Roundup: GM's Quality Journey

If you want to spark conversation in the quality community, even among everyday consumers, talk quality and cars. Last month’s interview with General Motors’ global quality chief, Terry Woychowski, sparked plenty of debate among ASQ’s Influential Voices. (And for more car and quality talk, see ASQ’s interview with Ford.)

Opinions ranged regarding the new GM quality culture: some believe that its quality promises are new and refreshing, while others claim they are based on old quality principles.

Guy Wallace, for example, believes that GM’s quality goals, along with its mission and value statements, are based on concepts that he learned more than 30 years ago. Is that a “bad” thing? No, says Guy—this interview may in fact be very useful to those new to the quality movement.

Bruce Waltuck suggests ways that GM can build on its current quality culture. He revisits the teachings of quality greats and states that to succeed in the auto industry, companies must rely on more than conformance and freedom from error or defect. Rather, companies must understand that quality is defined by both the provider and the consumer.

Several other threads ran through the responses:

Many were impressed with Terry’s clarity of vision for GM quality culture. Anshuman Tiwari notes that while GM isn’t completely recovered from its crisis two years ago, there are plenty of lessons to learn from the company, including its focus on the three Ps–Promise, Personal, Performance–and the belief that the quality of its products are a direct reflection of its employees and management.

Cesar Diaz Guevara, too, discusses GM’s three Ps and suggests two more—Pointing and Passion. Cesar argues that passion is the component that should bind everything together.

Rajan Thiyagarajan writes about GM’s success in India. He explains how this global company has done a great job of catering to specific markets by customizing the design of vehicles for different regions.

Dr. Robert Burney praises how GM incorporates quality culture into the organization by defining each employee’s role. As a healthcare professional, he suggests that conversely, too few hospital employees could successfully recite their institution’s mission statement. Robert says that GM’s real lesson is simply to “have a mission and get everyone on board to achieve it.”

Other bloggers discussed whether a radical reshuffling of a company’s priorities is necessary to recognize the importance of quality. Jennifer Stepniowski believes that companies should assess organizational change on a regular basis and make small changes when necessary and avoid radical overhauls. Chris Hermenitt argues that problems must be faced as they arise–letting issues accumulate becomes a risky situation, whether in a personal or business situation.

Noteably, Steve Jobs was frequently mentioned in recent Influential Voices observances, with some remarking on his death and his impact on quality at Apple. Matthew Heusser, for example, focuses on quality lessons GM and others can learn from newer generation companies, such as Apple or Netflix. And that’s a great transition to ASQ CEO Paul Borawski’s latest blog post on learning from two “greats” who recently passed away: Steve Jobs and Motorola’s Bob Galvin.