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Alignment is the design of elements of a system so that they optimally contribute to achieving the purpose and vision of the system. These elements may be values, strategic objectives, improvement efforts, programs, processes, roles, responsibilities, or people.

Affinity Diagram


A method to summarize qualitative data into groups with a common theme.

Attribution Theory

Describes the tendency for observers to underestimate situational (system) influences and overestimate motives and personality
(individual) traits as the cause of behavior.



The continuous process of measuring products, services, and practices against the toughest competitors or those companies
recognized as industry leaders.

Big Five


Psychological research indicates there are five temperamental traits that appear to be genetically determined, but at least to some
degree can be strengthened. “The Big Five” are:

  • Openness

  • Agreeableness

  • Emotional stability

  • Conscientiousness

  • Extraversion versus introversion



Key leverage points that are constraints in the work system of an organization.



Part of a charter for an improvement effort; provides the limits or scope of the improvement activities the individual or team wants to
accomplish. Also may define level of authority and empowerment.

Box Plot


An alternative to frequency plots used to indicate the shape, spread, and location of the data.

Building the Foundation of the Learning Organization


(aka Quality as a Business Strategy (QBS)). These methods include Purpose, the Organization Viewed as a System, Measures of the
systems, System to Obtain Information (focused on Customers), Planning, and Managing Individual and Team Improvement efforts.



A prediction of the individual measurements of a characteristic from a process. If a process is found to be stable, the process capability
can be determined.  The prediction from a capability calculation can be compared to specifications to determine whether the process
can produce outcomes that meet the specs.

Cause and Effect Diagram


A tool for organizing a group’s current knowledge regarding a problem or issue. (also called a fishbone diagram or an Ishikawa

Chain Reaction


The Deming quality concept which states that an improvement in quality leads to decreases in costs due to less rework, fewer
mistakes, fewer delays and snags, and a better use of time and materials. These improvements lead to improved productivity, which
leads to capturing the market with better products and services and lower prices for the consumer.



To make different; to move from one state to another. Change includes transition, substitution, transformation, re-direction, design,
re-design, improvement, and innovation. Improvement requires change, but not all change results in improvement.



Any of the tools that display data in a graphical form. (In contrast to diagrams, which display non-numerical information).



The first component of the Model for Improvement. The charter communicates the purpose of a team or individual involved in an
improvement effort. The charter answers the fundamental improvement question, "What are we trying to accomplish?"

Chernoff Faces


A type of multivariate chart in which a feature of a face is attached to a measure, thus the appearance of the face indicates a set of



Collaboration means working with others, in spite of differences, to achieve a common goal. In a complex organization of differing
types of authority, knowledge, and work, collaboration is essential to address challenges and threats that cannot be solved within one
profession or part of the organization.

Common Cause(s) of Variation


Those causes that are inherent in the process over time, affect everyone working in the process, and affect all outcomes of the process.



To make different; to move from one state to another. Change includes transition, substitution, transformation, re-direction, design,
re-design, improvement, and innovation. Improvement requires change, but not all change results in improvement.



Decision-making which happens when everyone's ideas are explored through dialogue; team members understand the views of other
team members to the extent that all can support the decision of the group. This process can produce highly innovative and creative
decisions. It uses the resources of all team members and generates support by all members to implement the decision.



Anything that restricts the throughput of a system. A constraint within an organization can be any resource where the demand for that
resource is greater than its available capacity. In order to increase the throughput in a system, the constraints should be identified,
exploited if possible and removed if necessary.

Control Chart

A statistical tool used to distinguish between variation in a process due to common causes and variation due to special causes. It is
constructed by obtaining measurements of some characteristic of a process and grouping the data by time period, location, or other process descriptive variables.

Control Limits


Control limits are usually horizontal lines drawn on a control chart; typically at a distance of ±3 standard deviations of the plotted statistic from the statistic's mean. Control limits should not be confused with tolerance limits or specifications, which are completely independent of the distribution of the plotted sample statistic.

Craft mode / business model


The craft mode of production arose from the use of hand tools to produce objects and services. Masters in a craft train apprentices who observe the masters directly. Masters often follow the apprentices as they work or they have their own work supervised by the master. The craft mode arose prior to the introduction of industrial production, the assembly line, and bureaucratic organization, whose economies of scale displaced craft production as the dominant business model.

Creativity Methods


A collection of techniques such as brainstorming, lateral thinking, tapping into the unconscious mind, springboards, etc. that lead to new, better, and different ways of attacking a problem or accomplishing a task.

Current Knowledge


The second component of the Model for Improvement. The individual's or team's body of concepts, beliefs, and other information related to the charter are documented in this phase. The fundamental question, "How will we know that a change is an improvement?"



The person or entity (possibly another process) that receives or uses the outcome of a process.

Customer/Supplier Team


Sometimes referred to as a partnership. This involves the cooperation between a customer and supplier to understand common
systems, improvement opportunities, and problems. The objective is to optimize the total customer/supplier system.

Customer Feedback


Pro-actively seeking information from present and future customers to understand the customer's definition of quality.

Cycle for Learning and Improvement


The third component of the Model for Improvement, adapted from the PDSA Cycle. The four steps in the cycle are: Plan, Do, Study, Act.
Use of the Cycle promotes iterative learning through questions, predictions, actions, data collection, and synthesis.



A graphical display of measures important to the success of a system used to track progress over time.

Data Collection Form


A form for collection of data that provides an organized method to record observations to be used in the process of analysis.

Deductive Learning


A theory is tested with the aid of a prediction. Observations are made and any gaps from the prediction based on the theory are noted
and studied. See Inductive Learning. Both deductive and inductive learning are built into the use of the PDSA cycle.

Deming Chain Reaction


The theory that if an organization improves quality, then reduced costs and higher productivity will follow.

Descriptive Theory


Descriptive theories explain our observations and allow us to hypothesize some correlation; however our theory is weaker at this stage
of evolution. Additional testing in our actual circumstances must be done to move the theory into the normative stage.

Detailed Complexity


Immediate cause and effect is understood; take action x and y happens. See dynamic complexity.



Any of the tools which display non-numerical information, e.g., a flowchart.  Diagrams are in contrast to charts, which show numerical



The discipline of collective learning and inquiry is a process for transforming the quality of conversation and the thinking that lies
beneath it.

Dimensions of Quality


Different views or focus for matching of products and services to a need. Dimensions include performance, features, time, reliability, etc.



Communication directed towards a decision or action. Positions are presented, critiqued, and defended.

Driver Diagram


An approach to describing our theories of improvement. In an improvement project, a driver diagram is a tool to help organize our theories and ideas in an improvement effort as we answer, “What change can we make that will result in improvement?” The initial driver diagram for an improvement project might lay out the descriptive theory of improved outcomes that can then be tested and enhanced to develop a predictive (normative) theory. The driver diagram should be updated throughout an improvement effort and used to track progress in theory building.

Driver Processes


Those processes that drive the mainstay of the organization. These processes are usually associated with the needs the organization intends to fulfill and usually directly impact the customers of the organization.



The largely unconscious motivations that are expressed in values people seek in their life.

Dynamic Complexity


Situations where cause and effect are subtle, and where the effects over time of interventions are not obvious; when the same action has dramatically different effects in the short run and the long (run), there is dynamic complexity. When an action has one set of consequences locally and a different set of consequences in another part of the system, there is dynamic complexity. When obvious interventions produce nonobvious consequences, there is dynamic complexity.

Expected Results


The second part of a Charter that provides more specific details to support the general description. These results help the team to list processes or products to study and to choose quality-characteristics to measure.

Extrinsic Motivation


The satisfaction lies outside the work activity itself and the motivation comes from means other than the work itself.



The tendency within a personality manifested in outgoing, talkative, energetic behavior; versus introversion.

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