5th Edition PMBOK® Guide—Chapter 8: Team Tools for Planning Quality

1.  Introduction

Among the 8 tools & techniques listed for process 8.1 Plan Quality Management, the one that is listed as #7 is actually a group of tools called Additional Quality Planning Tools, which are listed as:

  •  Brainstorming
  • Force field analysis
  • Nominal group techniques
  • Quality management and control tools

The quality management and control tools will be described when I get to process 8.2 Perform Quality Assurance.  The other three, brainstorming, force-field analysis, and nominal group techniques have one thing in common, and that is they are group or team techniques that are meant to involve the entire project team and/or subject matter experts, whereas the quality tools listed as #3 in the list of 8 could be done as a group, but can also be done alone by a single person.  These tools listed above, however, are meant to be done as a group or team.

2.  Brainstorming—the example of Multivoting

Brainstorming can be done with project team members together with subject matter experts as needed.

One common brainstorming technique is multivoting, where a series of ideas are listed and then the group votes on those that considers to be the most important; this is done to find out what the group considers to be the highest priority.

1. Brainstorm Generate a list of items to be considered using a brainstorming technique.  Record the items on a whiteboard, flipchart, or other surface so members can see it.
2. Review & Combine Review each item so group understands it.  If there are any items that are similar, combine them if group agrees.
3. Number Once items have been combined, number them in a list for voting purposes.
4. Decide Vote Method Group decides on voting method.  Typically, each person gets to vote for 1/3 of the total number of items in list.
5. Conduct Vote Each person votes for items he or she considers most important in list.
6. Tally Vote Tally the amount of votes and list items in terms of number of votes cast.
7. Reduce Items Select items based on voting criteria.  Some groups only choose those items voted on by at least half of the participants.  Some groups eliminate the three least-voted items.
Redo steps 5, 6, and 7 with continuously shrinking list of items until only 4 or 5 remain.
8. Announce Results Announce final four or five ideas that remain after multivoting process complete.
9. Discuss Results Discuss final list of items.  Conduct a group discussion to decide which of the final ideas should receive top priority.  Or conduct one last round of votes to see which item is the priority item.

 3.  Nominal Group Technique

This is also a brainstorming technique, but the difference here between this and the multivoting technique is that the generation of ideas is done separately by members, and the results are pooled together.  This can also be done by sending responses remotely to, say, subject matter experts (SMEs) or stakeholders, for example.

Step Explanation
1. Discuss Explain the purpose of the activity, to generate a list of action items by means of group consensus..
2. Write down Each person should write down their ideas separately; collect them.
3. Clarify Put all ideas on whiteboard.
4. Cull List Combine similar items so you have a final list of ideas.
5. Distribute Cards Distribute index cards so that there is one index card for every 5 or so ideas on the final list.
6. Vote Vote for the best ideas, one idea per index cards.
7. Rank Rank how many votes each idea receives, rank in order from most chosen to least chosen.
8. Announce Announce the top-ranked ideas.
9. Discuss Agree upon moving forward on the action items that were top-ranked by the group.

4. Force field analysis

Force field analysis is a tool in analyzing the forces that are for and against a proposed decision or change that management wants to have implemented in the organization.

Force field analysis was developed in the 1940s by an American social psychologist named Kurt Lewin.  But the more I read about the technique, it reminded me of a technique Ben Franklin described in his autobiography whenever it came time to make a tough decision.  He described it as follows:

.. my Way is, to divide half a Sheet of Paper by a Line into two Columns, writing over the one Pro, and over the other Con. Then during three or four Days Consideration I put down under the different Heads short Hints of the different Motives that at different Times occur to me for or against the Measure. When I have thus got them all together in one View, I endeavour to estimate their respective Weights; and where I find two, one on each side, that seem equal, I strike them both out: If I find a Reason pro equal to some two Reasons con, I strike out the three. If I judge some two Reasons con equal to some three Reasons pro, I strike out the five; and thus proceeding I find at length where the Ballance lies; and if after a Day or two of farther Consideration nothing new that is of Importance occurs on either side, I come to a Determination accordingly.

In modern force field analysis, you divide your paper into three areas, a central rectangle for the central decision or change being proposed, a space on the left-hand side for the forces for the change and a space on the right-hand side for the forces against the change.  You don’t balance out the forces like Ben Franklin supposed but you do list them.

Then you estimate the impact of each of the forces on either side, with one common scale being suggested of 1 to 5, with 1 being “not very impactful” to 5 being “very impactful”.  Then you make the height of each arrow correspond to the number on the scale, and then you calculate the total height of the arrows that are on the left-hand side for the forces for the change and you compare it to the total height of the arrows that are on the right-hand side for the forces against the change.

5.  Conclusion

These three examples above show the different possibilities of coming up with ideas and discussing them using the “collective wisdom” of the group.  This requires the project manager who moderates these team tools & techniques to keep the criticism on a constructive level so the creativity of each member is not discouraged.

On a cultural note, in Japan, the younger members are usually asked their opinions first because the Japanese recognize that deferring to senior members is a tendency in their society because of the respect for seniority in an organization.  If they were to allow the senior members to go first, if the younger members had a different opinion, they would be reluctant to express it if it differed from the opinion of the senior members.  So the younger members are allowed to express their opinion first so as to overcome this built-in deference to seniority that exists in the culture, and to tap the creativity of the younger members who may lack the experience of the senior members, but who make up for it in terms of having a fresh perspective.

Next week, I will discuss the outputs for the process 8.1 Plan Quality Management.

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