett and carefully follow the instructions. Or, on the other hand, you could be more like Wildstyle, the master builder who collects bricks as she sees them and builds whatever she can with what she sees.
You have my permission to be a little like Wildstyle when using SOME quality tools. If it’s organizing information, categorizing, creating some sort of model of a physical thing or a logical thing, helping people better understand an idea, then go a little Wildstyle. Quality tools are proven frameworks that have worked for many people. They’ve been used by so many people that they have best practices. In that way, you can rely on them, but don’t let NOT knowing a little detail stop you from using them. They’ll likely help you and your team, and you’ll get good at it through using it.
Be careful! Just like some Lego bricks are only useful with a planned construction project, some quality tools are more useful with careful planning and execution. If it’s used with rankings to highlight important things or has a basis in statistics, then be like Emmett and follow the rules of construction. Thoughtfully execute and get advice from a knowledgeable practitioner.
I hope you have a little bit of a different perspective about quality tools. We cover a lot of different quality tools and their potential uses in new product development through this podcast and on the podcast blog on the website. You can search for a particular topic or tool on the website. Chances are we may have covered it already. If we haven’t covered it and you think we should, send me a message. You can contact me through the website either using the form or my contact information is listed there.
No matter what, Legos are fun. The Lego movies are also fun. And so are quality tools!
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