Holding an individual or group subject to blame or penalty for the results of specified tasks, functions or results. The risk can be that the individual or group, while having responsibility to make a contribution to the task or result, cannot control all of the factors affecting the outcome and may be blamed (or cred) undeservedly for effects of other factors.


certification by a duly recognized body of the facilities, capability, objectivity, competence, and integrity of an agency, service or operational group or individual to provide the specific service(s) or operation(s) needed.

accredited certification 

by a duly recognized body of the facilities, capability, objectivity, competence, and integrity of an agency, service or operational group or individual to provide the specific service(s) or operation(s) needed.

affinity diagram 

A tool used to organize ideas, usually generated through brainstorming, into groups of related thoughts. The emphasis is on a pre-rational, gut-fell sort of grouping, often done by the members of the group with little or no talking. Also known as the KJ method after its creator, Kawakita Jiro.


Quality system requirements for suppliers to the aerospace industry (previously known as AS9000).


American Society for Quality


A systematic evaluation process of collecting and analyzing data to determine the current, historical or projected compliance of an organization to a standard.


Systematic, independent and documented process for obtaining audit evidence and evaluating it objectively to determine the extent to which audit criteria are fulfilled.

audit client 

Organization or person requesting an audit. --- not to be confused with auditee


Organization being audited.

audit criteria 

Set of policies, procedures, or requirements. Audit Criteria are used as a reference against which Audit Evidence is compared.

audit evidence 

Records, statements of fact or other information which are relevant to the Audit Criteria and verifiable. [Reference ISO 19011:2002 Section 3, 'Terms and Definitions']

audit findings 

Results of the evaluation of the collected Audit Evidence against Audit Criteria. Audit findings can be positive, neutral, and negative. [Reference ISO 19011:2002 Section 3, 'Terms and Definitions']


Person with the competence to conduct an audit.


A product or service's ability to perform its intended function at a given time and under appropriate conditions. It can be expressed by the ratio operative time/total time where operative time is the time that it is functioning or ready to function.

balanced scorecard 

A suggested tool to describe the relevant measures of a business, usually in the following categories:

financial, or return on investment and economic value-added;

customer, or satisfaction, retention, market and account share;

internal, or response time, cost, and new product introductions; and

learning and growth, or employee satisfaction and information system availability.


A technique that involves comparing one's own processes to excellent examples of similar processes in other organizations or departments. Through benchmarking, rapid learning can occur, and processes can undergo dramatic improvements.


A tool used to encourage creative thinking and new ideas. A group formulates and records as many ideas as possible concerning a certain subject, regardless of the content of the ideas. No discussion, evaluation, or criticism of ideas is allowed until the brainstorming session is complete.


Comparison of a measurement instrument or system of unverified accuracy to a measurement instrument or system of known accuracy to detect any variation from the required performance specification.

cause and effect diagram 

A tool used to analyze all factors (causes) that contribute to a given situation or occurrence (effect) by breaking down main causes into smaller and smaller sub-causes. It is also known as the Ishikawa or the fishbone diagram.

central limit theorem 

A theorem that the probability histograms of the sample mean and sample sum of n draws with replacement from a box of labeled tickets converge to a normal curve as the sample size n grows

certificate of compliance 

A document signed by an authorized party affirming that the supplier of a product or service has been tested/analysed/measured/verified to meet the requirements of relevant specifications. See also 'Certificate of Analysis'.

Certificate of Conformance (Certificate of Conformity) 

A document signed by an authorized party affirming that a product or service has met the requirements of the relevant specifications, contract, or regulation.

certification audits 

Audits relating to registration (e.g., ISO 9001 audits).

common cause 

A source of variation that is always present as part of the random variation inherent in the process itself. Its origin can usually be traced to an element of the system which only management can correct.


Demonstrated ability to apply knowledge skills.

continuous improvement / CI

On-going improvement of any and all aspects of an organization including products, services, communications, environment, functions, individual processes, etc. Continuous Improvement Action taken to find ways in improve processes, decrease variation , decrease costs, and improve effectiveness of the organization.

contract review 

Contract review involves the steps associated with contracting with suppliers. These steps involve acceptance of the contract or order, the tender of a contract, and review of the contract.


Forgiveness for error or mistake.


Three commonly-used versions of this word: (supervision)- to influence or manipulate an employee's behaviour through the threat of consequences or the promise of reward, whether these are explicit or implied; (engineering)- to influence or manipulate a process through feedback or feedforward; (statistical)- a description of behaviour of the variation in the output of a process.

control chart 

A chart that indicates upper and lower statistical control limits, and an average line, for samples or subgroups of a given process. If all points on the control chart are within the limits, variation may be ascribed to common causes and the process is deemed to be "in control." If points fall outside the limits, it is an indication that special causes of variation are occurring, and the process is said to be "out of control."

control limit 

A statistically-determined line on a control chart used to analyze variation within a process. If variation exceeds the control limits, then the process is being affected by special causes and is said to be "out of control." A control limit is not the same as a specification limit.

cost of poor quality 

The costs incurred by producing products or services of poor quality. These costs usually include the cost of inspection, rework, duplicate work, scrapping rejects, replacements and refunds, complaints, and loss of customers and reputation.

cost of quality 

Philip Crosby's term for the cost of poor quality.

count chart (c chart)

An attributes data control chart that evaluates process stability by charting the counts of occurrences of a given event in successive samples.

count-per-unit chart (u chart) 

A control chart that evaluates process stability by charting the number of occurrences of a given event per unit sampled, in a series of samples.


Commonly used process capability index defined as [USL (upper spec limit) - LSL(lower spec limit)] / [6 x sigma], where sigma is the estimated process standard deviation.


Commonly used process capability index defined as the lesser of USL - m / 3sigma or m - LSL / 3sigma, where sigma is the estimated process standard deviation.

Philip Crosby 

One of the quality guru's. Crosby founded several consulting agencies including Career IV, Philip Crosby Associates, and the Quality College. He has authored several books including Quality Is Free and Quality Without Tears. Crosby is well-known for his theory of "zero defects."

cumulative sum chart 

Control chart that shows the cumulative sum of deviations from a set value in successive samples. Each plotted point indicates the algebraic sum of the last point and all deviations since. PathMaker does not support cumulative sum charts.


Any recipient of a product or service; anyone who is affected by what one produces. A customer can be external or outside the organization, or they can be internal to the organization.

decision matrix 

A tool used to evaluate problems, solutions, or ideas. The possibilities are listed down the left-hand side of the matrix and relevant criteria are listed across the top. Each possibility is then rated on a numeric scale of importance or effectiveness (e.g. on a scale of 1 to 10) for each criterion, and each rating is recorded in the appropriate box. When all ratings are complete, the scores for each possibility are added to determine which has the highest overall rating and thus deserves the greatest attention.


An error in construction of a product or service that renders it unusable; an error that causes a product or service to not meet requirements.

Deming cycle 

Alternate name for the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle, a four-stage approach to problem-solving. It is also sometimes called the Shewhart cycle.

Deming, W. Edwards 

Known as the father of quality control. Deming began his work in quality control in the United States during World War II to aid the war effort. After the war, he went to Japan to help in the rebuilding of their country. His methods of quality control became an integral part of Japanese industry. Deming is a celebrated author and is well-known for his "14 Points" for effective management.

diagnostic journey 

(remedial journey) A problem-solving approach in which a problem is investigated by looking first at symptoms, and gradually working back towards root causes. Once root causes have been established, experimentation and tracking are used in the remedial journey - the finding of a cure for the roots of the problem.

DOE (design of experiments) 

The science of designing sets of experiments which will generate enough useful data to make sound decisions without costing too much or taking too long.

employee involvement 

Regular participation of employees in decision-making and suggestions. The driving forces behind increasing the involvement of employees are the conviction that more brains are better, that people in the process know it best, and that involved employees will be more motivated to do what is best for the organization.


Usually refers to giving employees decision-making and problem-solving authority within their jobs.

external customer 

A person or organization outside your organization who receives the output of a process. Of all external customers, the end-user should be the most important.

Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA) 

A technique that systematically analyses the types of failures which will be expected as a product is used, and what the effects of each "failure mode" will be.


Person who helps a team with issues of teamwork, communication, and problem-solving. A facilitator should not contribute to the actual content of the team's project, focusing instead as an observer of the team's functioning as a group.

fishbone diagram 

Another name for an Ishikawa diagram or cause & effect diagram, derived from the shape of the diagram as used by its creator, Kaoru Ishikawa.


A graphical representation of a given process delineating each step. A flowchart is used to diagram how a process actually functions and where waste, error, and frustration enter the process.

force field analysis 

A tool, developed by social psychologist Kurt Lewin, which is used to analyse the opposing forces involved in causing/resisting any change. It is shown in balance sheet format with forces that will help (driving forces) listed on the left and forces that hinder (restraining forces) listed on the right.

frequency distribution 

An organization of data, usually in a chart, which depicts how often different events occur. A histogram is one common type of frequency distribution, and a frequency polygon is another.

Gantt chart 

A bar chart that shows planned work and finished work in relation to time. Each task in a list has a bar corresponding to it. The length of the bar is used to indicate the expected or actual duration of the task.


A specialized bar chart showing the distribution of measurement data. It will pictorially reveal the amount and type of variation within a process.

Hoshin Kanri : Japanese term for hoshin planning, a form of interactive strategic planning which aids the flow of information up and down the organizational layers in a systematic, productive way.

Hoshin planning 

A method of strategic planning for quality. It helps executives integrate quality improvement into the organization's long-range plan. According to the GOAL/QPC Health Care Application Research Committee, "Hoshin Planning is a method used to ensure that the mission, vision, goals, and annual objectives of an organization are communicated to and implemented by everyone, from the executive level to the 'front line' level."


International Automotive Task Force


Quantitative measure of performance. Indicators are usually ratios comparing the number of occurrences a certain phenomenon and the number of times the phenomenon could have occurred.

internal customer 

Someone within your organization, further downstream in a process, who receives the output of your work.

Ishikawa diagram 

Another name for the cause & effect diagram, after its inventor, Kaoru Ishikawa.

Joseph M. Juran 

One of the great quality gurus, and, like Deming, an early student of the work of Walter Shewhart at Western Electric. His work has specialized in linking management to quality engineering. Dr. Juran is the founder of the Juran Institute which has long been the vehicle of his work in quality management and is well-known for espousing "the quality trilogy" of quality planning, quality control, and quality improvement. Juran has authored many books and other works in an effort to spread awareness of quality management ideas and applications.

just-in-time instruction 

Training given as needed for immediate application, without lag time and the usual loss of retention.


A concept that manufacturing or procuring product "just in time" for delivery is efficient.


A Japanese word meaning continuous improvement through constant striving to reach higher standards.

Kaoru Ishikawa 

One of Japan's quality control pioneers. He developed the cause & effect diagram (Ishikawa diagram) in 1943 and published many books addressing quality control. In addition to his work at Kawasaki, Ishikawa was a long-standing member of the Union of Japanese Scientists and Engineers and an assistant professor at the University of Tokyo.

KJ method 

Another name for the affinity diagram, after its inventor, Kawakita Jiro.


The average of a group of measurement values. Mean is determined by dividing the sum of the values by the number of values in the group.


The middle of a group of measurement values when arranged in numerical order. For example, in the group (32, 45, 78, 79, 101), 78 is the median. If the group contains an even number of values, the median is the average of the two middle values.


A reference to the ideas shared by quality improvement, reengineering, management, leadership, and customer-driven production. Although these theories have much in common, they are often treated as separate and disparate approaches to improving a business. Metacraftsmanship focuses on overcoming the losses to society which are engendered by specialization, and suggests ways of getting complex organizations to work the way a single craftsman would.

mission statement 

A written declaration of the purpose of an organization or project team. Organizational mission or vision statements often include an organizational vision for the future, goals, and values.


The most frequently occurring value in a group of measurements. The most common value obtained in a set of observations. For example, for a data set (3, 7, 3, 9, 9, 3, 5, 1, 8, 5), the unique mode is 3. Similarly, for a data set (2, 4, 9, 6, 4, 6, 6, 2, 8, 2), there are two modes: 2 and 6.


A distribution with a single mode is said to be unimodal. A distribution with more than one mode is said to be bimodal, trimodal, etc., or in general, multimodal.


In the context of quality management, noise is essentially variability. For example, if you are making ketchup, noise in the process comes from variations in the quality of incoming tomatoes, in changes in ambient temperature and humidity, in variations in machinery performance, in variations in the quality of human factors, etc.

nominal group technique 

Technique used to encourage creative thinking and new ideas, but is more controlled than brainstorming. Each member of a group writes down his or her ideas and then contributes one to the group pool. All contributed ideas are then discussed and prioritized.

np chart 

A control chart indicating the number of defective units in a given sample.


A way of thinking about a given subject that defines how one views events, relationships, ideas, etc. within the boundaries of that subject.

Pareto chart 

A bar chart that orders data from the most frequent to the least frequent, allowing the analyst to determine the most important factor in a given situation or process.

Pareto principle 

The idea that a few root problems are responsible for the large majority of consequences. The Pareto principle is derived from the work of Vilfredo Pareto, a turn-of-the-century Italian economist who studied the distributions of wealth in different countries. He concluded that a fairly consistent minority – about 20% – of people controlled the large majority – about 80% – of a society's wealth. This same distribution has been observed in other areas and has been termed the Pareto principle. It is defined by J.M. Juran as the idea that 80% of all effects are produced by only 20% of the possible causes.

percent chart/p chart 

A control chart that determines the stability of a process by finding what percentage of total units in a sample are defective.

pie chart 

A chart that compares groups of data to the whole data set by showing each group as a "slice" of the entire "pie." Pie charts are particularly useful for investigating what percentage each group represents.

plan-do-check-act cycle/PDCA

A four-step improvement process originally conceived of by Walter A. Shewhart. The first step involves planning for the necessary improvement; the second step is the implementation of the plan; the third step is to check the results of the plan; the last step is to act upon the results of the plan. It is also known as the Shewhart cycle, the Deming cycle, and the PDCA cycle.

policy deployment 

Another name for hoshin planning.


Total set of items from which a sample set is taken.

process capability 

A statistical measure indicating the inherent variation for a given event in a stable process, usually defined as the process width divided by 6 sigma.

process capability 

Competence of the process, based on tested performance, to achieve certain results.

Process Capability Index/PCI 

Measurement indicating the ability of a process to produce specified results. Cp and Cpk are two process capability indices.

quality assurance/QA 

Traditionally refers to the systematic post-production checks, inspection, or reviews done to ensure quality of a product or service though in the strict sense of the definition that is an end of process quality control activity. Modern quality management systems consider Quality Assurance that through tools such Quality Audits, Quality Control, and specifically Systems Audits assures that the processes, tools, and safeguards are in place to produce quality products

quality audit 

An independent investigation and assessment of quality activities and results to determine whether or not the quality plan is effective and appropriate.

quality circle 

Quality improvement teams or groups, such as groups of employees formed for the study of and sharing information regarding quality control issues and theory.

quality control/QC 

The use of techniques and activities that compare actual quality performance with goals and define appropriate action in response to a shortfall.

quality improvement/QI

A systematic approach to the processes of work that looks to remove waste, loss, rework, frustration, etc. in order to make the processes of work more effective, efficient, and appropriate.

quality improvement team 

A group of employees that take on a project to improve a given process or design a new process within an organization.

quality function deployment/QFD 

A technique used to translate customer requirements into appropriate goals for each stage of product or service development and output. The two approaches to quality function deployment are known as the House of Quality and the Matrix of Matrices.

quality loss function 

An algebraic function that illustrates the loss of quality that occurs when a characteristic deviates from its target value. It is expressed often in monetary terms. Dr. Genichi Taguchi coined this term; his work suggests that quality losses vary as the square of the deviation from target.

range chart 

Control chart in which the range of the subgroup is used to track the instantaneous variation within a process, i.e. the variation in the process at any one time, when many input factors would not have time to vary enough to make a detectable difference. Range charts are usually paired with average charts for complete analysis.


The team member that takes minutes during team meetings to capture team's progress. Once the team is well underway, this role can be rotated through out the group.

regression analysis 

A statistical technique used to determine the best mathematical expression to describe the relationship between a response and independent variables.


The probability of a product or service successfully doing its job under given conditions.


The ability of a product or service to function appropriately regardless of external conditions and other uncontrollable factors.

robust design 

An approach to the planning of new products and services that harnesses Taguchi methods.

run chart 

Also known as a line chart, or line graph. A chart that plots data over time, allowing you to identify trends and anomalies.


A subset of a population used to represent the population in statistical analysis. Samples are almost always random, which means that all individuals in the population are equally likely to be chosen for the sample.

sample standard deviation chart (s-chart) 

Control chart in which the standard deviation of the subgroup is tracked to determine the variation within a process over time. Sample standard deviation charts are usually paired with average charts for complete analysis.


A tool that studies the possible relationship between two variables expressed on the x-axis and y-axis of a graph. The direction and density of the points plotted will indicate various relationships or a lack of any relationship between the variables.

Seven Tools of Quality 

Quality improvement tools that include the histogram, Pareto chart, check sheet, control chart, cause-and-effect diagram, flowchart, and scatter diagram.

Shewhart cycle 

Another name for the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle. It is also sometimes called the Deming cycle.

Walter A. Shewhart 

The father of statistical process control or statistical quality control. He pioneered statistical quality control and improvement methods when he worked for Western Electric and Bell Telephone in the early decades of the 20th century.

special cause 

Causes of variation in a process that are not inherent in the process itself but originate from circumstances that are out of the ordinary. Special causes are indicated by points that fall outside the limits of a control chart.

specification limit 

An engineering or design requirement that must be met in order to produce a satisfactory product.

statistical process control 

(SPC) Analysis and control of a process through the use of statistical techniques, particularly control charts.

statistical quality control 

(SQC) Analysis and control of quality through the use of statistical techniques, essentially the same as SPC.

structural variation 

Variation caused by recurring system-wide changes such as seasonal changes or long-term trends.


Anyone whose output (materials, information, service, etc.) becomes an input to another person or group in a process of work. A supplier can be external or internal to the organization.

Taguchi, Genichi 

Developed a set of practices known as Taguchi Methods, as they are known in the U.S., for improving quality while reducing costs. Taguchi Methods focus on the design of efficient experiments, and the increasing of signal to noise ratios. Dr. Taguchi also articulated the developed the quality loss function. Currently, he is executive director of the American Supplier Institute and director of the Japan Industrial Technology Institute.


Dr. Deming cautions against tampering with systems that are "in control." It is very common for management to react to variation which is in fact normal, thereby starting wild goose chases after sources of problems which don't exist. Tampering with stable processes actually increases variation.

tree diagram 

A chart used to break any task, goal, or category into increasingly detailed levels of information. Family trees are the classic example of a tree diagram. In PathMaker, the structure of the tree diagram is identical to that of the cause & effect diagram.


Team member who keeps track of time spent on each agenda item during team meetings. This job can easily be rotated among team members.

total quality management 

Managing for quality in all aspects of an organization focusing on employee participation and customer satisfaction. Often used as a catch-all phrase for implementing various quality control and improvement tools.

type I error 

Rejecting something that is acceptable. Also known as an alpha error.

type II error 

Accepting something that should have been rejected. Also known as beta error.

u chart 

A control chart showing the count of defects per unit in a series of random samples.


Each time work is done to inputs to transform them into something of greater usefulness as an end product.

variables data 

Data that is measured on a continuous and infinite scale such as temperature, distance, and pressure rather than in discreet units or yes/no options. Variables data is used to create histograms, some control charts, and sometimes run charts.


A measure of deviation from the mean in a sample or population.


Change in the output or result of a process. Variation can be caused by common causes, special causes, tampering, or structural variation.


Often incorporated into an organizational mission (or vision) statement to clarify what the organization hopes to be doing at some point in the future. The vision should act as a guide in choosing courses of action for the organization.

zero defects 

Philip Crosby's recommended performance standard that leaves no doubt regarding the goal of total quality. Crosby's theory holds that people can continually move closer to this goal by committing themselves to their work and the improvement process.

Scroll to Top