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Experiential Teaching Techniques in Quality Management: The Roman Catapult

Summary: Teaching management students the basic principles of process variation is a challenging task. Likewise, the ability to recognize and distinguish between common and special cause process variation is a crucial skill required of managers. That is, successful managers must be able to distinguish between a process that is in control and one that is not.

This article describes an exercise using a Roman catapult that has been used successfully in business school classes to provide students with the advantages of experiential learning in terms of process analysis skills. This in-class, hands-on, interactive exercise provides students with an understanding and deep retention of the process analysis skills required to distinguish between special cause and common cause process variation.

The results of the exercise are promising. Students acquire personal examples of sources of variation and approaches to reduce or eliminate variation. They also obtain experience with variation measurement and its importance in system improvement. Finally, students actually experience the problems in making quality improvements upon a complex system.

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  • Topics:
  • Keywords: Learning,Variation,Variance (statistics),Special causes
  • Author: Deane, Richard H.; Burgess, Robert H.
  • Journal: Quality Management Journal