Sunday, June 24, 2007

Carry out appropriate surveys, questionnaires, evaluations, etc. and use advanced on-line web tool

Surveys, questionnaires, evaluations, etc. are very essential activities in all quality integration realizations. They are needed for both operational and strategic management purposes. They may be comprehensive covering organizational entities as a whole or they may be focused on very detailed aspects only (see and click the following figure). Different evaluations are always a part of organizational development.

Key aspects of beneficial evaluation approaches are the appropriateness of questioning phraseology and the technique to collect answers, opinions, responses, etc. from the target audience. Especially the questioning technique and tools have remarkable influence on the answering easiness and percentage. An advanced questioning methodology is, however, more than only collecting information. It functions as a media between specialists and other parties. By means of that kind of tool any specialist can communicate his/her area of expertise that might be difficult to others to understand, and receive valuable information as a feedback. The tacit knowledge that different parties possess becomes visible by using an appropriate assessment tool. Within organizational environments, especially, this comes into question when professional specialist expertise is used in communication with the management, personnel, suppliers, customers, and other stakeholders.
ZEF evaluation methodology was originally developed in Finland at Oulu University as Z-scored Electronic Feedback (= ZEF) tool. Effectiveness of its two dimensional evaluation structure was validated by University of Lapland. Commercial ZEF solution is the product of Oulu, Finland based innovative company ZEF Solutions Inc. ZEF is an all-purpose tool for assessments and comparisons that is suitable for all kinds of organizations.
ZEF is web-based evaluation solution operating as SaaS (Software as a Service). It is a software tool with which one may collect and evaluate information effectively and efficiently from even a big group of people. The visual appearance is easy to use and interesting or even exiting to the end-users. E.g. in Finland ZEF tool has been used by hundreds thousands of ordinary citizens in several cases of general societal interest.
Evaluation made by the ZEF tool includes the following process phases:
  1. Construct your questions on the two-dimensional matrix or use customized templates.
  2. Send an e-mail invitation to your target group to take part in the survey on the Internet.
  3. Follow up the progress of the survey in real time and send reminders to the participants when required.
  4. Get graphical reports that present average and variation of the individual answers in two dimensions. (see and click the following figure) Also verbal comments, explanations, questions, etc. may be obtained from the responders.




As an example ZEF tool may be used for an effective organizational self-assessment. It is very easy to apply with different self-assessment criteria, e.g. ZEF assessment application for Malcolm Baldrige short form assessment Are we making progress?”. There is also available the “3-In-1 assessment” ZEF application where all aspects of full Malcolm Baldrige and EFQM criteria and ISO 9000 standards have been combined. This application for example has also modified to health care services by using the guidance document CEN/TS 15224.
Another example of using ZEF-methodology was an international study carried out in 2008 by the standardization committee ISO/TC176/SC3 to get information on the significance of time, speed and agility and some other related aspects in organizations' businesses and how the ISO 9000 standards and some other quality management references support those aspects. The web site of the questionnaire is still open for information in the Internet.
Detailed business information is obtained from ZEF raw data through statistical treatments. All individual respondent answers to the query items in the ZEF evaluations are recorded as separate data pieces that are then used for statistical analyses:
  • The basic ZEF report presents the means and standard deviations of all respondents’ answers per query items in two dimensions
  • The result data may be arranged according Z-score transformation to a normalized form that is useful when seeking to compare the relative standings of items from distributions with different means and standard deviations.
  • Answers from respondents may be grouped in arbitrary way or presented as individual answers.
  • Results of different ZEF evaluations, e.g. from different points in time, may be compared by using ZEF’s “comparison engine” function.
  • Raw data of evaluations may be presented in the formats of Excel (.xls) or "Comma-separated values" (.csv) in order to facilitate the use of more sophisticated statistical tools, e.g. SPSS, for data analyses. 

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