How QFD works

At its simplest, QFD is a matrix: a series of rows and columns (see picture on the right). Each row reflects a clear business objective, and each column reflects a separate mechanism, e.g. function, unit, department or process of that business.
The cells represent the capacity for each business mechanism to influence the attainment of each objective. Developing the framework for the matrix provides an opportunity for the management team to reconsider the organisation's mission, its logic, and its operating structure.
The quality of insight that QFD can provide depends greatly on the care with which the 'mechanisms' are defined. The 'mechanisms' (columns of the QFD matrix) are the means by which the organisation fulfils its goals - they are logical subdivisions of the organisation. Some ways of dividing up the business provide a richer depth of understanding within QFD than others, and in practice the most useful models tend to be ones based on business processes. For some companies, QFD has caused them to fundamentally rethink how they organise themselves.
By discussing each cell of the resulting matrix, the managers develop a complete understanding of how the business must work as a whole if it is to succeed. This provides insight as to how the processes could exploit their potential in new and innovative ways, and, equally importantly, how they may have adverse effects that need to be controlled.
Through a simple mathematical relationship, QFD provides a means of ranking the objectives, and prioritising improvement of the processes. Teams responsible for managing each process can then draw up additional, more detailed, QFDs, to think through how their process can be creatively developed to best fulfil the expectations now placed upon it.
By further developing the basic diagram, QFD also provides for the management team to think through their communication and reporting needs. A triangular, half-matrix on top of the main QFD diagram (shown right) provides an opportunity to look at the interactions between each of the business processes (or departments or business groups, depending on the organisational model chosen) and to highlight the extent to which they are likely to work in harmony or conflict. This helps those who manage those processes to think through the level of communication they need to arrange between them.
Proceed to: Benefits of QFD; Applications; Links to other tools, or return to QFD overview.


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