The Century of Quality

Upon reviewing the comments posted in response to my first “View from the Q,” I’m excited by the depth and breadth of reflections from our Influential Voices, as well as others, on my question—“What would it take for the 21st Century to be the Century of Quality?” Responses came from passionate quality professionals from four continents! Thank you all.

The reflections tapped into a long-standing issue. Quality means different things to different people at different times. For some, quality is inherently related to the output of the organization—its product or service. For others, quality is a philosophy of improvement. And for some, quality is the totality of managing a sustainable organization. I don’t know whether this diversity of thought helps the quality community or hinders it.

It’s clear there is ample opportunity to help others understand quality. ASQ’s Knowledge Center, for example, holds many examples of quality’s impact. Yet we can’t take quality for granted. A lot of executives think quality is an attribute of product, less so of service. There’s a revelation when I suggest the same concepts that assure improved product (or service) quality over time can be applied to assure improved organizational outcomes.

We need to reach executives and convince them to provide visible leadership on the topic of quality. And that’s a challenge for ASQ and the quality community. What language do we use? Jennifer Stepniowski provides great advice—keep it simple and relevant.

When I ask executives if quality is important, the answer is never “no.” When I ask where quality comes from, I get questioning looks. I usually follow up with, “Do you think all you need for good quality is good intention?” If they’re still puzzled, I say something like, “Well, quality is the set the concepts, techniques, and tools that connect good intention with realized and sustainable outcomes.” Sometimes I see a light go on; other times I know I’m not using the right language. Let’s pay special attention to executives who get it and work to make sure their voices are heard!

Your comments support ASQ’s perspective that if we want to make the 21st Century the Century of Quality, we have a lot of work to do. Every voice is needed. The louder the better.

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3 Responses to The Century of Quality

  1. We, the quality practitioners and management from the top to first line, need to understand that quality is not a method, it is the outcome of a method. The method is modern management.

    The emphasis on tools and systems makes management think that quality is something that can be delegated like purchasing. If something goes wrong, say the managers, the fault is with the quality practitioners, not us!

    In a way they are right. We, the quality practitioners (professionals?), have failed to make a case that we measure and advise management but that the responsibility lies with management.

    ASQ, in my opinion, focuses far too much on methods and systems (as vital as these are) and not enough on making management and the business world understand that they create the quality of products, services, government, education, etc.

    If ASQ is to survive as a viable organization in the 21st Century, we need to change our focus. It appears to me that when we talk about management we talk about managing a quality control center or system (a small fry in the world of business). I suggest that we focus on talking to Business about how their policies impact the outcome. Our task is more than report to the CEO & executive management, it is to support them in the policy issue.

  2. Tony Brown says:

    Modern management has its focus on ‘profit first’ and not ‘quality first’ which the prevailing paradym in Japan, Germany and other competative nations. Only when that is addressed in the business schools will fortune smile again on the USA and financially dominent nations.

    • kathy Ni says:

      We are forced to balance that situation, everybody is saying “quality is first” but however ,normally, ” Profit is the first” is the fact. We need to balance, and we have to psotitve to evalaute the “quality cost”. Realisticly, manufacturer needs output, and we have to make sure : quality is first in the process, and prior to process.

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