It seems that even a cursory browsing of a subject on a search engine will unearth the easy “steps” for accomplishing something. A search for a local pet store where you can purchase a new water bowl for your cat will reveal the five steps to successfully introducing a cat to a new home. Look up how long your water heater should last and you will come across the 12 steps to do-it-yourself home improvement. An impromptu viewing of images of the Tuscan countryside could offer the opportunity to learn to speak Italian in nine easy steps.

Breaking complex, and even not-so-complex, processes into steps or stages aids in our ability to learn and helps ensure the successful accomplishment of a task. It’s evident in the specific examples above as well as broader processes, such as the scientific method. Approaching a task in steps helps us bring order and focus and allows us to let those things not vital to getting the job done fall away.

Bringing order to a task is natural and comes from our observations. Studying nature reveals the life cycle. Seasons progress in a very orderly manner. Spring brings life and rebirth that thrives through summer, begins to break down in autumn and dies in the winter only to be reborn again in the spring. Observation of nature has allowed mankind to order its existence with calendars and keeping time.

The concept of “steps” is not only beneficial in our learning processes, but also helps to keep us on a path (no pun intended). While following steps allow us to learn something quickly and confidently, it also provides repeatability, allowing us to accomplish the task over and over again with the same, if not improving, results. This idea is not only prevalent in our quality control processes, but also outside the manufacturing and scientific realms.

For instance, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) helps recovering alcoholics stay on the path of sobriety with its 12 step program. Additionally, a popular motivational book from the past few decades identifies the seven habits of highly effective people.

On the lighter side is the example of “baby steps.” Granted, it’s just from the early-90s movie, “What About Bob?”, but apropos, nonetheless. An agoraphobic played by Bill Murray is cured of his affliction by Richard Dreyfuss’ “revolutionary” psychological treatment—approaching all that he fears by simply taking baby steps in tackling his problems.

A perusal of this month’s Qualitysoftware article will reveal some steps of its own. Author Matthew Littlefield explains how enterprise quality management software can be a valuable tool in quality operations and provides seven steps that can help quantify the investment in this software as part of a cost of quality formula, or serve as a “guide” for adopting a proactive approach to quality control in a manufacturing operation.

So, make your path to “7 Steps for Building a Business Case for EQMS Using the Cost of Quality” and much more in the pages of this month’s Quality.

 Enjoy and thanks for reading!