ASQ’s recent video featuring the use of checklists for organizing grocery lists and improving shopping productivity has us thinking about how useful this quality tool really is.

“A checklist is a list of items required, things to be done, or points to be considered, used as a reminder. It is used so as to help one not to forget information or jobs meant to be done. It can also be referred to as a type of informational job aid used to reduce failure by compensating for potential limits of human memory and attention.”

We use checklists quite often.  However, while the checklists we use internally are comprehensive and part of our standardized internal processes, the “lighter side of quality” and its application in our personal lives is also worth mentioning.

Our favorite checklist sites for organizing everything from travel to finance includes:

You can even make your own checklist with little effort at all: 

Want to know more about why you need checklists and how to make good ones? Atul Gawande has written “The Checklist Manifesto” for just this purpose.

The book tells the story of a checklist to prevent common surgery mistakes, which Gawande created and implemented at the request of the World Health Organization (WHO). Gawande also shares what he learned from leading checklist makers and users in other industries – in particular airlines and construction, but also finance/investing, cooking, disaster recovery, and more.

In the process, Gawande makes a compelling case for checklists. Pick any industry, he says, and you’ll see “the same balls being dropped over and over, even by those with great ability and determination.” It’s a natural outcome of an increasingly complex world. Checklists help us combat these patterns of failures by:

  1. Making us smarter, more systematic decision-makers
  2. Creating a culture of discipline and teamwork
  3. Getting the dumb stuff out of the way

Tips for creating useful checklists include:

  • Keep it short and simple.
  • Focus on what’s important.
  • Evaluate how effective the checklist is once in use and incorporate continuous improvement efforts to fine-tune it.

Using a Grid Analysis for Supplier Selection

An article was published in MasterControl’s November newsletter that simplifies the process of supplier selection.  A grid analysis is great for almost any decision-making situation where you want to objectively compare multiple options.  It also complements many other decision-making tools as well.

Per the article, factors that should be considered in the grid analysis for supplier selection may include:

Cost – Initial quotations and negotiations are not always representative of future costs.    However, this is certainly an important competitive advantage if that’s the desired positioning.  Contractual commitments should be discussed to avoid incremental increases.

Quality/Standards – Depending on the industry, specific supplier audits may be required.  If the organization requires ISO or other certifications, audit reports are a useful snapshot of the supplier’s strengths and weaknesses in specific areas.  This should incorporate management as well.

Location – The geographic component of supplier selection not only affects cost but it can also be required for certain products.

Shipment Expectations – The quotation and audit reports should include enough information to reasonably determine how well the supplier complements your existing demand schedules.

Expansion Capabilities – Long-term strategy will require that any supplier partnership considered important during the expansion plans of the organization should not be overlooked.

Grid analysis can be done in two ways, with or without weights.  If the assumption is that each factor decided on is equal in importance, go through each supplier and provide a rating for each factor based on all information available.  Do this for each of the three and total each row.  Scale each choice from 0 (poor) to 5 or 10 (great), and you don’t have to use different ratings for each one.  Assign each factor and supplier the rating it deserves based on all of the available information. 

For most situations, we know that all factors are not equal in importance.  That being true, a grid analysis can adapt to placing weights of importance on each factor.  To do this, multiply out the factors for more accurate results.  Weights may include something that is not important at all, which may have no value assigned, or something that is very important that may be assigned a weight of 5 or 10.   If a factor is determined to be twice as important than others, assign it a weight of 2.

Grid analysis can also incorporate team decision-making and offers useful comparative perspective as well.  If everyone on a team completes the grid analysis process individually, take the final score of each supplier from each team member and add them together.  Divide that number by the number of team members.  Do this for each supplier.

An introduction to ISO 9001:2008

This video series is an excellent introduction to ISO 9001:2008 produced by QualityGurus.  The two-part series answers many of the questions we receive from clients.

ISO 9001:2008 sets out the criteria for a quality management system and is the only standard in the family that can be certified to (although this is not a requirement). It can be used by any organization, large or small, regardless of its field of activity. In fact ISO 9001:2008 is implemented by over one million companies and organizations in over 170 countries.

Part 1 of 2

Part 2 of 2

For additional information, visit the ISO website, or contact Pro QC directly.  We are happy to answer questions and organize audits.

Recognizing the benefits of standardization

World Standardization Day has been recognized throughout the month in countries around the world, although the official day is October 14th.

ISO generally sets a theme, which this year includes “international standards ensure positive change.”

Why does standardization even matter?

  • Ensures positive change. This year’s theme.
  • Harmonizes global best practices.
  • Companies have increased confidence in the quality and reliability of suppliers who use standards.
  • Eliminates technical barriers to trade.
  • Companies actively involved in standards more frequently reap short- and long-term cost-savings than those that do not participate.
  • Having influence in the content of a standard is an important factor in gaining competitive advantage.
  • Standardization can lead to lower transaction costs in the economy as a whole, as well as to savings for individual businesses.
  • Standards can help businesses avoid dependence on a single supplier because the availability of standards opens up the market. The result is a broader choice for businesses and increased competition among suppliers.
  • More choices for the consumer.
  • Standardization encourages cooperation between businesses atthe same stage in the value chain.
  • Businesses not only reduce the economic risk of their R&D activities by participating in standardization, but can also lower their R&D costs.

The work of IEC, ISO and ITU remains central to the development of standards that share knowledge among all the world’s countries and so provide building blocks for global prosperity.


ISO – World Standards Day 2013

International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC)

International Telecommunication Union (ITU)

ASTM – Economic Benefits of Standardization

World Standards Cooperation

The Economic Benefits of Standardization Report – DIN, the German Institute for Standardization