Too often planning teams begin focusing on features and solutions too early, never giving themselves a chance to understand the necessary drivers for innovation.
That is, some planners never truly understand the few things that customers will notice as better delivered by you then by your competitors.
Planners will only understand the few critical things by spending the time required to understand and prioritize Customer Needs, then deploy those Needs into competitive solutions.
QFD is more than drawing the Target Setting House of Quality
When many think of QFD, they picture drawing the Target Setting House of Quality (HoQ). QFD should not be thought of as drawing only the Target Setting HoQ but should be thought of as adding significant cross-functional knowledge and wisdom to your planning process.
Cross-functional knowledge and wisdom is applied to your planning process . . . by gathering and understanding the Voice of the Customer (VoC), the Voice of the Business (VoB), the voice of regulation (VoR) and the Voice of the Delivery Team (VoD) . . . by developing cross-functional concepts (with targets) that satisfy some, all or most of the VoCs, VoBs, VoRs, VoDs . . . by deploying the concept to the delivery team that best delivers on the VoCs, VoBs, VoRs, VoDs. Using a cross-functional approach in your planning is a significant effort that vastly increases the chances for a winning, profitable solution to your planning.
Typically, cross-functional QFD is not done as part of the Target Setting HoQ drawing process. If the cross-function QFD is done, it is generally done in isolation by Marketing or Product Planning with very little true understanding of customers and their needs. Even more detrimental, the little that Marketing and Product Planning discover about the customer may not be transferred to the subsequent development and design teams. Since cross-function QFD will take time (weeks instead of days) it is often mistakenly interpreted as "QFD takes longer to do".
The most important aspect of the early QFD weeks (and the most time consuming) is the process of experiencing the customers’ use environments, documenting methodical observations, conducting detailed one-on-one interviews, and building a contextual customer NEEDS (VoC) database. The NEEDS database must contain actual customer feedback on IMPORTANCE and SATISFACTION that can provide the cross-functional teams with the insight they need for true customer understanding.
This early QFD work is often done, if done at all, by outside research firms with only minimal understanding of QFD. The richness of the customer NEEDS understanding, the first-hand experience of the use environments, and the shared knowledge gained through cross-functional discussions about these experiences, cannot be replaced by a research report. Home runs come from you building a strong and first-hand understanding of your customer NEEDS. Research firms are ok as long as you participate during the research firm’s contact with your customers.
An example of cascaded HoQs Commonly used to develop products is the Four Phase Process. In the Four Phase Process, there are four cascaded HoQs . . . Product Planning HoQ . . . Part Planning HoQ . . . Process Planning HoQ . . . Process Control Planning HoQ (see figure below). With the Four Phase Process the cross-functional team plans the essential details of a product starting with what the customers say they want down to the process control values used to control the manufactures of the product.
A side benefit of the Four Phase Process is in the resolution of warranty issues. Customers make warranty complaints using the words in the ‘Customer Wants’ section of the planning HoQ (a warranty complaint is a Customer Need not being met or working improperly). Since the Four Phase Process cascades the relationships between Customer Wants and process control settings, it is easy to see which process control settings have the most impact on delivering the Customer Need that is expressed in the warranty complaint. Without a Four Phase QFD model, knowing which process control values to adjust to resolve warranty issues is a much more difficult process.
What is QFD?
Quality Function Deployment (QFD) is a systematic process for planners to focus on their customers. QFD is used by cross-functional teams to identify and resolve issues involved in planning products, processes, services and strategies which are better then what the competition has to offer.
Use QFD to establish and document planning requirements.
Use QFD to ensure that your planning requirements are correctly implemented.
Use QFD to capture and prioritize customer requirements based on relative importance to customers and perceptions of competitive performance. Look at both direct and indirect competitors. Then develop a complete planning specification.
Use QFD with cross-functional planning teams to define how a solution should be configured to best satisfy its customers. Define critical solution characteristics by benchmarked non-competing and competing solutions to determine "Best Available" performance.
Use QFD to define, in strategic terms, what direction a planning team should go. Use QFD to select particularly attractive niches. Then use QFD to convert the benefits desired by the customers into measurable characteristics of a products, process, service or strategy.
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