Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Quality Control - Part 2: The Kano Technique

In my last post, I  talked about quality control as it relates to training, education and performance support products and services. I started by defining what quality means and distinguished quality from grade. If you recall, quality refers to a product or service's ability to meet customer requirements, whether explicit or implicit.

 No matter what product or service we're talking about, there are basically three different types of requirements a customer has that must be met to some degree: grade, cost, and speed.

Grade, which I discussed in part 1, describes the overall performance of the product or service, as compared with other products or services that are similar in function.

Cost describes the amount of money a customer is willing to pay for your product or service.

Speed describes the amount of time a customer is willing to wait to get your product or service. 

Generally speaking, customers want the highest grade of product or service, for the least amount of money, in the shortest amount of time. Seldom is the case, however that a customer can get all three. Instead, a balance must be established to determine which of the three types of requirements are most important (ones you cannot live without) and those that are not as important (ones you CAN live without)

One way of determining a customer's requirements priorities is to use the Kano technique, which is the focus of today's blog post. The Kano Technique, created by Noriaki Kano, uses customer surveys to gather and prioritize customer needs. The Kano Technique divides requirements into "Must-haves, Performance  Attributes, and Satisfiers."  Must-haves are considered those things that must be present. They do not make the customer happy if they're there because they're expected.  But if Must-haves are absent they do cause dissatisfaction. Performance Attributes satisfy customers depending on how well they perform. If these perform well, they satisfy customers. If these perform poorly, they dissatisfy customers. Finally, Satisfiers are those items that are considered "bonuses." if present, they satisfy customers. If not present, they do not dissatisfy customers. So, the idea is to identify Must-haves, to reduce dissatisfaction, while maximizing the right Performance Attributes, and opportunities to include Satisfiers.

The Kano Technique accomplishes this through the use of a Likert Scale survey. For each attribute, the survey asks two questions: how would you feel if this were present? And, how would you feel if this were not present? As you begin to plot data along an XY axis, you begin to get a picture of what your customers consider Must-haves, Performance Attributes, and Satisfiers. With this information, you can identify those things your product or service must provide, and work within your constraints to improve the other two types of requirements.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Quality Control - Part 1

It's time yet again to to blow the dust off the old blog; this time with a series on quality control. As usual, I'll attempt to address the topic within the context of training, education and performance support products and services. Before jumping in to the topic, which I'll do in subsequent posts, I'd like to begin this series by defining a couple terms, particularly quality and grade.   Quality refers to the ability to meet requirements, whether explicit or implicit. If something is high quality, it means it meets someone's stated requirements, such as instructional requirements, content requirements, delivery requirements, etcetera. Requirements, of course, are different depending on each person's needs and change over time as the person's needs change.  Grade, on the other hand, refers to the category of something as compared to something else with similar functional characteristics. For example, Mercedes Benz might be considered a high grade automobile, or K-Mart might be considered a low grade product seller. Pop quiz: Does high grade equal high quality? Not necessarily. Take the automobile example above. If you were in the market to purchase a low cost vehicle for the purpose of hauling equipment from one construction site to another, which vehicle would likely be higher quality: an inexpensive used Toyota truck, or a brand new Mercedes Benz convertible two-seater? If you chose the truck, you're correct. The truck meets the stated requirements, both from a cost and utility perspective. Why is this important? To deliver high quality training, education and performance support products and services you need to understand what the requirements are. What instructional objectives need to be met? How much should it cost to develop training? What technical specifications must be met to deploy the training product to the target audience? And the list goes on. Identifying all these requirements isn't usually an easy task. How often do you encounter people that can describe everything a product or service must be able to do?  Over the next several posts, I'll share some methods of identifying these requirements and putting processes in place to ensure you meet these requirements.