Quality Baseline Study

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The following are typical steps needed to perform a quality baseline study:

  1. Identify products/services to be surveyed: This is the requirements phase of the baseline study. Studies should be directed at specific products or services. For example, computer programs as a product, and customer/user interaction as a service.
  2. Define conformance and nonconformance: The individuals developing the survey instrument must have defined (at least on a preliminary basis) the expected conformance and nonconformance. Note that in many instances the survey will be used to help establish nonconformance, but the general areas of nonconformance will need to be identified in order to gather nonconformance data.
  3. Identify survey population: The population of data/people to be surveyed needs to be identified. This is a critical step because the definition of nonconformance will vary significantly depending upon who is considered the population. For example, programming defects would look significantly different to the programmer than the end user of the program results. The programmer may only consider variance from specs a defect, but to the end user not meeting needs is a defect.
  4. Identify size of population to be surveyed: This step is one that involves economics. It is always cheaper to look at fewer than more. The question that needs to be decided is how few can be examined to give valid results. Statistically, we rarely try to go below a sample size of twenty, but in surveying people we may be able to drop below this limit and still get valid results.
  5. Develop survey instrument: A specific survey instrument must be developed to meet the survey objectives. Surveys need to be customized to the specific needs and vocabulary of the population being surveyed.
  6. Conduct survey: The survey instruments should be completed by the surveyed population. Form a quality perspective; it is helpful to train the population on how to complete the survey questionnaire. This can be done through written instructions, but it is normally better to do it verbally. If the population group is small, they can be called together for a meeting, or have the survey instruments hand delivered and explained. Generally, the validity of the results will increase when extra time is spent to explain the intent and purpose of the survey.
  7. Follow up on incomplete surveys: The survey should have a time limit for response. Normally this should not exceed one week. If the surveys have not been returned by that time, then the surveying group should follow up and attempt to get as many surveys completed as possible. Note that it is generally not realistic to expect every survey to be returned.
  8. Accumulate and present survey results: The survey information should be accumulated, consolidated, and put into presentation format. Suggestions on how to do this follow in a later part of this quality initiative.
  9. Take action and notify participants of that action: All surveys should result in some specific action. Even if that action is to do nothing, a decision should be made based on the survey results. That decision should be given to the survey participants. Note that whenever a survey is conducted, the participants expect some action. Not to inform the participants of the action will reduce cooperation in future surveys.
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