Competition level within every industry is constantly growing and businesses try to find any possible ways to improve quality of products and services. However, quality is quite a complex concept that can be viewed as a measure of perfection. Quality improvement leads to a perfect product that is meant to satisfy the customer. In the early 1980s, the seven management and planning tools were designed as major tools for effective planning and management of processes, which are above the quality operation.
They are as follows:
1. Affinity Diagrams
The first of the tools in the list is Affinity diagrams. The affinity diagram is a visual brainstorming instrument that can be used to categorize various facts and data, ideas and opinions by a proximity factor. It is especially useful for the purpose of systematization of big data into groups and categories, according to some forms of affinity. In its own turn, breaking down larger complex problems into categories and regrouping helps to form a structure that determine the problem.
2. Relations Diagrams
Another important management and planning tool is the Relation diagram. This diagram is useful for clarification and understanding relationships of a complex nature through a graphical representation of cause-effect links. It is particularly useful to apply this management and planning tool in strategic quality planning during the description phase of the process. The Relations diagram is different from the previously discussed Affinity diagram because it reflects ideas and problem links but not associations. It is also characterized by a network structure.
3. Tree Diagrams
The tree diagram is another management and planning tool. It has a hierarchical structure and visualizes complex problems broken down into their major components in order to solve such problems successfully. This type of diagram is a tabular tool which helps to identify links between different factors and criteria. It is especially useful in the planning of resources, scheduling, prevention of faults, etc. For example, if there is a long-term goal to improve quality then the tree diagram tool can be used to break it down into several/multiple short-term goals. The process can then be directed through the path of the goal/objectives/means. Means can be further broken down into different categories such as practical, non-practical or uncertain. In this manner, the management and planning tool can help to track quality improvement process systematically from the main long-term goal down to goals that are more detailed as well as the ways to implement individual improvements.
4. Matrix Diagrams
One of the most frequently used management and planning tools for identification relationships and links between varieties of different tasks, information, problems and ideas is the Matrix Diagram. It can also be served as an effective tool for allocating responsibilities and determination of strength of relationships between different subjects. Matrix diagrams can greatly vary depending on the purpose of use of such a Management & Planning Tool. They help to deal with different types of relationships within a variety of different categories. For example, they can be used for identification of relationship level between problems and their causes.
This management and planning tool is most commonly used for linking the necessary actions, required tasks and responsible people by graphically representing the relationships. It helps to effectively determine and allocate responsibilities for different areas of the general implementation schedule to each member of the team. It also visualizes the presence or lack of intersecting points between the variables.
5. Matrix Data Analysis
Matrix data analysis is one of the seven management and planning tools. It stands out from the other tools by the fact that it is the only management and planning tool that can be used for analysis of numerical data. It is based on methodologies of data analysis with the aim to quantify matrix diagram data.
This management and planning tool serves for degree quantification of links between various elements. Rectangular or triangular matrices are used to display the results depending on complexity of the relationships between the factors. Moreover, use of different methodology for analysis of gathered data, such as statistical analysis or subjective weights, determines the quantification of relationships degree.
At the same time, prioritization matrices utilize a mix of techniques of matrix and tree diagrams in order to narrow down to the most effective and available options. They are based on some set criteria to prioritize among selection of tasks, parameters, actions, etc.
6. Process Decision Program Charts
Another planning and management tool to be discussed is the process decision programme chart (PDPC). Its major aim is to come up with the best and the most efficient process at high level by evaluation and estimation of process alternatives. It has form of a flowchart and displays the sequence of activities, decisions and responses needed to achieve required results as well as prevent an event from happening if it is not desirable. The flow chart shows the process trigger at the very beginning with the nodes reflecting process results as well as other branches that show different responses to events. At the same time, the procedure diagram aims to serve as a planning and communication instrument to find an optimal time-frame solution for a task required. It also helps to facilitate administration of different stages of process workflow.
A process decision program chart helps to understand and concentrate on likely solutions that will lead to overall problem resolution. It is especially useful when used for planning of new complicated tasks with a need to consider a variety of events and the likely reactions.
7. Arrow Diagrams
Arrow diagram or Activity network diagram is one of the seven management and planning tools and is used for effective planning of schedules for tasks and subtasks characterized by their higher level of complexity. It can be effectively used to project and monitor the time-frame of a particular task and its subtasks with a known duration. There are two major questions that should be answered by utilization of arrow diagram by its users:
- What is the most suitable plan for project during a period of time?
- What are the ways to monitor the progress of the plan?
The arrow diagram clearly defines the stages of different processes within the organisation and makes stages sequence of the process clear for all relevant employees. This diagram is especially useful for larger type organisations with many employees and official structures.
Application of Seven Management and Planning Tools
All seven Management and Planning Tools discussed above have proved to be helpful to solve various business tasks in different type of businesses. They are particularly useful for managers of middle and upper levels. The major purpose of the seven tools is to organize and rearrange apparent chaos into an action plan that will be workable and effective. They also help to visualize and present the plan to teams and individuals working on the project implementation. Also, in spite of the fact that each tool can be effectively used alone, the user should consider apply all or a mixture of the seven tools to increase the efficiency of implementation efficiency.
Moreover, there are certain success factors of a critical nature that should be considered in order to effectively apply the seven tools in practice. Management support and commitment, defined aims and objectives, facilitators support and well-planned raining are among the ones. Some major limitations for effective application of the seven tools in practice such as lack of knowledge, resources and facilities. The following key factors for successful implementation of the seven tools can be suggested: formal training and in-deph knowledge of the process, appropriateness of the selected tools and use of simple models.