Quality control deals with various methods, tools, and approaches for diagnosing the lack of quality (defined as nonconformity of standards) in materials, machines, and processes. In government, as in the private sector, quality control remains a major concern. In the last few years, there has been a renewed interest in quality control in government resulting from two interrelated developments: (1) the public demand for a more lean and efficient government, and (2) an increase in public expectations that the goods and services they receive from government in return for their tax dollars must be of the highest quality. Quality control can assure both, in particular the latter, by maintaining quality specifications throughout the process, from the purchasing of materials to the final delivery of services.
This chapter focuses on one particular aspect of quality control that lies at the heart of all control activities, called process control. 1 In particular, it looks at the causes of variation in a process and discusses the methods commonly used to explain these variations. For the most part, the methods used in quality control are based on simple graphs, charts, and diagrams. As such, they require very little analytical skill to construct, although the concepts underlying them are fairly rigorous.
The primary objective of any organization is to ensure that the goods and services it provides are of the highest quality and that they conform to specifications (standards). To make sure that quality is maintained throughout the process, one needs to understand the factors that affect quality and take appropriate measures to control them. This is generally known as process control.
For any organization, process is the most important element that determines how successful an organization is in carrying out its activities. Everything revolves around process. If the process is inoperative or not managed efficiently, it will produce ineffective results. A process is simply a series of activities that transform inputs into