QOS: Activity 3 – System for Obtaining Information

in Quality as an Organizational Strategy (QOS)

by David M. Williams, Ph.D.

In a recent blog post (here), I shared how Associates in Process Improvement transformed Dr. Deming’s theory of Organizations Viewed as a Production System into a five-part approach known as Quality as an Organizational Strategy.

In this series, we’ll take a deeper look at each of the five activities including Purpose, Mission, Vision, and Beliefs; Organization Viewed as a System (includes measurement); System for Obtaining Information; Planning; and Managing Improvement Efforts.   

Activity 3 – System for Obtaining Information

Most organizations are data-rich and knowledge-poor. Many sources can contribute information about the customer and their needs as well as the performance of your organization. Having a system of activities to obtain information to support understanding your organization and to act as inputs to your planning process is helpful for learning and focusing attention.

There are many sources of information that already exist in most organizations. These include performance data, customer complaints and compliments, and employee input. How can you convert this data into data that’s useful?

Figure – Sources of Information (API-QBS)

For performance data, use the last 24 months and display the data over time in a Shewhart Statistical Process Control Chart. This allows leaders to see whether a process is meeting their goal, to see if the data is random and predictable or not, and to make the correct decision on how to act.

Figure. Example Shewhart Chart (source).


Raw employee and customer feedback data are rich for identifying themes for learning. Summarizing these data into themed categories and displaying them in a Pareto chart can support prioritizing attention to the big opportunities. 

Figure. Pareto Chart


It’s not uncommon to find areas where built-in systems for collecting information do not exist. This may include current improvement capability, input from core vendors, a scan of best practices and new research, regulatory changes, and the current state of active improvement project progress. Understanding what inputs are valuable to have a holistic view to support your planning is important. 

A summary of these inputs is prepared and organized in a pre-work document to inform your planning process. It’s okay to start with what you have and then build a more comprehensive system over time. Going forward, a proactive approach to identifying the information needed, collecting the data, and summarizing the findings can make the process easier to execute and support regular planning processes.

In Activity 4, I’ll look at the planning process.

Reference: Associates in Process Improvement (1999, October). Quality as a business strategy: Building a system of improvement. Austin, TX: Associates in Process Improvement

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