V.A.4 Qualitative Assessment
Much of the information used by organizations to measure and track performance consists of quantitative data. Figures such as sales of a particular product, on-time delivery of suppliers, average length of stay in a hospital, or percentage of college entrants who graduated are easily measured or counted.
Qualitative information is also important for organizational decision-making. Examples could be customer requirements for a new product, employee opinion about eh value of a new benefits package, or consistency of leadership practices with stated organizational principles. Qualitative data are expressed using words (opinions, beliefs, feelings, attitudes) - things that are not really measurable per se.
Qualitative data add complexity to the assessment process due to the subjectivity of what is being studied. What information can be gathered that will reflect the parameter(s) of interest? This is usually addressed by creating a series of questions to be answered or by gathering information that is already available and grouping the finding into categories believed to be related to a question of interest.
Qualitative assessments are frequently conducted using one of the following techniques:
- One-on-one interviews (in-person or by phone) or group interviews (focus groups).
- Observation of actual behaviors (for example, mystery shoppers who study how they are treated during transactions).
- Content analysis conducted by reviewing memos or other normal business processes to determine what events occur (or do not occur).
- Surveys or questionnaires with mostly open-ended questions that are mailed (or emailed) to target groups or are available as part of a business interaction (for example, a comment card at a restaurant table)
Qualitative surveys are mostly open-ended question and usually in-person phone interviews or focus groups to gather the data. This allows in-depth exploration for each question as an interviewer is able to ask respondents to elaborate on and to clarify their comments. While qualitative investigations help identify key constructs (i.e., customer requirements), quantitative surveys allow us to objectively measure how well we are delivering for those things that are important to customers.
Qualitative data, when transformed through analysis into information, are used to examine the depth of motivations, values, attitudes, perceptions, and emotions.
Survey Analysis and Use
Surveys typically require a significant investment of time and resources but if effectively analyzed and used, can drive and monitor continual improvement efforts. Following are suggest actions:
1. Analyze the raw data.
2. Compare the data to other information.
3. Communicate the information to decision-makers.
4. Use the information and verify results.
Excerpted from "The ASQ Certified Manager of Quality/Organizational Excellence Handbook", edited by Sandra L. Furterer and Douglas C. Wood. Fifth Edition, 2021.