Moving Quality Beyond Product

From time to time things cross my desk that I want to share. Perhaps you’re aware of an organization called The Conference Board in the United States. Its reach is global and high in the C-Suite. Every year The Conference Board polls CEOs to identify their top-of-mind challenges. This report obviously makes good reading if you want to know what CEOs care about. More importantly to the quality community is the analysis of the findings by the Conference Board Quality Council, and advice on how quality executives and the quality community can respond in value-added ways. If you’re looking for ways to move quality up the corporate agenda – being responsive to the challenges of the CEO is an excellent start.  

You can request a copy of the report on the Conference Board website. The authors are notable – Mike Adams (retired Allegheny Energy) , Charles Brandon, Ph.D. (U.S. Department of Defense), Alka Jarvis (Cisco Systems Inc.), and Rebecca Yueng (FedEx.) I recommend the read.

I’ll let you read the report to know more about what CEOs are thinking about, but here’s the hit parade – innovation, human capital, global political/economic risk, government regulation, global expansion, cost optimization, customer relationships, sustainability, corporate brand and reputation, and investor relations. And the Quality Council report provides great insights on how the quality community is responding and what it can do better.

And therein lies the seed for my question of the day. The opening paragraph of the Quality Council’s perspective is, “For some organizations, ‘quality’ remains a set of tools and techniques associated almost exclusively with quality control. For others, quality has evolved into a critical partner, closely linked with business model development and the enterprise-wide execution of long-term strategy to achieve results.”

I have seen this dichotomy often. For some executives, their understanding of quality is exclusive to product. For others, it’s the improved performance of the enterprise, which includes the product/service. Obviously I side with the later. What success have you had in moving quality beyond product? Share your stories, please.

This entry was posted in Current Events, Global, Management, career, case for quality, white paper and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Moving Quality Beyond Product

  1. Robin Lawton says:

    Paul,
    I’d very much like to see the whole report. Your brief comments are helpful and on the mark. My view is similar, but I’d describe the differing C-suite views as representing where leaders are on the evolution toward a total systems approach to excellence. I call the framework for that thinking 8 Dimensions of Excellence. An article of mine Quality Progress published a few years ago (similar topic name) outlined what that means. The essence of the model is that most improvement effort promoted by ASQ and mainstream quality practitioners focuses on Dimension 8, the producer’s process. Dimensions 1 thru 4, starting with customer-desired outcomes, get little to no play either by enterprise leadership nor quality professionals. But the moment they see and understand the framework, they get enthused about what is possible. Those who go on to practice its principles and methods get outstanding, sustainable and repeatable results customers care about and experience. We all say quality begins and ends with customers but the focus, framework, methodology and roadmap to execute such thoughts has not been a notable part of the body of quality knowledge ASQ has promoted. As it regards ASQ’s role and involvement with enterprise leadership, I would very much like to contribute to moving the evolutionary thinking of enterprise leadership at a far faster pace than we’ve seen. I have some specific thoughts on how to do that with your support. This has been my passion for over 25 years. If you are interested, please contact me at 941-907-0666 or by email.

  2. Quality is the mortar that holds the bricks of the enterprise together. Good mortar is sticky which translates into customer, supplier and employee retention which overtime increases the depth of organizational knowledge making the enterprise more stable and the customers and suppliers more secure about investing in a long term relationship with you.
    I have worked in both kinds of environments and in my experience the only way to sustain excellence or quality is for it to extend throughout the enterprise. One company I worked for went from being an industry innovation leader that was based on an open door-learning where knowledge and use of quality tools was deployed to all departments to one that was more top down structured and where the Quality function was manufacturing centric. Inside five years that company lost its innovation identity. Turnover exploded, margins eroded, complaints piled up and eventually the business was sold to a competitor for pennies of what it was once worth. On the other hand I have also been fortunate to be involved with businesses that were struggling and, albeit out of necessity, implemented a “excellence centric” culture where quality knowledge was deployed throughout the enterprise. Those businesses were able to turn things around and began building long term sustained relationships because they were viewed as trust worthy. Remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? The base is security. If you can not trust a supplier or your customer can not trust you your sustainability is in danger.
    Quality is critical to innovation in part because of the learning that takes place during the diagnostic to solution building cycle that is fundamental to the quality profession. This organization learning increases the capabilities of the human capital involved in the problem analysis and solution building process. As these capabilities increase throughout the enterprise it can make businesses more nimble and sustainable. The trick is getting traction from what is learned.
    Rest assured that there is a lot involved in making this happen, it will not happen overnight and it will be difficult. Expect it, plan for it and hang on.

  3. Pingback: June Roundup–Taking Quality Beyond Product | A View from the Q

  4. Evhy says:

    Your question was asked on iSixSigma as well I potesd this response there as well.A somewhat jaded view on Paul’s question -It’s hard to sell quality because 1) Most people think they know what it is (and they are wrong).2) Most Quality professionals are not well educated in Quality.3) People who have been taught Lean and/or Six Sigma think they are instant Quality professionals (and they are wrong).4) Quality Systems are not sexy and the understanding of them has been degraded by ISO and QS 9000.5) Business professionals are being taught to be profitable by tricks or spending cuts (including people).5) Where is the next Deming or Juran? It’s certainly not George, Harry, Shook, Liker, Womack, or the myriad of others out there promoting me me me or trying to be a social media rock star.The problem with Quality is that it is hard, disciplined like Lean, analytical like Six Sigma, and has to be flavored generously with good business sense, good common sense, and unshakable integrity. Turns out there are too many easier ways to make money starting way back when we started exporting jobs to enrich executive bonuses at the expense of loyal employees. Who needs process knowledge when we can get it cheaper in China and take home a few million and think of ourselves as a genius?